Companies come, companies go

The last Friday of the month I usually head over to Burbank to Alpha Dogs’ Editors Lounge – a great opportunity for editors in the LA area to hang out together and usually to geek out on some new technology or technique in the presentation. I usually love heading over there for the social time and the presentation.

Why not go this month? Well the Media 100 folk were presenting Media 100 HD and I hate attending a wake before the death (even if the corpse smells rather bad). What’s happening with Media 100 is very sad for me. My first purchase of a Media 100 back in 1994 was the single best business decision I ever made. Media 100 made the first NLE that was truly finished quality on the desktop with a relatively simple editing interface that, for me, brought high quality video into the computer as pixels for further manipulation. (My second purchase was COSA After Effects to manipulate those pixels!)

But Media 100 was often the underdog: the editing software’s strength was its simplicity – after all John Molinari’s intention was to democratize video editing – in an industry where more features was always the mantra. The hardware had the highest quality video codec in those early days and well into the transition to PCI cards. But they failed to adapt to a changing market, because at the heart, Media 100 was a hardware company and the world moved to software or more accurately is somewhere along the journey to having moved to software. The “democratization” that CEO John Molinari had spoken of in his Blood Secrets article originally published in Videography in June 1994 was much better fulfilled by Apple computer starting with the release of Final Cut Pro and iMovie. There’s more on Media 100’s vision my own 2001 article.

For a democratized industry software can fulfill the role much more affordably than hardware, and Media 100 were blind-sided by the rapid take up of DV right into their target market. Media 100 could not react quickly enough and, despite Media 100’s 4:2:2 codec and higher image quality for the discerning eye, DV was good enough for most people. Media 100 had started work on new hardware but politics meant that work done on Macintosh was abandoned and started over on Windows. Such an ambitious project as 844/X took longer than anticipated to come to market, was on the “wrong” platform for the customer base and the starting price, while very competitive, was still too high for a market that had collapsed in the post-dot-com era.

Media 100’s assets were purchased by Optibase who seemed to have the right idea, until this last couple of months when they went back on announcements of just last year, dropped the wrong product line (844/X) and instead pushed ahead into the only market where they have no opportunity to survive – Media 100 HD. The market for the few unique features that Media 100 HD has, is very small – too small for the division to survive. 844/X is now, for all intents and purposes, dead, unless some other company moves it forward into HD. As an HD system there would be a couple of years where hardware has a unique advantage. But not under these owners who have squandered the goodwill they had garnered.

Media 100 is not the only company to have come and gone in the years I’ve been in the industry – I remember Puffin Designs’ fun NAB costumes and soft toys; ICE’s white igloo stood out in a sea of similar-looking booths; and while Terran’s product still lives on, staggering near death at the hands of Discreet, the company is long gone.

The good thing is that, while companies come and go, the engineering expertise mostly stays in the industry. New managements give engineers a chance to innovate again in a clean environment. Discreet let the original Paint/Effect -> combustion development team go and Apple snapped up the whole team within a week with the result being Motion down the track. Media 100s engineers are, mostly still working in the industry and still contributing.

So, I’ll raise a glass this year at NAB as an official farewell. I will always appreciate the opportunity it provided to me and my business, with a side thanks to Mark Richards at Animotion/Adimex in Sydney who up-sold me to Media 100. Despite officially still “being there” I believe the Media 100 brand will be gone shortly. Such is the life cycle of innovative companies that don’t continue to innovate and take account of market shifts. It’s a salutary lesson to all of us who are in business – if we do not continue innovating and moving with our customers we risk joining the ranks of the “once were great” of history.

8 thoughts on “Companies come, companies go”

  1. Sadly I tip my hat in complete agreement with you Phil.

    what a complete balls up at Media 100 by the new CEO Uzi Breier.

    I thought John Molinari did some stoopid things in his time but Breier’s actions in sacking the 844 team and his board’s approval of this highly immoral act make JM’s actions look perhaps like the actions of a misguided zealot and not that of a highly qualified fool.

    i too have Mark and Evan to thank at Adimex for getting me involved but i guess for them the fallout from Optibase’s management is much harder to swallow.

    we get on with editing on another platform –

    what do they sell for their livelihoods?

    john

  2. I often thought Media 100 was only a few good moves from breaking into real success, but strangely the moves were never made. I actually hoped the acquisition of Terran was a first step in a digital media master plan. But somehow it didn’t happen.
    Although I was never privy to the inner workings, I figured that navigating a course from a closely held family firm to a more agile and aggressive organization was an internal challenge that just couldn’t be overcome. Perhaps there just wasn’t enough energy and capital left over to forge ahead as needed.
    Concentrating on Media 100 vs. 844 would be the right move – if we could roll back time about six or seven years. As a film-turned-computer guy I always preferred the simple, mouse-oriented editing style. Just a couple more video tracks at about version 2.6 would have kept me happy for a long time.
    I do hope we’re wrong and they make a go of it — but I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

  3. I think you pretty much hit it Philip, my experiences with my many friends within the Media 100 organization gave me a slightly different take-away, but in the end, I’m just sad…very sad.

    carey

  4. Oh, just one quick additional comment. nobody ever heard me echoing the chorus of the many folks who strongly disliked (or reviled) JM. Quite the contrary, I felt John was indeed a visionary. While we weren’t best friends, I found plenty there that was worthy of respect. I felt he made some bad decisions, and squandered some time in getting 844x to market, but ultimately I don’t come away from this hating the guy. I have no idea what he’s doing now, but certainly wish him well. There was just so much talent at that company…in the end…I think their success in some ways was their undoing. For example, a huge revenue stream for them was large income from platinum contracts, but the net effect of this was that this easy money was addictive in some ways and lulled M100 from feeling the need to innovate more quickly and become lean and mean to compete in a market where average selling prices fell through the floor in a very short period of time. Sadly, they couldn’t react. Oh, if things had gone differently with bobcat…

  5. Bobcat… The codename that changed the history of NLE. Maybe. For those who haven’t the foggiest idea of what Carey alludes to – Bobcat was Media 100’s internal code name for the integration between the Vincent Hardware and Macromedia’s Key Grip software (at least on Windows, possible on both platforms Key Grip supported). Key Grip, for those who don’t look at creator codes in Mac software, ultimately became Final Cut Pro.

    That Media 100 never bought Final Cut (as it was then named) from Macromedia in early 1999 when Macromedia were shopping it for sale, is probably the worst decision CEO John Molinari made, although perhaps understandable given that the KeyGrip/FC team had not been able to deliver in the latter half of 1997/early 1998 which really hurt Media 100’s share price. Still, what would history have been if Media 100 had purchase Final Cut and integrated it with their hardware…

    Somewhere, in a a parallel universe people are editing with Final Cut software integrated with the 844/X hardware. I envy them.

    Philip

  6. As one of the more mature members- can anyone say Ampex -Editec Mark II. My senior years editng and working with video were wonderful because of Media100 and the friends I made amongst the younger crowd who helped me along to understanding just what a dynamic production tool Media100 was, but for me is. I have FCP, I do use it, however my M100, 7.5I, and the 8.2. is for me like my once blue 57 Chevy. Its my first love in NLE and always will be. I am hopefull some enginer(s) somewhere will keep the M100 flame buring for repairs. But if not I indend to keep mine buring as long as possible, both on my 9.2.2 and my OSX.. Thanks Philip for the insight, excellent as usual. See you all at NAB. Fondly Dunc

  7. Howdy,

    it is a true pity the 844/x has died in the arse, it was a promising PC editing platform. As for M100 it was always an overpriced product, especially with its care packs – they were ridiculously priced. The handfull of resellers for the hardware was not enough to support the product properly, and the hourly rates for support or repairs were simply cruel to M100 users. Hope some gets their hands on the 844/x and sells their cards for under 3K US for the MS XP OS.

    Dave

  8. Great to find this thread. I bought up M100 7.5 on the cheap, and am using it to produce my first commercial production. I know M100 is on the mend now it has been bought up by Boris, but I did really wonder how on earth it had gone down hill in the past few years, when it used to be right up there with the best of them.

    Are any of you lot excited about the Boris led revival of Media100? Personally, am thinking of getting a Mac Pro next year, with Universal Binary M100 HDe with an AJA Kona board, on dual boot with FCP. ^_^. =P Er….that’s if I get enough profit from my current project to pay for it all. ^_^. Lol. Peace out.
    xx

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