The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Archive for September 29th, 2009

Sep/09

29

Why do I love our customers?

As I transition into a role I never thought I’d have – software product manager/developer – I’ve come to love “pushy clients”! Although I don’t write the code for our products, I’m usually involved in the design and particularly user interface. Greg writes the code rather brilliantly.

Our first piece of software – driven by a strong idea of mine – is First Cuts – the assisted editing tool for long form documentary filmmakers. Finisher was the suggestion of Loren Miller during the beta period, and the use of Sequence Markers to force b-roll was the suggestion of Digital Production BuZZ producer, Cirina Catania.

The work we did there gave us a leg-up with FCP XML so when Ted Schilowitz of RED Digital Cinema asked if we knew someone who could, basically, create something functionally similar to Avid’s Autosync (part of Media Composer) for Final Cut Pro users, leading to Sync-N-Link a few months later.

Later than intended because we were about ready to release it and ran the concept past Jim Mathers of the Digital Cinema Society and he said that in the independent markets that he works in, editors tend to sync multi-track (dual system) audio after the edit. Dang a delay but Greg made it happen. That’s something you can’t do with Media Composer.

If, however, you compare Sync-N-Link then with the current version – set for a substantial update shortly – there have been so many new features added, and bugs fixed, that we could not have found without our early customers. We did try beta testing but found that few beta testers have time to put into testing, despite their best intentions. (Which reminds me, “sorry Boris for not much feedback the last two times I tested for you”.)

Likewise, the whole Sequence Clip Reporter application came about because I had demonstrated miniME and exceLogger at LAFCPUG. A friend said “what you really should do…” and we did. Then we had some great feedback from (yes) a beta tester and fabulous feedback from an early customer, who was “I love it but could it also….” and now it does.

Sequence Clip Reporter was only released about seven weeks ago, and yet it’s now at version 1.5, with an interface overhaul (more feedback) and a raft of new, customer-driven features.

So, if you use a piece of software and have a feature request, let people know. Everyone who develops software loves to know how people use it and how they can make it better – yes, even Apple, although they’ll never tell you. (Someone reads, categorizes and files every feature request and bug report.) In fact, FCP XML v5 has a bug fix for a problem Greg reported (from a customer) and a new feature that also came about because we couldn’t accommodate a feature request from a customer. (Sound reel was not being exported in the XML until V5.) So we know Apple do respond.

What I particularly enjoy is that we’re not a big company, where it takes time to iterate a new version, QA it and get it out. And thankfully none of our applications are (yet) anywhere near as complex as the simplest Pro App or NLE. It’s just so great to get a feature request from a (potential) customer and have the first (very rough) draft of the app by the next day. (There’s a huge gap between that working prototype and a full application, not all of which is to do with the function of the app.)

Or get a feature request from a customer – or a problem they have – and being able to push out an update for everyone within a day or two days. Or even solve a problem that isn’t caused by out software, but where Greg’s XML expertise is able to “save the day”.

So, provide that feedback. Tell people how you use their software (tell us for sure). It’s likely to gain you a feature, or even a whole application.

September 2009
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