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

Nov/10

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What would a 2011 Final Cut Studio look like?

While I might have been skeptical about one “Steve Jobs” email, when there are multiple being published, it’s not so easy to think that Jobs is “off in the future already” and his “next year” is already 2012. But it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. There’s also activity around Cupertino that is more typical leading up to a new release, rather than many months away.

It’s possible that this activity is a consulting process to refine the planning, but overall I lean more toward something being released in 2011. Now, for all the reasons I’ve written about QuickTime and AV Foundation and OS X 10.7, I really doubt that a 2011 release could be 64 bit and have native support for MXF, RED and DSLR H.264. Because these have been such headline features for Adobe in Premiere Pro CS5 I really felt that Apple would be unlikely to release a version of Final Cut Pro that did not have them.

That is where I may well be wrong. For sure anything media related – 64 bit processing, native support and Mercury Engine-like performance – will almost certainly need to wait until after 10.7 is finalized (and released), but there’s a lot of other work they could do in Final Cut Pro that doesn’t necessarily revolve around those features.

Would a release of Final Cut Pro that did not have those three features help or hinder Apple? My assumption was that it would hinder, and I’m still inclined to believe that even as evidence gathers that there will be a 2011 release of Final Cut Studio. While Avid Media Composer is not (yet) 64 bit it does have native media format support via AMA. Media Composer’s current release also lacks anything akin to Adobe’s Mercury Engine, so it wouldn’t just be Apple with a lack in that area.

So what could Apple do in Final Cut Pro for a 2011 release that would excite us all and make it obvious to the worst naysayer that Apple are serious about the Pro Apps?

One thing for certain would be more rewritten code in Final Cut Pro. In Final Cut Pro 7 we got a completely rewritten Speed Control: evidence is the different look and feel, additional features and that if you feed it XML you get a slightly different result in Final Cut Pro 6 than in 7. Similarly my programming partner tells me that the XML writer/parser was very, very likely rewritten for Final Cut Pro 7. While the rewritten Final Cut Pro 7 XML import/export (and the features in that version) are great for developers like ourselves, they don’t generate a whole lot of customer excitement.

So, rewriting to Cocoa from Carbon has probably been progressing between releases. There’s nothing to prevent rewriting the Transition Editor or dozens of other parts of the application that aren’t media or media metadata related. I was thinking that the rudimentary image recognition features of iMovie ’11 – how many people are in a shot, is it W, M or CU? – would be a great addition to Final Cut Pro 7, but that could require work on the Bin/Browser interface, and I think Bin/Browser will require some tools for reading QuickTime Metadata that are Cocoa based rather than old Carbon code, but perhaps not.

Editing features, or perhaps even templates, could come over from iMovie ’11 without taking out any professional level features. This would be much like Aperture 3, which included iPhoto features without losing or dropping “professional features”.

What headline features Apple are  likely to put into a 2011 Final Cut Pro release kind of eludes me, but I’m no longer prepared to say “No 2011 release” only that a 2011 release is unlikely to be the release that everyone is expecting, and I don’t know if that will help Apple (“See, we are still interested in Pro Apps!”) or give an opportunity for people to continue the “If Apple were serious we’d have 64 bit and native support, and better performance by now” meme.

As always, we will see when we see it. I fully admit that I have never run a marketing department even the size of the Pro Apps marketing, and I fully expect they know better than I!

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29 comments

  • Jeff Handy · November 24, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Philip,

    If they continue to leave developers in the dark, how could one make a more accurate prediction than you already did with your 2012 estimate? Apple will have to bring their top game for the new release if it’s going to compete with Adobe and, to a lesser degree, Avid. And Avid still seems to command a significant share of the market and their last release did nothing but to shore up that foothold, IMO. Further, Apple will have to make a showing at some trade shows if they have any interest in keeping their users’ and new, potential users’ attention and investment.

    They are also way overdue for a Mac Pro redesign. They really screwed the pooch with the last couple of designs from the expansion standpoint. They need a smaller form factor and/or more slots and bays.

    So I would hope that they dovetail their new editing software along with new hardware offerings including more expansion ability, a rack-mount option, lighter footprint, more video card options, and USB 3.0. Hey, a man can dream, can’t he? ;)

    HandyGeek

    • Admin comment by Philip · November 24, 2010 at 2:17 pm

      Well, Apple will never do a trade show again. They don’t need it because they get so many people through the stores. There is never co-ordination between hardware and software divisions at Apple. IF there’s a new Mac Pro the Pro Apps team will learn of it the day we all do. Good or bad, that’s the way Apple run their business. To expect different is just crazy talk. Apple do have the vast majority of the “professional NLE” market.

  • Marcus R. Moore · November 24, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Here’s a purely unfounded theory. There are two basic issues here. First, people are looking for an update. Second, to do some of the under the hood require, 10.7 will need to be released. How do we reconcile these ideas with an “early 2011″ release date?

    What if Apple was taking the Pro market seriously when it says it needs clear roadmaps? What if Apple releases FCS4 in April, with as much of the UI changes and enhances features as possible- BUT with a roadmap date for a FCS4.5, which will be released at some point after Lion, updating to 64bit, native formats, etc., etc. Sure, some people will wait the extra 6+ months for 4.5, but some always do.

    @Jeff
    I’ve never understood the need for a tower redesign. The MacPro fits a very specific niche market now, and honestly, I just don’t think there’s enough people who think that the current design is “too big” for pro setups. No one who doesn’t need the expansion ports on a MacPro should be ashamed about buying an iMac anymore. They’ve got plenty of muscle for most tasks. And what are you doing to fill up the expansion slots on the current configuration?

    • Admin comment by Philip · November 24, 2010 at 6:57 pm

      I’d say most of your first point is likely – the 2011 release will be focused on interface innovation. It’s unlikely they can get 64 bit/OpenGL/native media before 10,7 and I’d expect that would be the next full update, not a dot release. However I doubt we’ll get a “road map”. No company provides a road map for their NLE products and Apple more so.

  • Juan · November 24, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Can I ask Phillip, what is the “activity” at cupertino that is leading you to believe we will see a FCS release in 2011?

    If memory serves there wasn’t much activity preceding the exact announcement of FCS2009, and it was just dropped on us rather unceremoniously, of course that could just be my impression because it didn’t coincide with any industry or apple event, ergo wasn’t publicly demonstrated.

    If, as el steve-o has said, the people laid-off last year were in fact in support and not development, then it’s not inconceivable that much more work than we know has been done in rewriting into cocoa, and the FCS installer could come with it’s own package of AV Foundation APIs.

    Similarly to how Adobe’s Mercury engine handles QT through a subprocess, FCS2011 could have a Cocoa rewrite of the application itself and underlying process (render engine, rt handling, etc) as well as a rewrite of the gui, and have it’s own processes for media handling (FCP already does a bit of this, BWFs get handled properly), while leaving the OS portion on it’s own, and spinning of QT calls. Unapple, but to the end user quite seamless, which of course is actually quite apple… it would be a shame if apple’s overly compartmentalized approach would lead to that kind of inefficiency, but not unimaginable. I’d think randy would be quite embarrassed to see the project he left behind at adobe run laps around his flagship software offering, for two upgrade cycles.

    Of course that assumes that anyone at apple cares about pro video. Sadly that’s not an assumption we can afford to make.

    • Admin comment by Philip · November 25, 2010 at 10:22 am

      I believe FCS 3 was “slipped” out the door. It was the quietest announcement of a release for ever. No tour, no big promotion. Just one day it’s available. The quietness was not because it wasn’t associated with a show – that’ll never happen again – but simply because the release wasn’t really that stellar. Good but not worth a huge promotion on. (Augers well for the next release).

      The years when there’s a big promotion there’s activity with filmmakers etc. Much more work has certainly been done rewriting to Cocoa but the work they need to do for Mercury Engine like performance and native format support appears to be coming from AVFoundation on the iOS ide Can’t really speed that up. You know with software that throwing more engineers at a project slows it down. (The Myth of the Man Month). Mercury engine handles 32 bit QT via an inefficient subroutine that took Adobe a hell of a lot of engineering to support as an outside process. FCP is unlikely to go down that path simply because FCP is *built* on QT. You can’t spin a foundation out as an outhouse!

      This release is very, very unlikely to be that 64 bit pure Cocoa FCP with native media support. This release seems to be likely to be about a new interface, which could bring in a lot of new features at that level that don’t require rewritten QuickTime.

      I guess we’ll know when we know.

  • Marcus R. Moore · November 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I suppose then we’d be looking at a shortened release schedule between FCS4 & 5, as I’d find it hard to believe that we wouldn’t get the 64 bit release for another 2 years in mid-2013.

    So, if no NLE provides clear roadmaps, why is Apple catching so much flack for this? Is the 2 year release cycle they’ve maintained since FCS 1.5 that out of whack with offerings from Avid and Adobe [who from my perspective has been a complete non-entitiy in the pro market until just recently, and even now I think it's mostly one-man shops for the time being]?

  • Admin comment by Philip · November 25, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Why is Apple catching flack for no roadmap and no-one else is. Because they’re Apple and people apply different standards. Plus I think people are more nervous with Apple because (like Adobe) it’s a very diverse business and some people are always unjustifiably (ie without evidence) worried that Apple will suddenly drop Pro Apps. Again zero evidence.

    So people want reassurance from Apple that they’re still serious about Pro Apps.

    If we should be worried about any NLE leaving the market we should be concerned about Media Composer, Symphony and DS. Apple is strong financially and can afford to support their NLE. Avid have had an enormously long string of losing quarters. I think the current management have done a great job of turning the company around – definitely NOT an easy job going from $100000 sales to $10000 sales – but they still haven’t turned a profitable quarter for a very, very long time. While I think it’s likely that Avid will survive if we had to worry about an NLE, that’s the one that’s worth worrying about!

  • Marcus R. Moore · November 25, 2010 at 11:00 am

    It’s quite remarkable that you say that, since AVID seems to still be in the pole position for major features and TV. But it’s not surprising since Final Cut essentially cut the legs out from under them with an offering an order of magnitude cheaper than what AVID was selling, stealing a majority of the individual and small shops. Maybe AVID thought that they couldn’t loose the high end, but there’s no question they it took them way too long to come to a price parity with FCS, which is a whole suite of products rather than just an NLE.

    There’s the interesting paradox which seems to be at the heart of Apple’s philosophy, and I think is probably the most cogent reason they won’t drop their pro-apps. Apple does the inverse with it’s software that it does with it’s hardware. When Apple release many of it’s pro apps, they were ridiculously cheaper than the existing offerings in NLE, post-audio, and stills. Why? For the same reason Apple has fought for low cost music and TV shows on iTunes, and why they bundled iLife for free with Macs when there wasn’t comparable software with Windows, and why they offered a 70/30 revenue split on apps and books through their respective stores. Because Apple’s philosophy is that attractive software drives hardware sales, where they really want to make their money. Apple doesn’t sell cheap hardware [the wide margin of the "Apple tax" if far behind us, despite what many would have you believe]. Apple owns something to the effect of 70% of computer sales above $1000. So what does that tell us, that they want to be selling to the upper end of the market. So maintaining it’s Pro Apps makes perfect sense. That market buys in shorter cycles and spends more than any other area of computing. Plus, being known as the computer for “creatives” gives them a great deal of cache, which pulls in who knows how many people on the fence between a PC and a Mac.

    That’s my thought anyway…

  • Philip Hodgetts · November 25, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Apple’s hardware pricing is very competitive in the categories (high end) where they want to compete. Spec a Dell or HP to the same level as an iMac or Mac Pro and you’ll find the pricing is close.

    Apple don’t compete in the low marging, high turnover business because it’s hard to make a profit.

    But other than that, yes.

  • Marcus R. Moore · November 25, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Indeed. It’s a dogged perception that some people just won’t let go of.

    Still, the way Apple is turning profit these days, who cares about their overall market-share? Let Dell, Acer, HP et al. deal with the cheapest, loudest consumers.

  • HandyGeek · November 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    True about competing systems. But then you have folks like me who can build a screamer of a Windows system for about half the cost of the lower-end Mac Pros. And it’ll even run the Mac OS with some work. It’s that little extra work that keeps me from doing just that. Someone asked what I’m filling my slots with. Two dual Fibre cards, one capture card and then I’m done. Since the graphics cards essentially take two slots, three is all we get. If I had another slot, I’d be very likely to fit it with USB 3.0. If Apple did just a little work, they could give the graphics slot more room and not rob one of the others to work it in.

    If Apple does even just an incremental release next year, I just hope they do some better integration with Final Cut Server and update Server as well. What I’d really like to see is for them to bring back the shot selection tool. Better yet, they could perhaps buy the Rough Cut Editor software and use it for that feature set. The way it is, is a bit of a clunky workaround and I’m sure Apple could spend just a few weeks of development to make it work more elegantly. I really am looking forward to SOME kind of announcement. I can’t plan beyond one year’s worth of purchases with Apple’s secrecy. And where I work, I plan four years at a time. It’s harder to make them a large part of our long-term plans that way.

  • Loren · December 2, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Well, I live and work in the app’s interface anmd want to see the ability to move Master Keyframes in the time graph– and make that look better with auto-center! And bigger storyboard frames for my clients who are going blind looking for their favorite shots..I actually resort to OSX Zoom to help them pick.

    So top picks for tweaks are

    - Larger than 4K seq

  • Loren · December 2, 2010 at 3:14 am

    .. well, okay, I was interrupted. If it has to be boiled down…

    - Larger than 4K sequence frame
    - 64 bit
    - background multicore / cluster rendering
    - Larger bin frame display
    - Make clip with transition copy/paste work
    - Make it automatically cut my sequence- oh, wait, PhilnGreg’s done that.

    And native support for various HD codecs IF it doesn’t slow down a timeline with a lot of material or multistream or multicam mode– this is presently Avid’s problem with their AMA extensible plugin architecture, although surely a moving target. Looks great in demos, but Avid vets like Steve Cohen advise transcoding, the old-fashioned way, right now.

  • Allan · December 2, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Been reading these posts for a while and skimming the comments. While the speed of Adobe is quite appealing to me at the moment I don’t see myself or many of the people I know switching. One of the biggest concerns for me is plug ins. I have thousands of dollars invested into my plugins. Will they work with Premiere? Some might, others there will be a cost for cross platform and some are just not available. This also raises the issue of whether my plugins will work in a new fancy 64 bit FCP. Yeah more $$$ for upgrades.

    The other is facility infrastructure. In Toronto Ontario I don’t know any facilities that use Premiere. I can take an Avid or FCP project into any house in town and be up and running in 10 minutes.

    There is a lot more to switching editing tools than just opening the software. I’m eagerly awaiting what happens in the next year or so. FCP is working well for me now as it always has.

    In 18 – 20 months from now when I update my tower and all that stuff it will be a larger question. But for now, I want more but everything that I have is working.

  • Orlando Video Production · December 2, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    All I am asking for is 64 bit and H.264!

    • Admin comment by Philip · December 2, 2010 at 4:03 pm

      Both of which will require a new QT and therefore unlikely in 2011 – more like 2012. i think if there’s a 2011 release it will be interface focused.

  • Felidae_Panthera_P.leo · December 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    I don’t see how Apple can release a 64-bit FCP with native edits when the MacBook Pro can’t even support it. Hence, I think a major FCP upgrade and 64-bit MBP (16+gb RAM and 1+gb GPU) would have to be released nearly concurrently. If the MBP were to eliminate Superdrive, there should be ample space to accommodate a larger 64-bit board. I think a lot of editors want to get out of their windowless suite and go mobile, and a lot of doc filmmakers are constantly in the field.

    Some pros and a lot of amateurs are bailing to Premiere CS5, but so what? The Mercury engine is a resource hog and it takes a hefty, expensive PC to run it. Think of an FCP upgrade delay as a way to save thousands of dollars. What you pay is transcoding time. But there’s a way around that, too, with the Aja Ki Pro or Mini, or similar ProRes recorders.

    Yeah, and Avid’s AMA isn’t really native editing, per se, it’s a link to ProRes and other files that allows native-style editing. It might still make sense to transcode such files to DNxHD. The biggest snafu I see with MC5 is it’s $2300 price tag. How can an FCP editor consider that huge investment, then go through a time-consuming learning curve?

    So, relax, especially if you’re a filmmaker and you started your years-long project in FCP. You can’t just switch apps in the middle of a workflow. Consider your transcode time a opportunity for a coffee break and to get outta that windowless cage.

    • Admin comment by Philip · December 2, 2010 at 4:05 pm

      Seriously, if you’re a professional, $2300 is not a significant investment particularly when you consider the difference over FCP is $13 a week over a two year life of a release. There are lots of ways that media composer is going to return an editor more than $15 a week in value (so you’re in front).

      The learning curve is more of an issue, but the reality has been – at least in LA and NY – that if you want to work as a freelance editor you must know both FCP and MC.

      Other than those two items, spot on.

  • Greg · December 2, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Regarding 64 bit kernel on MacBook Pros and Mac Pros, the current MacBook Pros can be booted into 64 bit kernel mode, but it’s unnecessary. This article from Adobe explains it well: http://blogs.adobe.com/toddkopriva/2010/03/64-bit-kernels-and-after-effec.html

    Money quote: “You don’t need to run the 64-bit kernel on Mac OS X to run 64-bit applications (like After Effects CS5).”

  • Don B · December 3, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Folks are missing the point. Better think out of the box. Everything in Apple’s stable will support their mission as a *consumer devices* company — not a pro-content-creation company. The announcement in 2011 will be about distribution, not features. Look for FCP to be the avenue for direct distribution via the new data center, with advertising and promotion functionality built-in. This will be so cool it will make everyone forget about features, cocoa and the number of bits for awhile. Apple will keep FCP only because it will serve consumers, and this will provide money directly to creators as a result. You will like this :)

    • Admin comment by Philip · December 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

      The number of people required to approve content would be a challenge.

  • Thomas M · December 4, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Yes, Apple is a consumer device company.

    Yes Apple makes more money selling iPod/iPhone/iPad than Mac Pros.

    In the past, Apple just made hardware, other companies made the content creation software, and that was fine. When other companies made the decisions to abandon the Mac as a platform, Apple stepped in to fill the void, which they did very successfully.

    Now Apple is successful with more consumer oriented products.

    I don’t see Apple abandoning the pro content creation side. I feel it’s an essential in the long term to feed the consumer devices they make.

    The consumer devices aren’t useful if there’s nothing to run on them.

    If Apple drops the pro side, I can see other companies pushing their tech, which may not work well or at all on Apple devices.

    We’re already seeing that battle with the iPad and Flash. Imagine it with Silverlight, and other tech.

    Jobs has experience in content creation and technology with Pixar. Pixar is known as a great movie studio, but they create a lot of their own technology which they use internally and also sell. Their public image is that of a movie studio though.

    Adobe and Avid finally have leapfrogged Apple, but I feel that’s only because FCS has so much work to be done.

    Only time will tell right?

  • Don B · December 5, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Phillip, it’s not too much of a challenge re: apps. And parsing content isn’t too hard for YouTube. Remember, Apple’s mission in 2010 is to serve consumers. Selling Macs to pros was their mission in 2000. I believe they’ll still sell Macs and video software, but both will support the mission of serving consumers, and content creators will like the new distribution model that results. Think like Henry Ford when looking at what to do with FCP :)

  • Ramos · December 16, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I like the fact that you all are very enthusiastic about the next version of Final Cut and have developed all sorts of theories as to when, why and how. I was right there with you until a few months ago. Then I put CS-5 Premiere Pro on my MAC Pro. I haven’t looked back since. All the little tiny lies I kept telling myself about Final Cut started to add up. I even felt somewhat guilty using a non Apple product and giving in to Adobe. There really wasn’t a last straw for me, but an overwhelming amount of things that just kept piling up.

    Someone pointed out earlier that its difficult to walk into a facility and find anyone using Premiere Pro. The truth is, most already have it installed with the Adobe Bundle they purchased for Photoshop and After Effects. The fact is they haven’t taken the time to try it or learn it.

    I’m sad to say that I dont have the high hopes for the pro Apple market I had in years gone by. The numbers simply are too overwhelming to ignore. I am speaking of the iphone, ipad, itouch sales figures compared to Mac Pro’s. I would really like to see some minor slot improvements in the next gen.

    Check out Premiere Pro CS-5….the waters warm :)

  • Marcus R. Moore · January 3, 2011 at 10:04 am

    A new report from Hardmac:

    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/01/03/apple_rumored_to_update_final_cut_applications_in_march_or_april.html

    The timetable of March/April is certainly in line with what the rumour mill has been saying for the past few months. In interesting point is that of two different beta; one for Snow Leopard and one for Lion- that certain things won’t be available under Snow Leopard due to changes in QT architecture.

    I find this quite encouraging.

    • Admin comment by Philip · January 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

      The two version theory fits – there’s a lot that FCS has to wait on in QT and that won’t come until Lion when the iOS AVFoundation comes to the desktop OS. I find this exactly what it was yesterday: Apple have been working on FCS as I’ve been saying and my revised “early 2011″ is looking good.

  • Marcus R. Moore · January 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

    @Ramos

    I’m certainly not going to begrudge anyone shifting to Premier if it meets their needs.

    I think the primary reason most will stick with Final Cut is due to their work circles. I work with a dozen different producers and post houses. They all use FCP. I can’t unilaterally decide to switch to Premier, even if I wanted to. When I deliver jobs, they have to be able to work with them after I hand them off. This is not just a technical issue but a knowledge issue. Even if they have the software, no one in their offices may know how to use it. So only if a majority of my clients switched, would I have any motivation to even start using Premier.

    The same thing happened 10 years ago. I worked the first 3 years of my professional life on AVID. The only reason I stopped using it was because everyone was moving to FCP.

  • Ramos · January 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    @Marcus

    Totally agree with most professional circles using Final Cut and it is the tool of choice for the majority of users. With that said, I will be using Premiere Pro for the vast majority of my work. Even to the point of just exporting out of Premiere back into Final Cut to hand the project off at the end.

    I think we are just about at the point where are large shift is going to go to Premiere, especially if the next version of Final Cut is a dud.

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