Here’s a question. If you enter a new business into a crowded market, would you design it to be as similar to the existing competition, or would you design something different that differentiates itself in the marketplace?
Growing up in Australia in the 1960’s thru to 90’s on Saturday afternoon the average Sydneysider – the biggest city in Australia – could choose from five networks: 3 commercial (7, 9 and 10) and two Government – ABC (think PBS but Govt funded) and SBS (for multicultural entertainment). Typically two of the commercial networks and both ABC and SBS would have some sort of sport. (Soccer on SBS was very “multicultural” at the time!)
The ratings winner was the 10 network because they programmed something that wasn’t sport! Although sports were, and are, very popular, the aggregate non-sport market was bigger!
Although Media Composer wasn’t the first non-linear editing software, it was the first to capture the popular imagination of the industry. It’s interface was very comfortable for editors familiar with both Moviola and tape-based offline editing. That was probably exactly the right thing to do at the time.
At the time.
At that time, there were very few professional editors. Those working tended to be involved in the production of Motion Pictures (for big companies), Episodic Television, lessor Television and the beginnings of the Cable market. There would have been a few working in production houses working on big corporate productions. Overall, a fairly small group of people who had well defined needs for tools. Very common needs in fact, because the outputs were really not that different.
Then in the 1990’s the industry became democratized. Blame DV and Firewire-based NLEs if you want, but the number of people editing video skyrocketed over the next 15 years through to today. The type and variety of video projects has also changed, with distribution options starting with VHS, then DVD and now the Internet, added to any traditional channels. Of course in the US, the Cable business boomed from the mid 90’s, although the bulk of production was now outside the TV and Film worlds.
And yet, in 2011, one of the major NLE developers decides to, finally, give us a choice in interface designs, and that’s a problem? It will probably prove to be the most brilliant move any NLE developer has ever done. And probably only Apple have the resources and chutzpah to pull it off!
Final Cut Pro X is the first revisit to the NLE interface since Sony Vegas. Sony Vegas, designed by audio rather than video oriented engineers, developed according to what its users and developers thought “made sense”, not the way it had been done since time began. Although it has a very large market (sharing the bottom 32% with Media 100, Premiere Pro and Edius) it’s not Apple nor Avid!
Avid would have extreme difficulty taking even part of its user base on that journey. You only have to view the controversy over the Smart Tool changes implemented in MC 5.0 (and substantially improved/fixed in 5.5 btw) to know that a complete rebuild of the interface would be too much.
Apple had two things going for them. They can, as I said, withstand any market push-back for as long as it takes for the new software to be as fully featured as its predecessor, and for the marketplace to understand the value of the new approach. They also have a range of really good technologies on their operating systems that were just waiting for the right design to come along.
Plus, the time was ripe for there to be another choice. Something other than sport all Saturday afternoon!! A real choice of interface, one they hope will be more suited to a wider range of users than the existing Final Cut Pro design.
And if you still want to “watch sport”, then there’s Premiere Pro (very similar to Final Cut Pro and probably the easiest transition, particularly since you likely already own it because you bought Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects), or Media Composer (very affordable with the cross-grade promotion going on until mid June!).
I like the idea of choice. Avid have made it clear that they are focused on, and are focussing their tools on, those working in Studio film Broadcast and Cable TV and the professional newsrooms of the TV industry. That’s good market positioning and clearly sets out a Unique Selling Proposition.
Adobe are making the best, faster horse that they can, and I’m sure that will endear them to many soon-to-be former Final Cut Pro 7 users.
Of course, as my friend Oliver Peters has pointed out, Final Cut Pro X competes with Final Cut Pro as well as with NLEs from other companies. Apple are likely to be selling both for a while to come.
I think that Apple’s decision to give us interface choice, to reinvent the NLE for the next generation of editors, preditors and others, is exactly the right move for 2011. Final Cut Pro’s similarity to other NLEs when it was introduced was similarly exactly the right thing for that time. But not for now.