Will Avid be the company selling out editors?

OK, it’s a provocative headline, and while I don’t for a minute think Avid are deliberately setting out to sell out editors, it may be an inevitable result of inevitable technological innovation.

At an executive briefing in LA during the week, Avid noted that their NAB announcements were largely going to be about “the cloud”. That’s pretty much all they announced, so everything else in this post is conjecture and speculation, not rumor or fact.

That said, Avid have been showing ‘technology previews’ of a cloud-based editing application where the interface is local, but all media is served from a remote server across the Internet. Terry Curren and I have discussed cloud-based editing on a couple of shows: Episode 40: Will we be outsourced or automated out of existence? and Episode 26: Is cloud editing the future of editing? In those episodes we mentioned the technology previews of Avid’s Cloud based editor. You can see a preview from NAB 2010 on Avid’s site and I first wrote about it shortly thereafter. Alternatively, Scott Simmons reviewed the preview from 2010 at Pro Video Coalition.

So, they definitely have the technology, originally purchased from Maximum Throughput in July 2008 after their MAXedit Web Edition won a Vidy Award at NAB a couple of month’s earlier. That’s the background but what does it mean and how would it lead to a “sell out” of editors?

Personally, I think the primary application will be in private clouds – run by a single company for their own operations – rather than a public, or even Avid, cloud service. Given the general security concerns of the large media enterprises I doubt they’d be interested in a public cloud service. But a private cloud has many advantages.

Let’s consider one scenario. It’s 2016 and NBC once again have the broadcast rights for the Rio Summer Games. Instead of having to move hundreds of editors to the broadcast center at the games, they set up an Avid Cloud server in the broadcast center (where live feeds and operations would still continue). All the editors working up packages for the various outputs stay at their every-day workplace, living at home (no location living expenses) instead of traveling to the games venue.

That’s the positive side. But what of expanded capacity? Surely NBC could equally employ editors in the US, Brazil, India or any other country, in any time zone, running off that same Avid server.

In other words, Avid’s upcoming technology provides big media companies with an effective and efficient way to outsource the editing (of some types of content) to anywhere in the world, wherever labor is cheapest.

It won’t work for client supervised work, but for anything that doesn’t require the director/client in the room…

Don’t say it won’t happen, because we know that if money can be saved, it will be, even if there is a slight drop in the polish of the finished product.



22 replies on “Will Avid be the company selling out editors?”

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  1. I’ve been running my own personal cloud for a number of years. Currently every video and picture from my iPhone is up loaded to my cloud when ever I open the app. I store my music tracks and video files from projects. I can simply plug in another USB drive when ever I need more storage.

    The cloud comes in handy since I edit on a MacBook Pro and it allows me to share files with other editors and gives me access to all my files from any where in the world. I am able to access each cloud hard drive through Finder like or on my desktop.

    My cloud appliance of choice is the PoGo Plug. You can also have mu

    1. Seems you got cut off there Todd. All that’s important to my digital life is backed up on a local Time Machine drive, and at Backblaze, so I have a backup even if this property is destroyed (and I miraculously survived). Important media is on RAID 1 locally, and a highly critical subset is updated every six months at a friend’s house nearby.

  2. Well that Avid demo was a hoot. The editing was a smooth as treacle and he had to keep skipping to a pre-edited sequences to cover up what a dog the system currently is/was.

    I have mixed views about editing in the cloud as editing needs to be fluid and responsive, in fact, everything that Avid demo wasn’t. But if it’s cheap the bean counters won’t give a shit what the editing experience is like, right?

    I’m convinced that Apple will do something with FCPX but combine it with iCloud. FCPX will generate ultra low res proxies, then iCloud will copy those files over to your MBP/iPad (yep, FCPX on iPad), you edit the project and then it’s updated on your Mac Pro/iMac back at base. I think that this will be the type of cloud editing people will be exposed to first. I’d be quite happy to sit in a beachside cafe with wifi editing on an iPad while my Mac Pro generates the proxies and sends them to me.

    BTW, My partner uses her new iPad with Citrix Receiver to work out of the office and even on an iPad running productivity apps in the cloud is perfectly fine. In fact her iPad(3) is just as responsive and has more screen space than her office PC so it is more enjoyable to use.

    1. The demo I saw was smooth, no playback issues or latency at all at Editors Lounge.

      Personally I think it will be a while before Apple has the development time to add cloud features. In the meantime we have almost ready (for months now, getting time to finish it is hard) a tool called Proxy Drop for moving just proxies via dropbox (or hard drive).

      1. I guess “cloud” features would need the basis of a true multi-user environment in FCPX? I have no idea where FCPX stands on that and how much effort would be required to bring that together.

        I think Apple has a completely different take on cloud services and the iCloud service is a great way to make money from the syncing of media etc.

        The Avid system looks like a game changer if the performance is consistently as you say. As you and Diego rightly say it’ll just mean jobs will go overseas as a well paid US/EU editor will not be able to compete with an equally talented editor in India or China. You can see the attraction for broadcasters not only are the skills cheaper but you can take advantage of a 24 hr rolling day with editors picking up the working in every timezone. I have always been an advocate of democratisation of the media industry and have seen many downsides of this but also many upsides.

        How soon will it be before editors across the globe become intimately acquainted with the vacuous lives of the Kardashians I wonder?

        1. Avid have spent the last 2-3 years putting all the pieces together for cloud-based editing, so I think if they’re ready to release it, it’ll be great.

          I think we’re a long way from FCP X having that sort of feature set. Different goals for each company. (Avid is largely a services company these days – Integrated Media Enterprise and services are their focus, not the NLE software that brings in only 13% of consolidated revenue)


      2. > In the meantime we have almost ready (for months now, getting time to finish it is hard) a tool called Proxy Drop for moving just proxies via dropbox (or hard drive).

        Sounds good.

  3. Outsorcing, foreign subsidiaries, improve benefits, pay less, less job.
    Welcome to the globalization!
    Cloud editing is another piece of that puzzle.

  4. I don’t think this has been talked about enough. For better or worst Apple do make software for the individual 1st. While Avid for better or worst make software for the industry 1st.

  5. I think there’s every indication that Avid is the company most catering to the large media enterprises while Apple and Adobe are more focused on the individual editor. Avid definitely have the best editing collaboration tools.

    I think John, you might be falling for the “one industry” canard again. There are many industries that rely on, or use, production tools. I think you mean the broadcast TV and film industry, which is quite small relative to the total size of the market for NLEs. (Even Avid sell to more than the 25,500 “film and TV editors” that the Dept of Labor statistics allows.)

    1. There are more than 25000 editor on the planet. US broadcast is a small part of a larger market. …. although that’s anther argument.

      But your right I was limiting my thinking to ‘one market canard’. I should have said something like Apple (And Adobe) sell there software to editors generally while Avid sells and targets there editing software to the broadcast/ film industry above all others. Personally I have never came across an Avid outside TV&Film. I’ve heard rumours they exist away from there natural habitat but I’ve just yet to see one. FCP and Premiere are everywhere.

      What you wrote above struck a cord. While all three As are in this game for profit Avid will follow the broadcast/ film industry trends because the industry (Post houses not editors) is the primary client. Apple clearly has a different business model tilted more to the needs of people who edit for a living. I think this fragment ion is a good thing but unless you work in the top echelons of broadcast TV you need to carve a niche for yourself that can’t be outsourced.

      … think I’ve had too much coffee this morning.

      1. Avid Target the big media organizations for sure. You’re right, there are more than 25,000 “film and TV editors” on the planet, but even if you go 4-5 times that, that’s still 1/15th the installed base of FCP 7; it’s less than 1/4 of Avid’s sales.

        Your last paragraph expresses it well.

    2. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the “industry.” The main group who will be affected by such a system will be editors working in the “industry.”

      I wonder how this will affect MC in the long run and whether this could be the start of Avid moving to Web-based Apps in the long term. Avid have the tech to generate streaming proxies so, presumably, it wouldn’t matter whether the footage is local or on the server itself.

      It’ll be interesting to hear what an “industry” editor’s take on this might be? Will this mean you can keep the car in the garage and avoid the blood pressure raising commute to work or will you be joining the dole queue because your editing job has moved to a different country?

      1. Steve, I like that you identified the possibility of an up side for editors in high end post having the option of working at home. I believe at least one editor at a big reality facility works from their home/remote location now.

  6. Personally, complaining that editing will be outsourced makes as much sense as complaining that film stock is going away. It’s happening, so we may as well see where it benefits the already working editor.

    For my mind, while this will open up the ability for US producers to take their work overseas, I think that it also opens up the ability for non-US producers to bring their work here. I’ve met enough producers in China and Vietnam who would love to work with established US editors but found the distances too problematic.

    If Avid’s solution works, I think that this will open up tons of possibilities for editors with the intelligence to take advantage of it. Remind me to tell you the story sometime about how NYC editors fought the merging of the East and West Coast Editors unions because “they would come and steal our jobs.” It never happened like that, of course. But, as we all know, editors are a conservative lot.

    1. That’s a great point, Norman. The other aspect is that in the shot term the benefit might be that editors across NA won’t be restricted to the availability of work locally.

      I’m a living example of someone who works about 100km from every one of his clients, and I hardly ever edit at their offices anymore. They’ve realized that my time commuting is time wasted. Plus I have access to plug-ins and other resources on my machine here that they haven’t invested in.

      Right now the only impediment is getting footage to me, which inevitably is sent by courier. Master files I can usually send back digitally. Eventually either AVID’s proxy concept will take off, OR much faster internet will make transferring TB of data practical.

      I hope so… cause I don’t want to be editing remotely from Hamilton, Ontario. I want to be editing remotely from Barbados!

  7. This is written by someone that does not know how complicated and incredibly difficult the editing process can be. Specially when working in a setting with creative directors sitting behind your back. Reality TV is even more difficult, there is no way a machine could replace a job that requires so much human interaction and the use of “gut feeling” to craft and create good story telling.

    1. As remote editing – hundreds of miles from the creative director – is already a reality for many people, I think it’s time you re-evaluated why you think your methodologies are/have to apply to everyone. It’s an incredibly diverse business with many different workflows.

      Even reality.

    2. @Ripple

      I admire anyone who can use the words “craft” and “Reality TV” in the same sentence.

  8. Content Providers and Service Providers are concentrating on being able to provide the most compelling content that consumers desire and in the required time frames. The simplicity of being able to search, click and stream or purchase content is certainly part of the desired user experience.

    At the same time, there is a complicated digital media supply chain that must be addressed when content moves from its raw form (the unedited video, audio, etc.) through the transformation stage, and into its final form. As more content is generated, with different versions for various devices, it is necessary to have access to the content regardless of one’s location.

    Private cloud-based editing and review/approval solutions are necessary to bring together a geographically dispersed workforce and to provide ubiquitous access to the content creation teams. This development is a natural outgrowth of the work many of us were involved in during the formative years of digital nonlinear editing.

    I certainly don’t view this development as a signal of any company abandoning its customer base. Rather, this is a logical extension of the technology, products, and solutions to help content creators do more in ever decreasing amounts of time.

    We’re now entering the sixth wave on the DNLE movement: WAN-based, distributed systems. Storage, servers, bandwidth, network, compression, security, authentication, media management, and much more all coming together to help all of us make and consume more compelling and relevant content. It’s a complicated undertaking. One wrong move and precious intellectual property is at risk.

    Aframe is an excellent system and they’ll be at NAB. I encourage a close examination of all cloud-based collaborative solutions. Look for those that hide the complexity and enable users to concentrate on their creativity.

  9. It will be interesting to see what they announce.

    As you already stated, Avid has been working with some “cloud” type things already with Interplay and I’m sure this will only advance that.

    I don’t really see it as a possible outsourcing of editors though. I rarely hear people complain that there aren’t enough cheap editors. I do hear that there aren’t enough good editors fairly often though.

    The “Shotlist Editor” function from the 2010 demo already existed to some extent but as you suggested, it’s in a private “cloud” (found a video from 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSTDobVw4fQ). Given expanded functionality, it could mean a lot more time and money savings. I’d like to note that I haven’t heard of editors losing their job over this yet ;).

    With more bandwidth and functionality, I see large benefits. A DIT on location in West Virginia could upload (perhaps just a proxy – master clip media brought in later for the online) and an editor in Seattle could begin cutting and legal in NY could begin clearing.

    Another large benefit for smaller shops could be more affordable, smart, and safer enterprise-level archive. Your in-house ISIS/Interplay regularly pushes X criteria media to a third party’s Interplay aware cloud which archives it, leaving DNxHD 36 proxies locally that could be used as a sort of nearline access.

    With more bandwidth, I see HUGE savings on storage. Full res media only lives on a cloud elsewhere and proxies are local. When it comes time to online, the cloud assembles and FTPs it back to you. Another possibility would be keeping local large storage but having a parity drive outside your LAN. We could be running RAID 0 with reckless abandon :D.

    The infrastructure for editing shops is by far more expensive than the editors. Heck, even for freelancers, wouldn’t you rather pay a small license cost and “work in the cloud” instead of constantly throwing your wallet at technology? “Here producer, send files to this server as you shoot and I’ll edit here on my cheapie laptop as the cloud crunches everything for me.”

    I’m going to stop now because I keep getting more ideas…

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