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



Avid is the most used NLE?

Avid folk – hi Frank – have been promoting this survey result that purportedly shows that Media Composer  is used more than all other NLEs. In fact the article starts off with:

Avid Media Composer remains the most popular editing system in production by a considerable margin. It’s the primary editing system of 70% of our respondents, proving that it still rules the roost despite the challenge from Apple and Adobe

Which is hardly accurate if you really examine the subject. In fact is bordering on deliberately misleading.

The most important thing with any survey result is to know:

  • Who undertook the survey
  • Who paid for the survey
  • How were people selected for the survey
  • Where was the survey conducted
  • What questions were asked.

Any survey that fails to offer most of that information should be considered suspect. Televisual Reports notes the participants and other details, which helps understand the results.

Here’s the thing. If you limit your survey to the one territory where Media Composer is strong (for very good reasons) then you will get the result that Media Composer is still strong. If you take the industry as a whole, and not a specific niche market., then Media Composer is relegated to minority status.

Now, there’s a lot of very, very good reasons why Media Composer still rules the “Hollywood” (metaphorically speaking) market – collaborative workflows especially – but that’s a niche market. According to the Department of Labor Statistics there are about 25,600 “film and tv editors” in the United States. I’m happy to say that 99% of those will probably be editing with Media Composer.

Is this important or relevant? I don’t think so. Studio films and high end Television can, and have been, cut with all major NLEs. Adobe’s Premiere Pro was used on David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Final Cut Pro X has several major TV series behind it (starting back in 2012 with Season 5 of Leverage), and one completed Studio movie in the can for release next year, with more studio movies on the slate to be edited in FCP X and Premiere Pro CC.

If you want to narrowly define “professional editing” as studio films and television, then Media Composer will come up strong. That’s an incredibly conservative group of businesses and effectively Media Composer has been designed for that market. When Avid first released Media Composer, film and TV were “production”. Those outside those boundaries still used the same workflows and cost structures as film and broadcast because there were no alternatives like there are now.

Those days are long gone. Long gone. Production has changed. What was once the entirety of the industry, and pretty much the entirety of Avid’s marketplace, is now but a small niche market. Avid pretty much owns the “media enterprise” – the big media plant – which is their target goal. Avid Everywhere is very much pitched at those big media plants, and should be quite successful at it.

But to claim that Media Composer is the most used NLE is just plain ludicrous. Professional production is so much broader than it ever was. My entire production career has been outside the film and broadcast niches, but it was valid none-the-less and I was a paying customer for Media 100 and Final Cut Pro when I was still in production in Australia.

Only one company has ever released figures on sales of NLE seats, and that’s Apple. Now what’s really interesting is that Andrew Baume (the first FCP product manager) is quoted in Timelines 2 as expecting to sell 20-25,000 seats in the first two years. As it turns out Final Cut Pro sold around 120,000 seats in that period. And none to “Hollywood”.

Over time, Apple have announced:

  • Final Cut Pro (classic) ended with 1.5 million unique registrations, and 2 million seats.
  • Final Cut Pro X has reached 1 million unique purchasers. The App Store makes seats harder to determine since multiple seats can run on the same Apple ID.

We get no idea how many actively use FCP X (or still FCP).

Adobe continually announce Creative Cloud subscription numbers, with 2.4 million being the most recent number. However, we must consider Adobe primarily a document handling, photography and web company that also has a dynamic media division. Every one of the 2.4 million subscribers has access to Premiere Pro, but I doubt they’ve all downloaded it, yet alone use it regularly.

If I were to be generous and say that the dynamic media division is an equal part of the Creative Cloud (and I think I’m being generous), then that equates to about 600,000 installs. (Adobe would likely have the figures, but I guess it’s not in their best PR interests to release them.) Again we have no idea on active users vis those who simply downloaded it.

I have absolutely no feel for the installed base for Sony Vegas or Edius. I suspect that Vegas is pretty popular and has over 500,000 installs. Edius, not so much.

Leaving Media Composer. At a recent Avid Everywhere event it was suggested there were 10,000 “media enterprises” worldwide. My best estimate of Media Composer’s installed base is somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 seats.

Like I say in my The New Now always identify your playing field so you can be “best” and that’s what Avid is doing here. Control the survey, control the results.

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  • Robin S. Kurz · August 17, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Tiny typo there…

    “… but I doubt they’ve all downloaded it, YET alone use it regularly.”


    Great article and take on matters, thanks!

    • dee · August 22, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      Let alone is the proper phrase.

      • Author comment by Philip · August 22, 2014 at 2:46 pm

        Thank you. That would not come to me Sunday morning.

  • Alex Gollner · August 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Final Cut Pro X is the most used NLE

    (on my computer)

    (over the last few days)

    …I think. I need to survey the magic elves that do my editing for me overnight.

  • Anon. · August 17, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    I’d also point out if you look at the sales figures that are available in the NASDAQ fillings compared to the other NLE’s they aren’t even close.

    • Author comment by Philip · August 17, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      I was thinking about that a few minutes ago. However we should wait until we get the updated account in a couple of weeks. That will be the time for a deep dive into the financial side of the company.

  • Ramos · August 17, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    I was told by an Adobe employee that works in the video apps division that Adobe Premiere has more seats worldwide that are generating “more revenue” than avid and apple combined.

    When you examine this at first glance it could hardly seem accurate, but when you realize how small of a niche feature films are compared to everything else that needs video support you start to say maybe. Hollywood is the highest profile work by far, but also the most niche.

  • Steve Oakley · August 17, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Premiere ( and Pro ) was bundled with any number of video cards. The number of installed seats was 2M + many years ago.Pretty sure it was Adobe that announced thats PP was in terms of users and dollars the most widely used NLE now.

    Avid is pretty much a LA and parts of NY thing. once you leave those markets, and specifically TV production it mostly just doesn’t exist anymore. Avid pissed off too many customers and gouged them too hard. They found other solutions starting with FCP.

    oh, you forgot light works ! 🙂

    • Author comment by Philip · August 18, 2014 at 8:42 am

      The bundling makes Premiere Pro’s stats prior to Creative Cloud suspect as many people had 5 or more of those “seats” with successive card purchases. That 2 million figure was always a little suspect. I’ll stick by my numbers until there is a more accurate metric available.

  • Eric Darling · August 19, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Publicly released financial data can help, where Adobe is concerned. Of course, since all of their software is essentially bundled under one roof, it’s hard to parse out users of one of their products vs. another merely by financial reports. But, they are showing significant growth, in terms of revenue and customers, so this should provide some clues. 2014 data is not complete, of course, but they have consistently been adding more than 400 thousand new seats of Creative Cloud each quarter.

    June 2014 (Q2 results):

    March 2014 (Q1 results):

    December 2013 (Q4 2013 results):

    • Author comment by Philip · August 19, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      Yes, taken into account in my estimates in the article.



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