The present and future of post production business and technology

Four Years Ago Today….

Although Final Cut Pro X’s initial release was four years ago today – June 21st – the story starts much earlier for me. Much more significant was the NAB 2011 preview that completely killed our software business for a couple of months, and even before that, with the speculation leading up to Apple’s formal release of a fresh approach to what a modern NLE should be.

There are important lessons from our experience.

I started speculating a long time before anything was announced. Back in a 2009 blog post I asked:

What if Apple – since they have to rewrite much of Final Cut Pro – decided to not just do a “faster horse” rewrite but rethink what the NLE should and could be? The first problem with making major improvements is that it will involve change and we know that no-one likes change: they want things to get better but never change! So if Apple are re-imagining Final Cut Pro, it will be unpopular with “the pros”, at least until they give it a try.

I was more accurate than I expected about “the pros” hating a re-imagined Final Cut Pro, especially when you factor in this was written well before anything Final Cut Pro X was previewed.

I went on to suggest the direction that a new Final Cut Pro might go in. While what we saw at NAB 2011 excited me. What that preview did to our business horrified me! Overnight our software business for the Final Cut Pro ecosystem disappeared. Zero revenue for a couple of months until people realized Final Cut Pro 7 was still viable for years to come.

If anyone had a reason to hate what Apple had done, it would have been Greg and I. Every editor in the world had the luxury of time to decide on their future choices, but the affect on us was immediate, and painful.

I still loved what Apple had done with Final Cut Pro X and was one of the few early, positive, voices. Like all generation one software, it was immature, but it worked for me. My first reviews – thanks to a one week “early look” extended by Apple – came out four years ago today: The Answers to the Unanswered Questions about Final Cut Pro X and a round up of previously unannounced features. I also wrote a little book in that preview week – Conquering the Metadata Foundations of Final Cut Pro X – that turned out to be more influential than I ever imagined.

It’s obvious now that Keyword Ranges and Keyword Collections are the embodiment of Content Metadata, as I wrote earlier this year in my ode to Keyword Ranges. The concept of Keyword Ranges inspired Lumberjack System where the ultimate outcome is Keyword Ranges in Final Cut Pro X (and quite a bit more).

Our experience with Final Cut Pro X exemplifies my approach to life, and business. The announcement and release of Final Cut Pro X was extremely disruptive to our business. Much more than any editor or facility manager. It would have been very easy to be frustrated or annoyed by the sudden blow to our ‘rice bowl’.

I prefer to find the opportunities that exist within any unplanned change in business environment. There are always opportunities. Conquering the Metadata Foundations of Final Cut Pro X was the start. We very quickly discovered there was an opportunity and released Event Manager X just three weeks after Final Cut Pro X and well before any XML interchange was possible.

Business environments are always changing. It is beyond important to adapt, grow, develop and evolve as technology and our industry changes and evolves. I wrote some thoughts on being adaptive and flexible, just recently in Here’s to the Next Thirty Years.

Final Cut Pro X has been kind to us professionally in Intelligent Assistance, and Lumberjack System. We have  six more years to enjoy it! That would be taking the discussion of Final Cut Pro X being “the foundation for the next ten years” from around the release literally.

Final Cut Pro 1 was released NAB 1999 and EOL (effectively) at the NAB 2011 preview – in reality development stopped at least a year earlier. That’s just 12 years for an app that rode the wave of democratization that has revolutionized production exponentially over the time I’ve been in production. Final Cut Pro X was essential as we moved to a world more focused on metadata (something FCP ‘classic’ did not do well) and digital acquisition. The metaphors of the past mean nothing to the creators of the present and future, so they had to change.

Will they need to change again in 6-8 more years? It will be interesting to find out. I console myself with this:

The best way to predict the future is to create it.








2 responses to “Four Years Ago Today….”

  1. Thanks Phil, really inspiring.

  2. Wayne Giesbrecht

    Great article Phil. I was an early optomist and adopter as well. I immediately saw where the future of the NLE was going here.