The Top 6 Disruptive Announcements for Post at NAB 2011 04/17/11

Another NAB, another shake-up.  The trends of cheaper and more collaborative technology were taken to new heights at this year’s show.  I know we always come away from these events saying things like, “There’s never been a better time to be a content creator.”


This time we mean it.


Manufacturers of high end post tools continue to put out versions for mid-level and indie content creators.  It’s gratifying for guys like me but also a little worrisome.  It indicates that vendors are still being battered by a down market and the growing disruption of consumer tools being used in the professional space.

They’re fighting back with aggressive measures that have me wondering about the health of their profit margins and reserves.  Of course, only having to spend $1000 on a Davinci Resolve instead of $100,000 helps my margins and reserves.


But it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that post-production will have continued challenges ahead.  Outsourcing, the ever-increasing format fragmentation, pro videotape shortages, slow 3D adoption – there’s no shortage of reasons to be concerned .  That said, if you can tame these new tools presented at NAB you can create content at a quality and efficiency level that would’ve been unthinkable even a year ago.



6. Avid Interplay Central


Is it just me or did this not get as much attention as it deserved?  Jim Frantzreb, of Avid marketing says it will be a “new paradigm in the way people interact with media”.  Maybe.  But in the very least it reassures us that Avid is still in full steam ahead mode.

Frantzreb goes on to say that, the technology will put media in a light-weight client and allow them to access it – anywhere.  There’s no software.  It’s all streamed from the Cloud.

And Avid promises it won’t cost a fortune.  If Apple had a cheap, cloud focused version of FCP we’d be going nuts! Last year at NAB Avid demoed a version of this that was serving DNxHD36 media over what was believed to be a 1500 megabit connection.

I was very excited to read about this so it’s good to see it wasn’t vaporware after all. Interplay Central will roll out to broadcasters first and then hopefully post won’t be too far behind.



5. A Slew of Inexpensive Color Grading Apps

You probably already know the No.1 disruptive announcement.  That explains why these grading apps are way down on the list.  That said, the fact that these are the lite versions of well regarded color grading apps is a big deal.

Of the 3, the plug-in Colorista Free is the simplest.  It doesn’t do secondary color-grading like it’s .  But it does support the industry standard Color Decision List (CDL) which lets you share and communicate with other CDL-compliant applications and hardware devices.

The Baselight plugin for Final Cut Pro promises to push the freemium model even further.  It sports the same interface and menus as the pro version and even supports at least one control surface – for now.

But of the 3, Resolve Lite may be the most tantalizing gateway drug.  It can get you hooked on the Resolve way of grading.  And because of last year’s NAB game-changing announcement, you could be using the pro version (minus the control surface) for only $999.  This gives mid-level content creators a more achievable upgrade path.

But with limits of projects to SD and HD resolutions, only two color correction nodes, a single processing GPU and a single RED rocket card, the pro version will look very tempting.




4. Thunderbolt


Robin Harris has a great NAB Thunderbolt recap on his Storage Bits column at ZDNet.  And he’s not kidding when he talks about the splash that Promise made with their Thunderbolt enabled SANLink.

Whenever I walked by, there always seemed to be a crowd of people who were, well – thunderstruck (sorry, couldn’t resist).  I mean who wouldn’t want a Thunderbolt-to-Fibre Channel adapter?  Right?

No seriously, I want one.  A new Thunderbolt enabled MacBook Pro will now for the first time be able to connect via fiber direct to the SAN.  Mark my words: we will not need towers for high-end post 5 years from now.  Yeah, I know – what about graphic cards?  That’s why it’s still a little ways off but NVIDIA, I hope you’re listening.




3. Adobe Launches Subscription Model


Callooh! Callay!  I knew this day would finally come!

Ok, I hoped and prayed and made burnt offerings.  But it looks like somebody up there was listening.  And by ‘up there’ I mean the top floor of Adobe headquarters.

Last year, GenArts was the first of the major creative software companies to launch a subscription model for their industry standard Sapphire plugins.  And now Adobe gives us a chance to rent their software by the year or the month.  How do the numbers work out?

Well – it depends.  The à la carte monthly rates are going to be a boon to people doing one-off projects that won’t need the software on an ongoing basis.  However, if you are like me and use Adobe apps everyday, you are going to want to get an annual subscription.  That will cost a little over $1000 a year on CS5.5 Production Premium vs buying it outright for $1700.

And now that Adobe has announced that they will be committing to a 18-24 month release cycle, it may make sense to continually rent if you absolutely must have all the current features.

Bottom line: the subscription model trend that is taking the rest of the tech world by storm (Netflix, Pandora, iTunes?) may finally be gaining traction in post.  Who will test the waters next?




2. Avid Final Cut Pro Promotion


Well no one saw this coming.  For a limited time Final Cut Pro owners can purchase (a fully boxed) Media Composer 5.5 Suite for only $995.

Yep.  60% off the regular price.  I want to believe that this is going to lead to a big uptick in sales for Avid.  But I think it may only entice FCP / Premiere editors that are in the top 10 or so markets, where you have to know both NLEs to stay competitive.

I hope the promotion does well though because Avid still sets the bar for rock solid media management and performance.  I’m constantly amazed at how many new editors are unaware of Media Composer’s capabilities.

Well, I guess there’s a reason for that – my number 1 spot.




1. Final Cut Pro X


I think last summer’s oil spill has gotten less coverage than this.  For goodness sake, there was a write up on Final Cut Pro X in USA Today! Ahhh yes, the good ol’ halo effect.

Well, I’m in the camp  that believes, in this case, the hype may actually be well deserved.   Does FCP X borrow form and function from iMovie.  Yes.  Does it borrow from from the competing NLEs.  Absolutely.  Does it look like it will improve the way we work?  I think so.

Will any of that matter in the end?  No, because for $299 everybody will buy it and it will be as ubiquitous as Outlook and thumbdrives.  And don’t get me wrong, the carefully orchestrated demo that I saw at NAB left a million questions unanswered.  Besides wondering about the rest of the suite, we didn’t even see Final Cut’s drop-down menus – let alone the specs.

Scott Simmons has some insightful reflection on Pro Video Coalition about FCP X and what it will mean for our profession.  In my last post I rambled on about the the need to make sure the price doesn’t commoditize pro editors into obsolescence.


I’m sure I’ll be staring at the screen slack-jawed as the rest of the news of FCP and the suite leaks out.  Until then, I’ll be cautiously optimistic about how manufacturers are listening to content creators more than ever before.

I can only imagine what an NAB 2012 will bring.




By the way…

If you’re in Los Angeles this Wed. April 20th, you’re invited to the 2011 Postproduction Technologies Showcase at the Directors Guild of America.  It’s being put on by Tim Kennelley, a good friend of mine and Pixar alum.  He’s now with Moving Image Tech and their event this Wed. will be cool video and audio  product demos and more importantly – free hors’ d’oeuvres and cocktails.  It’s from 5- 8pm.  Check it out if you can.



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