The Editing Landscape Gets Recut

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When Apple launched the new version of its editing software several months ago, the company touted the upgrade as a “revolutionary new version” that “completely reinvents video editing.”

But instead of building on Apple’s already considerable success in the professional editing and newsroom environment, the release prompted such widespread complaints that the staff of Conan O’Brien’s late-night TBS show went so far as to put together a clip satirizing the product.

On Sept. 20, Apple responded to the controversy with upgrades to Final Cut Pro X that now offer a number of enhancements for editing in the broadcast and news environments.

Vendors note, however, that they are still seeing an uptick in interest in competing products. “Final Cut X has really given pause to a lot of broadcasters who were very far down the road in saying. ‘Final Cut will be our editor of the future,’” notes Ed Casaccia, senior marketing director of Grass Valley, the video production systems vendor. “They are not sure how Apple’s road map for Final Cut fits in with their needs in broadcast, so they are looking at all the alternatives.”

One problem is that Final Cut Pro X is significantly different from earlier versions, which means projects from earlier versions can’t be imported into the newest release and that staff and freelancers will need some additional training to use it. “When you look at Edius [from Grass Valley] or Avid’s editing solutions or Adobe’s Premiere Pro, there is a continuity from version to version that preserved what these companies have invested in training,” Casaccia says. “The fact that [Apple has] come up with an interface that is wildly different, and the skills aren’t preserved, is troubling to a lot of people.”

The Final Cut Pro change also highlighted some of the larger difficulties of moving to off-the-shelf products from major IT players. That trend is likely to accelerate, given the reduced cost and other advantages of buying equipment and software from IT companies such as Apple.

Many newsrooms turned to Final Cut Pro because it offered a relatively inexpensive way to equip journalists in the field with laptop editing tools as a way to improve productivity.

But broadcast news and TV production businesses comprise only a small portion of the revenue being pulled in by big IT players, and these companies may try to better serve larger markets by changing software products in ways that aren’t necessarily beneficial to broadcasters or newsrooms.

“IT will play a heavy role in the future of broadcasting,” says Dana Ruzicka, VP of segment strategy and planning for the media enterprise group at Avid, which has been working to allow customers to better integrate IT technologies and products with Avid’s broadcast and newsroom solutions. “But those technologies have to be really focused on solving the problems of professional users, and that is our focus. We are totally committed to the professional market and in it for the long haul.”

An executive at Adobe—which, like Apple, has benefi ted from the move to less costly off-the-shelf editing systems in newsrooms—also highlighted the importance of focusing on the professional market.

“We do make commodity software, but we have an open platform and have a dedicated broadcast engineering team,” notes Bill Roberts, director of product management for professional video and audio at Adobe.

That team can upgrade the current software or deliver specific software solutions to better integrate their Adobe products with existing work flows, something they’ve done with both CNN and BBC, Roberts notes.

Apple declined to make an executive available for an on-the-record conversation. But the company stresses that it remains committed to professional video editing solutions, and it points to the recent upgrades to Final Cut Pro X as proof of its efforts to continue to improve the software.

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