Compatibility is key in the editing products that will be on display at April’s NAB Show. According to the vendors and their customers, editing systems should not only accommodate the ever-growing list of video formats, but also interact with competing platforms. Other hot button improvements include improved graphics and scalability, and around-the-clock access to tools from anywhere. And Apple hopes to win back customers with a new version of Final Cut Pro that restores many previous features.
At the NAB Show this April, three of the four vendors that now dominate the video editing market in TV broadcasting — Adobe, Avid and Grass Valley — will be showing new features that they claim significantly enhance the compatibility, efficiency and creative power of their software. Meanwhile, the fourth, Apple, will be working to restore key professional features — and user confidence — in its revamped Final Cut Pro.
Compatibility is key in 2012, according to the vendors and their customers. Editing systems should not only accommodate the ever-growing list of video formats, but also interact with competing platforms.
Grass Valley is among those answering the call for improved compatibility. “Edius is almost the universal translator because of the strength of the codec implementation,” says Senior Director of Marketing Ed Casaccia. “You can put just about anything onto a timeline in Edius — without doing any encoding or complicated ingest steps.”
That includes many consumer video formats, Casaccia says. “When you find out that the only person who got the money shot was shooting on a Blackberry and it has to be usable on the editing timeline, Edius is a wonderful solution.”
Adobe is equally confident of the versatility of its Premiere Pro and Creative Suite 5 Production Premium applications, new versions of which will debut at NAB, in what has become an annual release cycle. “Premiere Pro has the Mercury Playback Engine, which gives unrivaled support for tapeless formats,” says Al Mooney, product manager for professional video editing. “Whether it’s Sony or Panasonic or Red or DSLR, pretty much any modern tapeless camera is natively supported by Premiere Pro.”
Rather than advancing its own format, Adobe has enhanced overall compatibility by opening its architecture to third parties. That includes the aforementioned camera vendors as well as the creators of such popular workflow solutions as AJA, Blackmagic Design and the AP ENPS newsroom system. “We think it’s extremely important to be a good workflow citizen and integrate with third-party technology as much as possible,” Mooney says.
Adobe can also exploit the ubiquity of its Photoshop and After Effects image editing tools, long the de facto standards in station graphics and creative services departments. “You can edit a project in Premiere Pro and, with our dynamic links, move between our applications to enhance your images without complex conversions or additional rendering,” says Mooney, who claims that the Windows and Mac versions of Adobe software are “100% compatible.”
Open architecture is also central to the Avid systems, says Dana Ruzicka, VP of segment strategy and planning. “Newscutter and Media Composer accommodate any pro format or user-generated content that comes in. What sets Avid apart is the breadth and depth of the formats we support natively and how we allow you to work with them and output them.”
Compatibility is not the only area where broadcasters will find improvements.
Adobe will be pitching better graphics and scalability. “People want to be freed from the shackles of the edit suite,” says Adobe’s Mooney, “so we make sure our products run on everything from laptops in the field to high-end powerful studio suites.”
The Adobe Creative Suite for 2012, which includes Premiere, will also offer enhanced high-end post-production graphics tools, thanks to Adobe’s recent acquisition of IRIDAS, developer of the award-winning SpeedGrade toolset for Stereo 3D, RAW processing, color grading and finishing of digital content.
A top priority at Grass Valley for 2012 is even tighter integration between Edius and its Stratus workflow production suite to give operators instant access to any data or content without having to switch applications. Edius can already be configured to simultaneously interact with other nonlinear editing systems and such collaborative features will increase this year.
“We don’t even call them editing systems anymore because editing is just one component,” says Grass Valley’s Casaccia. Similarly, talk of “repurposing” content has become passé. “Today, we talk about COPE — Create Once, Publish Everywhere. We see that in newsrooms around the world.”
And increasingly, news professionals want to be able to access their tools around the clock, no matter where they are. With Edius, they can, via the Internet and a broadband connection.
“If viewer video comes in over the weekend, the news director or executive producer can access that content from home and place it, even if only on the Web,” says Casaccia. “They’ll follow up later with the broadcast cameras.”
Broadcasters should also be interested in Grass Valley’s existing graphics toolset, which already boasts extensive color balancing presets and filters to improve marginal picture quality, including the ability to redefine white balance and to sharpen grainy video.
Avid is taking a “less is more” approach in some regards, Ruzicka says. It will offer users greater ability to customize the Newscutter or Media Composer interface to display only those editing functions they actually need. This should enable novices to use the software effectively and gradually add tools and features as they gain skill and confidence.
Avid continues to leverage lessons learned and refined since its earliest days as an innovator in nonlinear editing. Its clip bin metaphor and content structure “make it easier to collaborate on creating and tracking media,” says Ruzicka, adding that 2012 will see additional emphasis on media asset management that will “tie together multiple work groups and media archiving to make it easy to find, reuse and remonetize content.”
Avid is making sure that its systems can perform well on laptops and tablets outside the station. “We’re providing lightweight, more flexible hardware choices for when you don’t need all the features of Newscutter or Media Composer,” Ruzicka says.
Avid will also introduce new field production tools, including Apple iPad apps, to access and augment media in the newsroom or elsewhere.
As for Apple itself, it remains the absentee elephant in the room just as it was at January’s Consumer Electronics Show and even the rechristened Macworld/iWorld. While Macs and Final Cut Pro 7 are found in many stations, their relationship with Apple is now strained. At the same time as last year’s NAB, Apple previewed the redesigned and reviled Final Cut Pro X. At $299, the new application was only one-third the cost of its predecessor, but suddenly missing were such mainstay professional features as support for SMPTE time code and popular file formats; “live” switching between multiple camera angles; export-import of the full soundtrack; or even the ability to import projects created in Version 7.
Last week, Apple restored many of those features in a second update. But is it enough to recapture their momentum? PC Magazine thinks so. Reviewing the new release of Final Cut Pro X, its editors named it the top choice for high-end video editing.
Still, competitors continue to court Final Cut users. To make switching more appealing, Adobe created a special Web page that includes training videos and discounts on Premiere Pro. Avid did the same for Media Composer.
While Grass Valley offers a training manual and other assistance to attract Final Cut users to Edius, Ed Casaccia thinks it’s far too soon to count Apple out. “Their market goal is obviously to democratize editing, but Final Cut remains a powerful editing tool. They will continue to work to satisfy the top tier of editing and that means keeping the features that are needed for news.” Final Cut Pro remains one of the key platforms Grass Valley supports.
Individually, these incremental improvements in editing may lack the dazzle of a completely new platform. But taken together they represents real progress.
“Look five years back and at both ends of the spectrum — from acquisition to delivery — and everything has changed,” says Adobe’s Mooney. “Today, everyone has a camera in their pocket and a playback device. That explosion of acquisition and distribution is only going to continue.”