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If I Were Appointed Avid's new CEO

Avid’s CEO David Krall recently stepped down and the Avid Technology Inc. board of directors is now searching for his replacement. As an Avid editor for many years I would like to throw my hat into the ring to fill that position. I will be the first to admit that I don’t know a lot about running a publicly traded company. I don’t know what GAAP financial measures are but I do know that shareholders probably don’t like that a “GAAP net loss for the quarter was $6.0 million, or $.15 per share” according to a recent Avid press release. But I do know about editing and quite a bit about Avid’s video editing product lines. I don’t know everything there is to know about Avid’s other holdings like Digidesign, Pinnacle, and Softimage so my first duties as the new CEO will be to revamp the video editing side of things, more specifically the Media Composer brand and the Media Composer offerings. I will try to gather a great support team to help with the other brands and all of those other pesky details running the rest of the company. Here’s the first 8 things I would do as the new CEO of Avid Technology Inc.: Brand Everything Media Composer. The Media Composer name in itself is a very strong brand. Though Final Cut Pro has made inroads in the non-linear editing world that early versions of Adobe Premiere and Sony Vegas never seemed to have made, the Avid Media Composer brand is still a strong name that is synonymous with a high-end, high-quality product. Unfortunately it’s also synonymous with high cost and draconian support so my tenure as CEO will fix that. If it’s a video editing product with Avid’s logo on it, it’s going to contain the name Media Composer somehow, someway. Film Composer becomes Media Composer Film. I would have to study the Newscutter product line as I don’t know a lot about it but I can say that from my first press conference it will be re-branded Media Composer News at the very least. And I will probably keep the Avid DS development continuing and move it even more toward the Media Composer interface, eventually melding it into the Symphony Nitris creating the Media Composer Finishing product line. Kill Xpress Pro and the Liquid family. A low cost version of Media Composer seems like a good idea and it does have good functionality as I’ve used it for many years on many, many jobs. But when you have such a strong brand in the Media Composer I will use it whenever I can, see above. The functionality of Xpress Pro is quite good as there isn’t that much different between it and Media Composer Software, especially for offline editing so it can be confusing to some as to why it is offered at all. Quite simply, a low cost editor must be to offered compete with Final Cut Pro so if I am appointed CEO we kill Xpress Pro, Xpress DV and anything else Xpress and go Media Composer only. While I’m at it I will euthanize the Avid Liquid family. There are some Liquid users out there and maybe more than I think but offering this entirely different product line is down right confusing. Offer current Liquid uses an easy upgrade to Media Composer Software and it’s new suite of supporting apps and it’s gone like the dodo bird. Cut Media Composer Software price. At $5,000 it’s just too expensive for many independent editors and smaller post houses to afford. And there are too many lower cost application suites available for a fraction of the cost. Media Composer Software is cut to $999 if I am appointed CEO. Get a full featured application suite on both Mac and PC. We’ve already got the Avid Studio Toolkit and the Avid Liquid family. If I were appointed CEO I would study both of these suites and apps very closely and see what best aligns Avid with the studio offerings from Adobe and Apple. Editing, effects, audio, authoring all in one affordable suite is a product that it seems a post production software company must offer at an affordable price to help it achieve profitability. The Hollywood studios won’t use it, the broadcast networks won’t use it … but thousands and thousands of post houses, independent editors, production companies, schools, universities, churches, corporate communication departments, ad agencies, cable networks, documentary producers, web content producers and the like will. And their money will spend just as well as anyone’s. There is only one suite offered on both Mac and PC, the Adobe bundle, so by offering both in the same box like Media Composer Software we would have a unique product. Price $1,599. Get some type of mid-range I/O box. Avid Mojo SDI is $2,500. Avid Adrenaline is in and around in the $30 grand range. That’s a $27,500 difference. Quite a big hole. It may be another addition to the DNA family or it may be opening the platform a bit to allow someone like AJA to develop some I/O cards to interface with Media Composer Software but something has to be done to allow for input and output of SD and HD, compressed and uncompressed without the cost of an Adrenaline. There is money in that market. AJA already makes I/O cards that work with the Liquid family so since I will be killing Liquid why not let AJA (who makes great I/O solutions for everyone else) make a line of mid-range cards for Media Composer Software?
Have distinct product paradigms company wide, in software and support. I’m not exactly sure how this would work, I’m a creative editor after all not a business school graduate, but there should be some kind of distinctive “tracts” if you will for the different markets. The Media Composer Software and Media Composer Studio that is geared toward the “lower end” of the market (if I am appointed CEO I would try to erase this “lower end” distinction as the end product might be more lower end than broadcast but the sheer numbers in that market could mean profit) would be marketed and supported by the Media Composer Editing distinction. That’s sales and support in the trade publications, web forums, special telephone support and trade shows targeted to the corporate, worship, education and lower cost type of post. Media Composer Broadcast would step up to the customer geared to broadcast and cable programs, commercials, high-end industrial and things of that type. Productions that see the typical (and more expensive) acquisition>offline>audio mixing>online>color correction type of workflow; all done by dedicated professionals at their own studio using their own tools of choice. Finally there is Media Composer Film. The history of Avid in the feature film editing world is storied and grand. The tools in Film Composer that allow for tracking of keycode and match back capabilities are second to none. The Media Composer Film department would have a renewed vigor when it comes to supporting this market and developing tools just for the feature film and episodic television workflow. Even though the word film is in the the title it would also reach out to the new acquisition tools like RED, Viper, Silicon Imaging and all of the high end digital acquisition tools to be sure that movies shot on these new formats will continue to be cut on an Avid. 3 words: Media Composer Free. Yes Avid has had the Avid Free DV product for a long while (but it is being discontinued) and yes it does allow some of the goodness that is the Avid edit world but to be honest I have never heard of one single person using it. I would make Media Composer Free a basic editor that teaches a few key Avid things: the concept of 3-point editing, how effects and transitions are applied and manipulated (with just a few basic ones available), the glory that is the Avid trim mode, proper match framing and how Avid Segment modes work. If you understand those things you understand Avid and how it differs from other NLEs. Make Media Composer Free only work with firewire and USB connections for editing DV, HDV, AVCHD and the new consumer format of the moment and you have a great low end tool to show the basics of the ease of Avid editing and to bring some new young editors into the fold. All the kids today use Final Cut Pro or Final Cut Express in high school and college so what incentive do they have to learn a new app when FCP works great? Challenge Final Cut Pro on their own turf. Hire a flock of evangelists to sing the praises of this new Avid to current Final Cut Pro users and offer a competitive cross grade… and maybe a money back guarantee. Show how you can run Avid and Final Cut Pro side-by-side on a dual boot system and offer both to clients and editors. Hook the Avid software into the Mac OS and harness the power of core audio, core animation and core video and make it look like Avid was meant to pounce Final Cut Pro all along. Now I’m sure I won’t be appointed Avid’s new CEO. Heck, I haven’t even been contacted by any headhunters about interviewing for the position. But as an editor working outside out of the crush of Hollywoodland I can see what people are using, hear what editors are saying, and work on what post houses are buying. If I was appointed Avid’s new CEO I think these changes just might help with market-share and profitability. But what do I know about running apublicly traded company … I’m just an editor.

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  • http://abstrakt.vade.info Anton Marini

    While I agree on most points, Id also do what Autodesk/Discreet did, and partner with a 3rd party vendor for Video IO.

    Newer Flames actually use a ‘Vendor’ video card, which, er, is an AJA Kona 3 (iirc).

    There is no reason Avid could not use a Kona card, and really deal a blow to Apple. At the price point of an SDI mojo I can get 2K uncompressed out. I mean, seriously – theres no contest.

  • rich

    I like your ideas, but not so sure if Avid culture can make the move. They’d need more direct manipulation for newbies and cozy up to QuickTime a bit, both issues seem to cause Avid reps to start making excuses and shaking heads.

    Liquid also seems tough — I heard it has a larger installed base than Premiere. Liquid could be a testbed for innovation (it is already) but it should be look for like Avid and not so (sorry) ugly.

    Avid should be able to beat Adobe easily since only After Effects and Photoshop are really good. Too bad for Avid that Pinnacle killed Commotion.

  • graham

    To be CEO of AVID, and have AVID regain its success due to substance rahther than monopoly and upgrade, Id suggest less slight changes to product lines and price changes and more on the lines of working with various hw like you mentioned, and taking it further to more openess and interoperability across apps. Today its less about an app and more about overall workflow, pipeline and apps that dont fit or even work well with each other from one vendor will not be successful, and companies that are missing apps for key parts of the pipeline (like DI) compared to its competitors like apple and autodesk will be given less consideration, especially for new productions. Hopefully they can turn it around.

  • Doolin’ Dalton

    Actually, most of what you suggest…is already in the works and to be ‘public’ soon!

  • GROM

    As a CEO I would

    1 – Re do the Xpress . Make it look more appealing like FCP. Customers want something pretty. Also make new interface and new way of editing. Basically make it faster and more pretty.

    2 – Drop the Media Composer . We don’t need it. You can do everything on Xpress already.

    3 – Promote the hell out of DS Nitris and DS Assist station. For DI conforms , HD conforms. Upgrade some tools also and promote the pipeline of edit on xpress finish on Symphony or DS.

    4 – Try get into the online. You have to run against the Autodesk but hey with DS you stand a good chance. DS vs Smoke.
    Tag line should be “Keep it in the Family: Edit on Avid , Finish on Avid”

    So I would upgrade the tools and promote, promote and promote.Oh yeah and those prices plz

  • The Little Voice

    Some GREAT ideas here, Scott. But a few mistakes I noticed personally, no offense:

    1) Killing Liquid would be a MISTAKE. Avid bought Pinnacle to get its hands on Studio (which blows away any installation of any Avid NLE, as well as pretty much any other NLE in sheer terms of numbers sold…it’s the industry-standard consumer NLE, and you can pick it up at pretty much any consumer electronics or computer store). It also acquired Liquid, which it intentionally leaves in a league of its own, because it’s a one-stop shop for smaller post businesses. It’s every aspect of post in one interface, and it’s huge with wedding producers, for example. Oh yeah, the user-base is unreal in size.

    2) Avid is primarily a h-a-r-d-w-a-r-e company, who makes software–industry-standard at that–to support its hardware. Avid makes well over half, yes half, of its yearly earnings based on sales of Storage and Support. The rest is made up in other areas, including a hearty chunck anchored in sales of its Media Composer product. Introducing 3rd-party hardware is all fine and good to us customers, but to Avid, it could be deadly. Avid lives based off of sales of its products, and doesn’t have iPods and Macs to fall back on to help generate additional revenue. Adobe has always been a software developer/vendor. Same with discreet, now Autodesk. Letting another company have a piece of Avid’s pie could prove to be detrimental to Avid. I’d like to see Avid stay with Avid hardware, so long as they pull their heads out and start creating products that their users need, that are feature-for-feature on par with AJA and Kona’s offerings, and at a price that won’t break the bank.

    I fully support your notion for price-cuts, and I also think it’s time Avid updates their archaic, ancient interface to make it a bit more friendly to the new converts. Heck, I’ve even heard lots of people suggesting that maybe Avid should retool its interface to allow it to be used as-is for experienced Avid editors, or configured to be “more like Final Cut.” If they did, it would make the learning curve to be far less grueling for Premiere and FCP converts who are switching to Avid.

    Other than that, Scott Simmons for CEO!!

  • http://www.scottsimmons.tv/blog Scott

    Voice, interesting comments. I’ll have to take your word for it on the Pinnacle and Liquid installs. I’ve only come across one Pinnacle and zero Liquids. It’s be nice to hear some other comments on what other people have seen with these apps. Great observations on the hardware aspects though. It really does seem against everything that Avid stands for if they opened the software up for 3rd party hardware interaction. They won’t but it would be great if they understood that market between Mojo and Adrenaline. There’s room for maybe 2 or 3 options there!

  • The Little Voice

    Thanks, Scott.

    The thing to remember about Pinnacle Studio is that it’s a consumer-app, so you’ll see it on the computer of the average family for Mom/Dad to cut their daughter’s dance recital, son’s soccer game, and the family’s vacation.

    Liquid you’ll tend to see in small one-man post “houses” that are usually based out of someone’s home…like lots of wedding/event producers. I’m not dissing those people at all, but am using that as an admittedly stereotypical example of where you’ll encounter it most. And it makes sense, since that’s where it’s aimed at and geared for. Gotta love the fact that there are lots of wedding/event/independent producers making beaucoup bucks–in the 6-figure range– each year, cutting on an app that can be had for as little as $500.

    I know several people running Liquid. While it’s not for me, its installed customer base is very loyal, and it fits the needs of its users perfectly.

  • Jakob van Oosterhout

    Scott, I think the Film Composer has ceased to exist for quite some time. I don’t think it was ever offered after the Meridien days. Ever since Media Composer Adrenaline came in this world, Film Composer (also a strong brand name) was dropped.
    Also, you are too easily forgettin the strength of the Symphony brand name for almost 10 years now.

  • Scott

    I would agree that Symphony is somewhat of a strong brand in the higher end of the post spectrum. But I would still ax that name in favor of Media Composer Finishing for the finishing tools. That’s my plan should I be appointed CEO. There are still quite a few film composers in use today and under my tenure we’ll use the new Media Composer Film division of the company and offer special upgrades and support of their new systems… they are bound to be much much faster!

  • Jim

    I just filled out one of those Avid questionaires yesterday, and believe it or not, I told Avid exactly what you said Scott. I am glad that some other people out there are fed up with Avid’s attitude and want them to act on the consumers side of things. Go Scott! I hope to God, Avid reads these posts and a lightbulb goes off. Or very soon they will be overrun by FCP.

  • http://www.scottsimmons.tv Scott Simmons

    Thanks Jim. I was filling out the same survey and had an error half way through! There was no going back so I didn’t get to finish it!

  • Nigel Thompson

    Scott :

    I agree with everything you said, it’s like you read my mind over the past few years.

    One big thing i would do though, is integrate avid’s codec into Quicktime or AVI. that way the export process would be simplified tremendously. This was one of my biggest deciding factors in switching to FCP. I do alot of visual FX and compositing as well, this is my reason for this and i’m sure there are many more like me out there. I initially didnt pay FCP any mind till version 2.

    This coupled with an open standard for I/O boards, Allowing studios to make their choice, AJA, Black Magic, Matrox, Digital voodoo …. Whatever.

    If all these things happen, i’m going back for sure

  • Mike Chapman

    The Liquid line still offers features Avid should have incorporated years ago, such as background renedering.

    But I like the idea of branding everything Media Composer [version]. But your idea of killing off Xpress Pro probably won’t work, because I can’t believe they can cut the Media Composer software price to, say, $1,200 and still make money. Apple can sell a gazillion ipods or MacBooks and give their software away. Avid has no other revenue streams (unless you count the hideously overpriced and under-delivering “support packages”.)

    The one thing you’d have to do immediately is teach each and every Avid employee that the customer is still king, and that the world extends somewhat farther west that highway 495 in Tewksbury. Avid has been divided for far too long by warring factions and divisions. It seems they only remember the customer when it’s time to issue end-of-life notices or come-ons for new products that editors don’t want.

    Avid can still lead the field if they concentrate on core products – editing software/hardware and Unity shared storage, but it will take genuine effort to salvage their seriously tarnished reputation.

  • Jakob van Oosterhout

    [quote] There are still quite a few film composers in use today[/quote]
    I think the majority of those will be MC9000′s. Also, even though the idea of having a product targeted to film appeals to me, I’m not sure what features would be in there, that would not be present in a ‘regular’ MC. I believe nearly all film options are currently available throughout the entire product line, by standard. So either you would have to take the film options out of the existing products (tough sell), or come up with so many great new film features that it would justify selling a specific product type.
    So many feature that originate from the film options are now used in HD production as well, so I’m actually thinking the strict line (if there ever was one) between film and “the rest” is becoming less and less clear and strict.

    I’d hate to see the brand name Symphony disappear, mostly because I own one and hardly ever do any finishing on it. But that’s me.

    Also, I think the brand name AVID is much bigger than Media Composer. Maybe not among those involved in post production, but definitely among film/tv/media people in general.

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