It’s Monday morning, March 17, and it looks like Avid has begun what is the first day of the rest of its life. Today they’ve announced the first of what I hope will be many changes in the direction the video division is going to connect with customers and provide great products at great value. They have announced a “New Thinking” campaign that is “a customer-focused campaign designed to improve the way the company connects with all of its users and prospects.” A press release will be released later today and posted on the Avid website so I won’t bore with the details but it’s the main points that are worth discussion.

The consolidation of software editing applications

– merging Avid Xpress Pro software into the Media Composer product line, and

offering existing Avid Xpress Pro customers a pathway to upgrade to Media Composer software

The sheer existence of Avid Xpress Pro seems to have always been a confusing product offering. You could call it unnecessary but in order to compete with Final Cut Pro Avid had to do something. I used Xpress Pro for years and it worked well but when Media Composer Software came around it seemed useless except for the price. You had to really dig deep to find the differences between the two products so they just didn’t seem different enough to both exist. Again, it all came down to price … which is why the next announcement is all the more important.

A 50% reduction in the price of Media Composer software

– increasing the accessibility of the industry-standard digital

video editing application to a wider range of professionals

It’s no secret that a lot of Final Cut Pro’s success has been driven by its price. You get a lot for that $1299 but even with Media Composer’s price coming down to $2495 there will still be a lot of buyers who will still choose the value of Apple’s (or even Adobe’s) software suites and all of the supporting applications over Media Composer’s single application at a higher price. But that may be okay. In a call last Thursday discussing these announcements, Avid’s Chief Marketing Officer Greg Estes said that Avid doesn’t necessarily see themselves as a “one on one competitor” with Apple. Avid is more focused on the we, as in collaboration, while Apple is more the I, as in a single user. This makes some sense as Avid doesn’t really offer the tools to let the editor do the audio mixing, graphics and DVD authoring, instead letting those tasks go to more specialized artists. Plus with Avid’s Unity products and just their whole media management concept you can see where he is coming from with this kind of thinking. Can this philosophy lead to a profitable company in today’s bargain-priced market? Time will tell.

New student pricing for Media Composer software

– enabling any student at an accredited college or university

with a valid student I.D. to purchase Media Composer software for $295 USMRP

One thing that is evident today is that pretty much every film student has their own copy of Final Cut Studio. Do they know how to properly use it? That’s a different story entirely but the reason they all have it is its price. And once they learn to use it then what reason do they have to learn Avid? Get that software into the hands of students and young filmmakers and they will use it when they get older. The biggest problem now is overcoming the mind-set that Avid is used by stuffy old-timer editors and Final Cut Pro by the youngsters. But at $295, there’s not really any reason for a student not to try it out. Except a lot of students don’t have $295 dollars and with a hardware dongle you don’t see Avid Media Composer on the bit-torrent sites nearly as much as Final Cut Pro. Is it that boot-legging that gets FCP into the hands of students or just the overall price? Probably some of both. Will a $295 price tag get the students to pony up for their own hardware dongled version of Avid Media Composer? Time will tell.

A new online community – introducing new ways for

industry professionals to access and share tips and tricks,

demonstrations, tutorials and media content;

as well as opportunities to connect with both Avid and industry peers

This is a given today. Any technology company must have well planned community. Avid has had this in the past but it hasn’t really created much of a buzz. It’s been a little confusing to use on occasion but it’s not that bad. Time will tell if they can make this online community an inviting new world for Avid users.

Enhanced online customer support

– delivering Avid support customers easier access to more accurate and

personalized answers to important product and

service queries, 24/7, without having to call Customer Support.

This could be the tipping point that gets a lot of former Avid users back in the fold as well as provides the value that new customers need. Traditionally Avid support contracts have been expensive and let’s be honest, most independent editors and small post production houses don’t buy it. With Final Cut Pro, support often comes from other users via support forums all over the Internet so their corporate support isn’t that great either. I know very few people who have the Apple Pro Video support so it usually seems to be other users who help solve problems. Avid doesn’t have this broad, user generated online support community so the thought that corporate support will be more open and accessible is a great thing. Just look at this quote from Avid’s other press release about the new online support from Todd Smelser of

“Not only is the site much more intuitive, but the functionality works the way I need it to. Entering an error message in the search field returns the right result, and the new ability to interact with live support representatives and ask questions in real time is huge. In the last week, I have asked two very specific questions

and I received prompt responses with great information. Another particular feature that users will find extremely valuable is the ability to receive, save, and

track tech notes with greater efficiency than before.”

Just the thought of actually being able to enter an error message into a database and actually getting some kind instruction as to what to do to fix it is a non-linear editors dream come true. Time will tell how well this works once it’s up and running in full.

So …. it’s a new day at Avid Technology. They say this “New Thinking” is shaped by extensive customer feedback and today’s announcements are part of
“a wide range of initiatives planned to roll out throughout the year.”

Let’s hope they keep this new focus going strong after all the new announcements and immediate changes have happened. As always, time will tell.