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Final Cut Controversy Has Editors Revisiting Avid and Adobe

Resellers See Strong Interest in Crossgrade Specials over Last Two Weeks

Industry blogs and Twitter feeds have been exploding over the past two weeks, as pro editors vent their frustration over features – mostly having to do with import/export functions and other collaborative workflow issues – that have gone missing from Final Cut Pro X, even as Final Cut Pro 7 has been deleted from the Apple catalog. Apple promises that various fixes are in the works, but some users have threatened to switch NLEs entirely rather than wait out the chaos. That means an opportunity for Apple’s primary competitors in this space: Avid and Adobe.
Yesterday, Avid CEO and President Gary Greenfield announced an extension of the company’s “crossgrade” offer – announced at NAB but since expired – which offers users of previous versions of Final Cut Pro (but not FCPX) a promotional price of $995 for Media Composer 5.5, through September. The discounted price will be in effect again starting July 5 and staying in effect through September. For good measure, Greenfield and EVP/COO Kirk Arnold will be hitting Los Angeles on July 13 to discuss the company’s strategy with editors.

And Adobe today announced a new “switcher” program that offers a 50 percent discount on Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 by itself or on the full Production Premium package to users of Final Cut Pro (including FCPX) or Media Composer. Adobe’s price cuts are also valid through September.

“[Avid and Adobe specials] were selling strong prior to Final Cut Pro X coming out, but since the release we’ve had sales more than double,” says Gary Bettan, owner of Videoguys in Glen Cove, NY, who kept Avid’s expired “crossgrade” offer alive before Avid officially extended the program. “While the potential of FCPX is incredible, the reality of this release is that far too many must-have features are missing. Lack of third-party hardware support, no ability to import existing FCP projects, no multicam and limited plug-in support are just the top of the list.”

Jeff Stansfield, lead engineer at Advantage Video Systems in Burbank, CA, tells us the biggest problem for system integrators is large Final Cut installations. Because purchases made through Apple’s App Store require an Apple ID, a company would have to register a separate Apple account for every copy of Final Cut they wanted to purchase. “This is a huge security problem, since as an integrator, I would essentially have access to individual iTunes account info,” Stansfield explains. “So Disney, right now, has 2,700 copies of Final Cut. They would have to register 2,700 separate iTunes [Apple] accounts, which is really, really hard to do when you’re all connected via a shared network. Until Apple announces special licensing fixes for studios with more than a few seats, it is just too unwieldy for them to move ahead with the upgrade. We do a lot of large installs and we’re advising all of them to wait.”

Stansfield says customers are frustrated by the immediate workflow challenges, especially where videotape is concerned. “You can’t go forward, and you can’t go back,” he says. “So many people have tape libraries that they cannot touch. Automatic Duck’s plug-in is great and, yes, AJA’s drivers are out. But those drivers are not really ready just yet.”

Bettan agreed, writing at the Videoguys blog that third parties are “scrambling” to get kludges in place: “AJA has posted a workaround for preview and capture, but it’s nowhere near what pros expect or need. My gut tells me third-party hardware support will be Thunderbolt-based.”

Asked how their product strategy has changed in the week and a half after Final Cut Pro’s launch, Avid and Adobe officials were quick to declare that nothing has changed, both insisting they are already executing strategies designed to make their NLE platforms easier to use for newbies and old hands alike. “We’ve done workshops with people who’ve never sat in front of Premiere Pro before,” Al Mooney, Adobe Premiere Pro product manager, says. “We observe them, see where they struggle, and notice what keyboard shortcuts they’re looking for. A lot of the features we added in CS 5.5 were responses to comments we received from people who were jumping ship [from other NLEs]. It’s important to listen to those people. The Mercury Playback Engine was an important advance, but what we’re working on now is the experience of driving the car overall.”

Avid’s Angus Mackay, segment marketing manager, pro, pointed to specific initiatives designed to make a Final Cut transition smoother, like training developed in conjunction with Class On Demand that’s offered as a free add-on for crossgrade customers. And he highlighted new features in Media Composer that are designed to modernize Avid’s interface, like the Smart Tool, added in version 5. “One of the strengths of Media Composer over the years has been its very powerful trim modes,” he says. “There are multiple ways of trimming different views to allow you to finesse certain cuts and transitions. But many newer editors are used to much more direct manipulation, so we added the Smart Tool, which lets people interact with a Media Composer timeline much the way they would with other mouse-driven applications.”

Bottom line? Apple says Final Cut Pro X is going to get better for pros – hopefully much better – in the coming months and years, as more features are built into the core app and third-party vendors get chops at extending its functionality with plug-ins. There’s nothing wrong with keeping FCP 7 on your desktop (though you might have some trouble installing it on a new machine) as a working NLE while you wait and see what happens with FCP X. And in the meantime, you can take the competition for a test drive. Fully featured trial versions of Adobe Premiere Pro and Avid Media Composer are available for download. Unfortunately, there’s no trial version of FCP X – although there are reports that some users have successfully petitioned for a refund.

For more information: Adobe Premiere Pro trial; Advantage Video Systems; Apple’s latest FCP FAQ; Avid Media Composer trial; Videoguys.com.

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