What at first seemed like a rather ho-hum, “wasn’t that to be expected” announcement from Avid turns out to be quite a bit more; at least according to the Variety article. The subtitle “Software nod amounts to unprecedented endoresement (sic)” says it all including the fact Variety didn’t use a spell checker when writing it! American Cinema Editors board of directors is honoring Avid’s Media Composer software with their first-ever ACE Technical Excellence Award. There’s certainly a lot of tools that editors use to post a job but by far the most used tool today is the non-linear editor. And there’s more Avid Media Composer used in Hollywood than any other software.

It’s quite an interesting piece to read especially for an editor like myself who is not working in the Hollywood system. “ACE is voicing both appreciation for its close relations with Avid and frustration with what it perceives as snubs from Apple, maker of Final Cut Pro, Avid’s biggest rival.” Does it really surprise anyone that a company like Apple wouldn’t work hand in hand with ACE? I mean, do they work hand in hand with anybody outside of their own company? I’ve even heard stories that they aren’t even particularly receptive to feedback from beta testers so it doesn’t surprise me at all that they won’t work closely with ACE. It would seem that it isn’t a snub (unless there is some inside information that we aren’t aware of) but more of a verification that Apple sees Final Cut Pro, and Final Cut Studio even more so, as a much broader tool than one built just to edit features and television. The Studio package is really an entire post-production studio in a box, one that is geared toward everything from low-budget producers to in-house corporate to web-based delivery to just about every application imaginable where one needs to complete and finish video. If you were to count every Final Cut Studio application in the world and subtract the Hollywood-system features and television then my bet is that would be a small percentage of the total number of installs. A vocal minority Apple must not be listening to. Hell, if you take all of us who complain loudly on the Internet about Final Cut Pro’s bad media management and substandard trim tool (two things that feature editors must have working well) I would say we the complainers are the vocal minority about that too as many editors who have only worked on Final Cut Pro and nothing else don’t see to care about those problems near as much as FCP editors who have also worked on Avid. And in all these years and revisions Apple has done nothing to fix it. They will do what they want with Final Cut Studio when they want to do it.

“Apple, by contrast, has been slow to improve Final Cut Pro” was said in a quote from Harry B. Miller III, an ACE board member. That is the understatement of the year.

But more telling of this award given to Avid is what the article says is the message that it sends to producers and those people other than the editor who chooses the system on which to cut. I particularly like this statement:

“When a television show or movie goes into pre-production,” Miller said, “they do camera tests to see what are the best cameras, they may do lighting tests, they do makeup tests. I’ve never been asked, ‘What’s the best editing system for this show?’ I come in after those decisions have been made. It’s so frustrating.”

It can be a very frustrating thing for an editor to be locked in to a particular system for an edit. I see this more as an editor who works on lots of different types of jobs (mulitcam music, commercials, graphic intensive corporate video) as I know the better tool for me for a particular type of job. If it’s better for me then it means I can work faster and save the client money. But they often haven’t consulted with post before a job and allowed a camera operator to process files or setup BITCs for viewing and that often, frustratingly, locks us in to a certain piece of software for the edit. It should be the editor’s choice, not the producer, not the accounting office and certainly not the DP. But that’s the reality of the world we edit in where software is cheap and everyone owns it. With that it can be even more frustrating for the editor who isn’t fluent in both tools. I say both as that’s really the issue here, it’s either Avid Media Composer or Apple Final Cut Pro at the core of the discussion. I would guess that there’s a resistance to Final Cut Pro in the feature world not because it’s an inferior tool to Avid (its not, just certain aspects of it are and vice versa) but a lot of editors are stuck in their ways and don’t want to learn how the new tool that is coming into their world works. Rather they want the tool to change to fit their needs. It’s quite a fine line when you talk about specific features like the Trim tool and media management. These things can often make or break a job if those things are what bothers the editor most about Final Cut Pro. If Apple were to fix those … what would we bitch about then? I’m sure we could find something but at least, IMHO, FCP would be a much more usable tool for the story-driven feature film and episodic television edit than it is today. Maybe Apple could then get their own award from ACE. Or maybe they just don’t care.