photos by Basia Curren

Avid execs Gary Greenfield, CEO, and Kirk Arnold, COO, attended Editors Lounge at AlphaDogs Editorial in Burbank to engage editors in discussion about Avid products and what the company needs to do to keep meeting their needs and expectations.

The monthly Editors Lounge, founded by AlphaDogs owner, editor Terence Curren, drew an overflow audience of 200 people to this event. It was also an opportunity for those who had not been able to attend NAB 2010 to see a demonstration of Avid Media Composer 5, as well as web-based editing.

Avid senior product designer Doug Hansel, who was on the design teams for Adrenaline and Mojo, showed beta version 3 of MC5, running on his laptop. “There’s no hard drive hiding any more,” he said. “We could be running a Matrox box–one new option announced at NAB—to get HDMI out. That’s a cool option.” Hansel went over the features of Avid Media Access (AMA) and its ability to directly access file-based media. To attendees, one of the most exciting new characteristics of AMA is that other companies can write plug-ins to support their media. “Here’s where it gets interesting,” said Hansel, who showed access to 4K RED files among other types of files. “Instant access to ProRes media. If the Quicktime player can play it, we can play it. Canon has a new media format called SX – we had support for it the day it was announced–and it hasn’t even shipped yet.”

“Plug-ins solve problems and enhance what’s there,” said Hansel, to applause from the attendees.

He handed the floor over to Greenfield and Arnold, who explained that Terry Curren had reached out to them a few months ago. “We don’t have a speech to give,” said Greenfield. “We’re here to answer your questions. There was a pretty loud message a couple of years ago where Avid was in the marketplace. MC5 is what it is based on what Terry [Curren] and the Los Angeles community said it had to be.”

The first question–“How do we make Final Cut Pro go away”–was met with applause.

Greenfield’s answer was circumspect. “The first person I met here this evening said he is a Final Cut user but figured he needed to expand his horizons if he wanted to get work,” he said. “I think what we’ve been trying to do at Avid is to make sure that we give you all the tools you need for those of you who make your living in storytelling and editing and finishing. We want to make sure that Avid is the tool of choice and we get that message across to the studios and students.”

One attendee noted that he’s been forced to learn FCP because his client is using it. “MC5 coming out  June 10,” answered Greenfield. “You won’t have to stay in FCP. There are some people refusing to work in FCP for reasons of productivity and quality. We think openness will feed more towards Avid than away from it.”

Arnold added how committed Avid is to the MC5 platform. “That said, we’re going to compete hard, particularly for this community of professional editors,” she said. “We have to get the word out. There are a long list of features we need, so keep [your suggestions] coming. We will be aggressive about keeping the message out that we think this is a better product. And you can help us: keep talking about it. This release of MC is a game changer, we believe.”

Greenfield mentioned that Avid is also  making efforts in the education market, now offering full access to MC for students for four years, with all the upgrades, for only $295. Two students among the attendees spoke up, saying they were happy beneficiaries of that new pricing.

Another attendee asked how Avid intended to support not just students but young editors starting out in their careers. Arnold answered that Avid has “a very community-based plan we’re trying to launch.” “There are also targeted ways like indie film events and reaching out at places like Sundance to raise our profile,” she said. “This will be hand-to-hand combat. We know the young editor will have experience with FCP coming out of film school, but we will show the natural richness of the Avid product. We’re also doing training programs: MC for the FCP editor. We think it’s about knowledge, not an advertising campaign. We think it’s about getting the richness and capabilities out there. We have lots of plans. This community will be a long-term investment for us.”

Another attendee asked when Avid will offer control surface for Symphony. “We acquired Euphonix just a couple of weeks ago,” Greenfield said, noting that when he and Arnold talk about Media Composer, they are talking about the family of products that includes Symphony. “Besides having System 5, their high end mixing console, they have a fantastic modular series that provides color control surface, mixing surface, and so on. You will see us rapidly support this.”

One attendee identified himself as a Dual-Boot operator. “I love what you’re adding to MC and Symphony but I love my DS,” he said. “How do you get them to talk to each other better?” Greenfield responded that “we have tried to make sure we have integrated workflow.” “As we introduce native RED, we show support to DS for an integrated workflow,” he said. “We know there are still things we need to do but we need to provide an integrated workflow between DS and MC.”

“The DS is a passionate community,” added Arnold. “The team is looking at what it’ll take to get to Euphonix. We’re working through the entire suite of products. DS is alive and well. It’s a critical market and we know we have to continue to invest in it. This community is important to us.”

With regard to integrating more 3rd party hardware, Greenfield noted that Avid supports the Matrox Mini, but that this is only the first of many 3rd party vendors Avid will support. “Our goal is clearly to be more open,” he said. “We’re providing the SDK (software development kit) to 3rd party vendors so they can create drivers for Avid. Whether it’s AJA or Blackmagic…Everyone has their own favorite. We recognize the need for low-cost i/o.  We will provide the SDKs to these folks as we have with all the camera manufacturers.”

The topic turned to 3D filmmaking and editing with Avid products. “We do support 3D today,” said Greenfield. “Our first technology demo was around NAB,  two years ago and we introduced it a year ago. Every major movie in 3D that’s appeared thus far was cut on Avid. We support left/right, over/under. We have the beginnings of 3D titling tools that would automatically adjust the depth.”

But Greenfield noted that Avid is more focused on storytelling–offline editing–than finishing in 3D. “We’ve just scratched the surface in editorial,” added Hansel.

One questioner noted that Script Sync “hasn’t been touched in five years,” and said he had “complaints about lots of simple things.” Hansel said that the person responsible for the Script Sync software was there, and would get the two of them together that evening.”We love to hear about [your issues],” said Greenfield, who also said that revamping the title tool was on the “to-do” list. “We need a foundation in MC fixed and then do some of the more exotic features like Script Sync.  We have made a major commitment to Script Sync.”

Avid has always done shared storage better than anyone, added another attendee. “I don’t see a lot of push to get FCP users to buy Unity shared storage,” he said. “I think it would be helpful to get more people using Avid storage. Is there a way you want to go?” Arnold answered that “the message about openness.” “We believe strongly that each product will be best in class and compete,” she said. “That you need us to be open and flexible because your workflows are more complex and we can’t be good at everything. As far as support of FCP on storage-–we did that because you told us you needed it and we’ll continue to do it and expand that support, so you can leverage your investment in storage. We won’t hold back on that.”

Greenfield added that Avid “does nothing to restrict FCP’s performance,” reporting that he offered to share “the knowledge of collaboration with Apple and incorporate those same capabilities into FCP.” What did Apple say?  “They listened,” said Greenfield.

One last speaker stood up for independent filmmakers. “With the new Avid, indie artists and freelancers are also being addressed,” she said. “And I hope you continue to do it. Although we spend less, there are huge numbers of us.  I was forced into using FCP because the in/out hardware was so much cheaper. If you could remember us…”

“We think of you often, and we’re committed to that segment of the marketplace,” said Arnold. “For indie professionals, we know the total cost of ownership matters. And we think we have one that is competitive.”