Unhappy Users Say They'll Have to Find Non-Avid 4K Options

It's the end of another era in the post business — Avid told customers this week that the Avid DS online finishing system is being discontinued at the end of September. Avid yesterday released one final free software update, DS 11.1, adding support for conform with Media Composer 7 (plus an MC7 software upgrade license), ISIS 4+ shared storage, Interplay 2.7 and 3.0, AJA Kona 3 and 3G Media I/O hardware, and Avid Artist Color and Transport controllers. Avid said it will honor existing DS support contracts through September 30, 2014.

Even in its most recent v7 release, Avid Media Composer has no option for 4K delivery. In traditional Avid workflows, that's where the DS comes in — conforming an Avid project at 2K or 4K. To replace some of the compositing features found in the DS, Avid said DS licensees would be eligible for a 50 percent discount on Eyeon's Fusion compositing system, which has solid roundtripping capabilities with Media Composer, bringing the price down from $2495 to $1250. 

"Avid is aligning its development resources to focus on a core suite of creative products," Avid said in a prepared statement sent to StudioDaily. "As part of this transition, we will be ceasing future development of Avid DS with a final sale date of September 30, 2013. Over the past few years, we have been advancing key technology components into our proven and trusted Media Composer and Symphony products. These industry leading solutions, built on an open platform, allow for some of the best technology in the business to seamlessly interoperate."

Avid officials made the end-of-life (EOL) announcement in a conference call with users earlier this week that was meant to be confidential but ended up being leaked onto the Internet, where StudioDaily obtained a copy. The call was notable for the level of frustration expressed by users who objected to Avid's decision. During the call, Avid officials said the company will work to transition DS owners to Avid Media Composer with the Symphony option, which adds Avid's Universal Mastering feature and much more powerful color-correction tools to MC, but users said it's not a workable substitute for the 2K and 4K capabilities of DS. 

"The reality is that HD is becoming the new SD, and UltraHD is the new HD," said Derek Herr, a senior editor and VFX compositor at Technicolor in Hollywood, before telling Avid officials on the call that "there's a huge hole now at the high end of Avid's product space in finishing, and what will happen is a migration away from Avid altogether and into boxes that aren't limited to just HD output."

Tony Quinsee-Jover, co-owner of HD Heaven in the U.K., agreed. "I don't think you'll get DS folks moving over in droves to Symphony," he said during the call. "I'll be amazed if that happens."

Herr and Quinsee-Jover say they had nothing to do with the leak of the conference call, but both of them told StudioDaily they stand behind their comments. "I find it unbelievable that Avid would EOL their only high-end finishing tool," Quinsee-Jover said via email, "leaving a gap which will inevitably result in them losing all of their high-end customers to their competitors, almost certainly never to return."

In the company's defense, Avid officials said during the call that sales of the DS had slowed to a point where it no longer made business sense to keep the product alive. Users often complained that Avid didn't properly market the DS, or support it with enough new features, but it's probably true that the $10,000 software was losing some of its appeal as competing NLEs offered similar features right on the timeline — and as Autodesk made a bid for the high-end DS user base with its redesigned Smoke at $3500.

Herr admitted that the eventual death of the DS was a given, but noted the timing of Avid's announcement is hard to swallow. "While most of us that still use DS were aware that Avid was very likely going to retire the product as soon as Media Composer gained some greater functionality," he said in an email, "it was an unpleasant surprise to find out they are choosing to do so before Media Composer can work with common frame-based media formats like DPX and OpenEXR, or before it can at least output anything at higher-than-HD resolution."

Avid has provided an FAQ on the end of support for Avid DS, which is reproduced in full below.

Q:  What is Avid’s plan for existing DS customers?

A: To leverage the worlds #1 editor with a complete suite of production tools that empower you to create, deliver, and collaborate, Avid has worked with our partner eyeon Software to secure an exclusive promotional offer on eyeon products, available only to Avid DS customers.

DS owners will get special promotional pricing for Fusion, Dimension and Generation at a combined price of just $1,250 US MSRP – that’s more than a 50% savings. Fusion's advanced node-based VFX supercomputing environment and high-level image processing application directly integrates with the Media Composer timeline, while Dimension’s Optical Flow and Disparity Tools provide a precise and inclusive series of solutions for Stereo Productions. Combined with the project and team communication and collaboration engine Generation, Avid DS users are able to transition to powerful, efficient toolset to continue to create innovative content.

Q:  Will this offer be available worldwide?

A:  Yes.  For specific pricing in your region please contact your regional sales representative (to find a Reseller, click here; to find a local Avid office, click here.)

Q: How long will this offer be available?

A: This offer will be available through the end of 2013.

Q: Who do I contact to take advantage of the eyeon for DS customers promotional pricing?

A: DS customers will receive the promotional code from Avid prior to purchasing through eyeon Software.

1.      DS customers must submit a request to Avid via the Avid DS License Request Form.  Customers must submit each DS license they wish to receive a promotional code for.

2.      Avid will respond to the request with a promotional code (one per DS license) and information about how to contact eyeon Software sales.

3.      Customers will purchase eyeon Fusion, Dimension and Generation through eyeon Software, and will redeem their promotional code(s) at time of purchase.

Q. Do I have to trade in my DS license in order to get the eyeon promotion? Will my DS license cease to work?

A; No, this is NOT a trade in program. Avid is requesting that customers provide their DS licenses to confirm eligibility and to ensure customers receive the appropriate number of promotional codes.  DS customers can continue to use their DS license after receiving the promotional code.

Q: Where can I go to find out more information on eyeon products?

A:  For overall product information for Fusion, Dimension and Generation, eyeon has excellent online manuals that walk users through specific features and workflows. Avid and eyeon will also be hosting a webinar for customers to see the power of eyeon products and Media Composer working together. Additional information regarding the webinar will be made available soon.

Q: What if I am a DS 10 customer or below, do I still get to take advantage of the eyeon promotion?

A: Yes, customers using an older version of DS can use the promotion for eyeon Fusion, Dimension, and Generation. We suggest they upgrade to DS 11 prior to receive the great functionality of Media Composer 7.

Q:   Why will DS no longer be for sale?

A:   Avid has decided to direct our focus on an interconnected suite of products to leverage the best of our developmental and creative output. With the release of Media Composer 7 and the Symphony Option – both at a fraction of their original cost – Avid remains dedicated to the post-production market, and we’re confident in the superior visual effects and compositing capabilities of eyeon’s products and the exciting workflows they empower with the Media Composer family.

Q:  I would like to buy a DS 11 turnkey system now. Are they still available?

A:  No, Avid DS 11 turnkey systems are no longer available for purchase. Avid DS software can be purchased through September 30, 2013.

Q:  I currently own DS 11. What are Avid’s plans for bug fixes and updates?

A:  Avid plans to continue to provide maintenance updates for DS 11 for a full calendar year from the final sale date (September 30, 2013) Some additional improvements and enhancements may also be released in that timeframe. DS customers will be alerted when the final maintenance patch is released.

Q:  I currently own Avid DS 10 and would like to upgrade to DS 11.  Is this possible?

A:   Yes.  Customers can still upgrade to Avid DS 11 if done by September 30, 2013.

Q:  Why should I upgrade to Avid DS 11.x if the product is no longer being developed?

A:   If Avid DS suits your needs today, then continue to use the product and consider upgrading.  We fully expect to provide maintenance updates and improvements like MC 7 Conform, DNxHD444 and ISIS 10GB & Dual 1GB connection support in the future.

Q:  Will there be an upgrade path or cross-grade offering for existing DS customers?

A:   Yes.  DS 11 customers will receive Avid Media Composer 7 as part of their purchase. Customers wishing to transition from DS to Media Composer 7 with the Symphony Option need only to purchase the Symphony option for $1,499 US MSRP.

Additionally, Avid has partnered with eyeon Software to provide Fusion, Dimension and Generation at a fraction of the standard cost. eyeon Fusion directly embeds advanced node-based VFX supercomputing and high-level image processing in the Media Composer timeline, providing powerful effects and compositing tools within a standard Avid workflow.  Dimension has been highly developed to solve some of the most intricate of stereoscopic production issues, while Generation – a communication, collaboration and review engine – has been designed to make the studio workflow really flow. DS users won’t have to trade in their DS license in order to benefit from this valuable offer – they can continue to use DS 11 for as long as they’d like while also using eyeon’s production tools and Media Composer.

Q:  Is there a Symphony Software Trial available?

A:   Yes.   Download the 30-day Symphony Software Trial version and see for yourself all that Avid Symphony has to offer.

Q:   What support will Avid offer?

A:   Avid Customer Success will continue to provide support for customers with active Avid Advantage support contracts for the life of the contract. Contracts will not run for longer than one year from the Final Sale Date and will end by September 30th, 2014. During that time, maintenance and bug fix releases will be made available as needed.

Q. What about current support contracts that run past September 30, 2014?

A. Customers with active support contracts that do not run out until sometime after September 30 2014 should contact their Avid Loyalty Representative to discuss contract options.

Q:  What will happen to the DS Support site?  Will it continue to be updated?

A:   The Avid DS Support site will be updated with information regarding maintenance updates and final sale offers. Additional updates may be available while support contracts are active.

Q:  Can I buy an Avid Advantage Support contract now and get coverage on my Avid DS?  

A:   Yes.  Customers can still purchase an Avid Advantage Support Contract for Avid DS

Q:   I know the final sale date for DS hardware systems was June 21, 2013. What happens if I need to repair my DS hardware??

A:   Avid will continue to provide spare parts, while supplies last, for Avid DS hardware under warranty.