If you've read some of the comments below my previous post, you'll see I've been called a lot of things — including an apologist for Adobe's new policies. If you've followed me a long time you know I tell it like I see it, and I've been around long enough that I don't mind people disagreeing with me. But I don't apologize for anyone. I'm not particularly nice, and you'll note it's virtually always someone hiding behind anonymity who types the pot-shots. Over the years I've agreed and disagreed with Adobe. I've given them my share of honest grief, and I've applauded them when they deserve it. This series is no different. It's too early to applaud or denigrate.

To get a feel for how people are reacting to the big shift to the sky, I asked the folks on one of Facebook's best private VFX groups to let me know how they feel about Adobe's move to the cloud and their new pricing base. Some of these good folks were willing to go on record about it.

The first to respond was my longtime friend, the legendary Ron Thornton. This pioneer has been around since the beginning and I expected Ron might go conservative and object to Adobe's paradigm shift. But here's what Ron actually said: “I've been a CC subscriber for quite a while now. I'm totally willing to go on the record for you. I have to admit I'm very pro CC. I like it a lot, and the access is really great. Teaching guys 3D modeling and texturing, we utilize Photoshop with the Quixel plug ins dDo and nDo. Also some motion graphics in After Effects. Of course Premiere Pro for editing and some Illustrator for graphics and layout." (My note…these plug-ins from Quixel are worth a look if you haven't seen them yet. Excellent for creating quick, quality 3D materials.)

Another friend of mine who would rather remain anonymous to you but whom I know well, and respect, said: “Adobe is trying to unilaterally reset the terms by which it does business with users. (Perhaps because its revenue streams are going to dry up as users just use the same, incredibly sophisticated version of Photoshop for years and years to come instead of paying for expensive new versions with sometimes dubious upgrade value.) And that's not going to sit well with people. But on a practical level, it's $50 a month. Or $80 for the team version. I have to think pro users are objecting on principal, rather than out of a legitimate fear that they can't afford the subscription.”

I think this observation has some merit. Adobe really is offering value for money even if it is radically changing the game. Personally, I think it's the loss of control that worries people. Adobe has taken full control. I've heard some fear that Adobe could, at their whim, up the monthly charges once you're fully invested in their workflow and pipeline.

Here are some other things people are saying.

John Court, technology consultant: “The 'cloud' is nothing more than a move back to the institutionalized mainframes of the 70s. Personally, I believe the cloud as a platform for content-creation computing is high-tech snake oil. The legal/contractual issues alone are scary. Is there a legal framework for distributed computing and storage with regard to production IP? Using the cloud for a month on a project? That would be logical if you could pay for a single month. But you can't. You can pay monthly. But you have to opt in to a year of payments.”

Anonymous Bosch, another industry legend whom I know personally but who wants to remain in the shadows: “I haven't formed a final opinion of the Adobe Cloud. I do, however tend to be suspicious of non-physical possession of application software and files. I suspect that that is where the future lies, and that eventually, should our species survive a global cataclysm, everything will be stored elsewhere and individuals will just have little access devices. Keeps residences and offices tidy.”

Richard Servello, visual effects compositor: "Monthly software subscriptions are ridiculous! You end up spending the same amount yearly as you would for a one-time buy. Now you have no choice on upgrading. You just keep paying until you go out of business and have nothing to show for it."

Jeff Mottle, CEO of CG Architect: “Personally, I usually only ever upgraded every other version to the Master Collection, so while the price works out to more or less the same spent, it's just being spread out evenly over that time. As others have said, though, you own nothing at the end if you stop paying. From a usability standpoint on the licensing, I do like that you can install a single license cross-platform, so I can install it on my PC desktop and my Mac laptop (as a single user). This was something that previously could only be done with a volume license, though depending on whom at Adobe you spoke to and on which day was either OK or illegal. Technically it worked, but It seemed to be interpreted differently by different employees. I also like the control panel to install or uninstall all of the applications from one point. I hated having to log into my account, download an installer, etc. Now I just open the control panel, click the app and either update, install or uninstall. Along that line, I love that you can activate or deactivate the licenses between machines if you have more machines than licenses. So far I would say, from a software-licensing and installation standpoint, I wish every vendor took a similar approach."

This instant machine shift came in handy for Jeff recently when he needed additional licenses for a seminar and was able to instantly activate two machines by deactivating two at his office. He was able to switch back as soon as he finished the seminar. But not everyone likes the new way of doing things.

Caleb J. Howard, a 25-year veteran of the VFX and games industries, does not mince words: “Personally, I'll never support either a non-local software model, nor a subscription model. I never really liked Photoshop much anyway, though … nor Adobe, to be honest. Pretty crap software. Okay, I should also clarify. Though I am a professional digital artist/R&D kind of guy for more than 25 years now, I do use crap software at work (hey, it's Windows). For my own project, I have a strict policy of using open-source software everywhere I can — painting, editing, modeling (in many cases; I do use Houdini). I am most strenuous in my resistance to companies that employ predatory business practices, rather than quality, to sell product. Olivetti had a software rental business model once. It didn't really fly. We'll see how it goes with such a hyped bit of crap as Photoshop. They have a lot of marketing dollars, a huge fan base, and a fair chunk of the market to lose.”

Caleb, don't hold back. Tell us what you really think (grin). I appreciate your candor. I personally find Adobe software excellent — Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects and Audition.

C. Campbell, freelance VFX artist: “Read your licensing agreements carefully. Especially for storage agreements. Adobe will claim usage/ownership of materials you store on their cloud. I have it under good authority from a fellow VES board member who is very familiar with Adobe products. It's apparently in the fine print." (Note: not being a lawyer, this one worries me.)

Steve K., VFX director/supervisor. “Adobe moved into the cloud merely as a way of trying to gain control over piracy and, for that, their shareholders are glad. However, they moved into this new cloud-space idea without fully thinking through all the upgrade issues.” (It has been reported that Adobe products are among the most pirated of all software)

Scott S., VFX artist/teacher. “In terms of companies offering (or coercing you into) storage of your data, it can give them an inordinate amount of leverage and create a situation of extorted brand loyalty. To a certain degree, closed-standard file formats can do this also, but having an unopenable file on your computer seems better than having an inaccessible file in the cloud.”

Erica Hornung, VFX artist and stereo roto artist: “I've actually been thinking about this a lot, for a while. I think it boils down to [thinking], 'The second I can actually pay for AE I will!' And for me, the monthly thing makes that personally possible and I'm happy. But I can see other sides, too. If you amortize whatever the package costs over two years I imagine it works out pretty favorably. I seem to remember production suite coming in around $1600, or 66 bucks a month. I think it's a smart move personally. Actually using their cloud, though? No thanks.”

Angie Jones, VFX artist/character animator/teacher: “If you are an instructor, you only pay $19.99 a month for the entire CC contents. It's a great deal in my book. I am doing the same with Microsoft PowerPoint at $10 a month.”

Jennifer Lynn Hachigian, CG artist/animator/illustrator: “I'm keeping my Adobe subscription. I used to pay about the same for my cell phone bill, so I treat it as a utility.” There was also a discussion of how the new pricing put Adobe products out of reach of casual users and Jennifer responded, “I think the software's original price point put it out of reach for casual users, too, unless they could nab educational copies." And Erica H. responded, “Agreed, unless they got pirated software—which I assume no one is advocating.”

I thought the following well-considered point of view is worth the space to air it in its entirety. It's from Rohin Aggarwa, founder and CEO of Scarecrow Visual Effects. I'm going to be taking more about Scarecrow in a separate post. They are a VFX house based in a cloud. I asked Rohin if he would tell me how he feels about Adobe moving to the cloud and I find this input well-stated and thought-provoking.

“Peter, I'm a strong proponent of Adobe's Creative Cloud. Just as the music industry migrated to song rental with Spotify and Pandora, the movie industry migrated to VOD with Amazon and Netflix, and even hardware migrated to a rental model with AWS and render farms, there's definitely demand for creative software to do the same. I think vendors are understandably hesitant, since a rental model means a longer play in reaping rewards for their not-insubstantial investment. That said, both companies and individuals are demanding a shift away from purchasing. Our focus is on individuals, and for freelancers it is viable only if fixed costs remain low. In both cases, the peaks and troughs of creative work are better managed through flexible licensing schemes. The alternatives, if flexible licensing does not exist, are piracy, under-utilized licenses (during troughs) and license-sharing. The first is bad for the software vendor and the other two are bad for their clients and not sustainable in the long term.

“Do I think Adobe's implementation is perfect? No. Monthly membership is still not flexible enough when most projects may be done in hours or days. But it is a great step towards combating piracy, making it more accessible to freelancers, and helping them navigate business cycles by reducing fixed costs. Adobe is not alone here. The Foundry (quarterly for software, daily for plugins), Autodesk (monthly) and Side Effects (monthly) have all recognized this market need and migrated to it.

“Our company relies precisely on this shift. We're in talks right now with some of these vendors to get daily license rentals that we can offer our artist contractors. While there has been some pushback about what essentially amounts to them modifying their entire business model, they also recognize that this is a market need and a sign of a larger shift in the market.”

Thanks for bringing up some interesting ideas, Rohin.

I want to thank all of these brave people who tell it like they see it. This discussion has broadened my perspective on the subject. I now have a subscription to the Creative Cloud and I have to say so far, so good, except that their servers are so slow downloading the apps and installing them. Sheesh. But actually using them, I find myself very happy. I like a lot of the new features and the fact that the apps are continuously kept up to date. For the time being, I still have my old local versions as well. What I wish is that Adobe could leave us with static versions of our most used software when we can no longer pay. We know we can't update it, but we can at least have it on our computer for future messing around. Perhaps they would allow this after one year or 18 months of contribution. Seems fair to me.

Now it's Adobe's turn. I've asked Bill Roberts, Adobe's director of video product management, to keep an eye on this blog and give us some straight-talk responses to some of the statements and to clear up some misconceptions. I'm particularly interested in the comment about Adobe claiming ownership of what you save in the cloud, though I, personally, save everything locally.