Sunday, July 26, 2009

FCS3...Apple's CS3 release?

I couldn’t help but notice that Apple released Final Cut Studio 3 last week. Being an Adobe Production Premium guy, it doesn’t really affect me too much in my day to day world of production. But, it a larger sense, it affects all of us in the production world because if Apple’s stats are right (50% of the editing market, 1.4 million users) then that’s a big number of people using FCP. I have no idea how they arrive at the 50% number – did they poll post-production houses? I must have missed that one…

But back to my point…as Apple now claims to own half the market it would seem that makes them the leaders - I’m guessing Avid and Adobe control the next 2 largest shares. And as the leaders, when they release something, it’s usually a big deal. I remember when FCS 2 came out – I was at NAB that year. Good Lord…judging by their booth, you’d think that they had redefined the NLE. And truth be told – it was a great release. ProRes, Color, new version of Motion. The point of all this is to say that a lot of the industry looks to Apple to see what they are doing – where they are headed. For better or for worse, those of us non-FCP editors have to acknowledge that it’s becoming (if it isn’t already) a FCP world. What Apple does makes the other NLE makers stand up and take notice.

And with such market dominance, it was a big surprise when I saw the press release for FCP 7 and FCS3. My reaction was, “Really – that’s it? After 2 years, that’s all you came up with?” I think some of the changes are pretty good – the new ProRes formats look intriguing. But as a whole, this feels more like it should be FCS 2.5 rather then 3. I heard so many rumors – rumors of a UI overhaul, more native drag and drop support (no log and transfer), 64 bit, etc. I guess I was expecting more (after 2 years) from the mighty Apple.

So, as a Premiere Pro editor how does this affect me? Well, I really feel now that CS4 is a better, more feature rich NLE then FCP…but I realize that’s my opinion – go ahead all you FCP editors, tell me why I’m wrong…I can take it! I think that if Apple doesn’t release another version of FCS shortly after it releases Snow Leopard (as has been rumored), then I think Adobe and Avid could gain some ground back on that 50%. I expected, as I think many others did, that Apple would take the lead big time with this release and I don’t believe they did. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are treading water with it, but they aren’t swimming that fast.

Can Avid and Adobe catch that 50% number? Not overnight, but the video/film market is changing…and changing fast. Players have to keep up with the move to tapeless formats and new workflows. If Avid and Adobe can provide solid solutions to those new formats and workflows before Apple can, it could shift the industry. Apple has a lot on its plate – iPhones, iPods, iTunes…as well as looking towards a future without Steve Jobs. Could their competition be sneaking up on them – maybe. Time will tell…

This all reminds of me of a few years ago. When Adobe released Production Premium CS3, many of us Premiere Pro editors were a little disappointed. While the bundle did add OnLocation (formally DV Rack) and Ultra to the group, and added Premiere Pro back on the Mac, the changes to Premiere Pro were pretty minimal. Ironically, one of those changes was better clip speed and time re-mapping features. I heard from many Premiere Pro editors who said they were going to skip the upgrade because Premiere Pro 2 was almost rock solid and there wasn’t enough incentive to upgrade. I think many did later when native P2 and XDCAM support was added through free updates. But it just wasn’t enough reason to spend the money at first.

So I ask you FCP users…is this your CS3 release? Do you feel Apple dropped the ball, or are you really excited about this release? If so, what are you excited about? Where do you think Apple should go with FCP and FCS as a whole?