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Old October 9th, 2008, 11:47 AM   #1
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What's Apple doing? (Answer: I don't know)

Ever since Adobe announced and since released the CS4 line of software I've received several emails asking if I knew what Apple was doing to update the now long-in-tooth Studio 2 apps. The simple answer: I don't know, and nobody outside Apple's walls of insiders and developers will say publicly as has always been the case. Apple's history of total lockdown on leaks has been stellar and that's not changing anytime soon.

I will say this, that the past 6 months has been especially unnerving to see the apparent lack of progress in the Final Cut Studio apps. Steve Jobs has and continues to be tunnel-visioned by the iPhone (and why not, it's hugely popular and profitable) and development of the pro apps has all but come to a near-halt. The only "major" update was a small service release recently that resolved a few minor issues but added little functionality. At issue are things such as:

- Adobe has had native Blu-Ray support (albeit basic) in Encore - now going on it's second iteration. All we have from Apple is rumor that BR is "coming soon" possibly with OSX 10.6 - but that may not appear until years-end or first of next year.

- There continues to be PC-only apps and hardware specific to the commercial film & video industry that have not been ported-over to the Mac; many of those manufacturers have said often that they'd love to create a Mac-version but get little to no support or interest from Apple in developing the API's and code required to make it work. A perfect example is Scenarist, the top-end Blu-Ray authoring app; several hardware-based MPEG-2 encoders are strictly PC-based with no chance of being ported to the Mac.

- Final Cut Media Manager (or "media mangler" as many refer to it) has been overdue for a serious overhaul for more than 2 years. Both Avid and even Adobe have superior built-in management schemes but FCS2 users are forced to use either 3rd-party software or completely manual methodologies to keep things properly organized and tracked. This is especially evident when dealing with render files from older projects. This one characteristic alone has kept a few editors I know of away from FCS.

- Unlike PC editors the Apple side still lacks a true, hardware-accelerated version of FCS. This would obviously be much more costly than the current iteration of the software but it would address a part of the market that currently stays PC-only because these post-houses can't give up the benefits of acceleration.

- PC manufacturers are and have been offering far more robust and well configured hardware options for both laptop and desktop machines with greater flexibility in configurations. Lenovo for example recently released a editors-dream laptop with (2) internal SATA HDD's and a color-gamma correct LCD specifically for video editors. Nothing Apple has in it's current lineup can match that laptop at any price.

- And my personal pan, is that for over 3 years now FCP still does not have native drag-n-drop P2HD support whereas almost *every* other pro-editing app - PC or Mac - does. (I don't think Vegas does without a 3rd-party plug-in). In fact, Apple gave the code to it's competitors for that Quicktime codec but hasn't introduced it into it's own software yet. Really weird.

Currently what FCS2 does, and does quite well, is incorporate all of the best tools required to start and finish (literally finish in color) any job whether it's tele-cine, video or any combination thereof. Being on the Mac platform means it's supremely stable and to date still is 99.99% free of viruses and spyware (technically there is some OSX viruses but they are so rarely seen it's a non-event).

But the sad fact is that PC manufacturers and even Mac-app competitors have been overshadowing Apple's own pro-app offerings for more than 2 years now. And the "I'm a Mac..." TV ads? Yes, they're really funny and mostly accurate but only from a consumer-level perspective. When it comes to professional applications and the associated hardware Apple is almost 3 years behind the PC and it's getting painful.

So, what's Apple doing to play catch-up to it's PC and Mac-competitive rivals? I haven't a clue, but if they don't re-energize themselves into updating and boosting their pro offerings soon I'm afraid you'll start seeing a slow migration away from FCS. That would be tragic.
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Old October 9th, 2008, 12:15 PM   #2
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Old October 9th, 2008, 01:30 PM   #3
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Well, to be fair AVID is a cross-platform NLE, that ship with copies for MAC and PC when you buy it, and they've had accelerators, and MOJO and Nitris, Adrenaline hardware for MAC for years. But people bitched and moaned cause it cost more than FCP all alone... so saying that its not available isn't strictly true. If you use AVID you can do it with the extra hardware and MAC platform, just expect to pay the price.
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Old October 9th, 2008, 07:10 PM   #4
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There are many other considerations. While a MAC Pro costs more than a comparible PC. Networking in a true HD workflow typically costs less with XSAN than mixing PC based fibre channel systems on the PC
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Old October 9th, 2008, 07:40 PM   #5
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I'm sure we will see some significant improvements at or before NAB2009. I also have discussed developments with a few companies like AJA that are developing capture cards that include REAL hardware acceleration from companies like AMBRIC that will speed encoding and decoding of complex codecs dramaticly. Thes cards/chips will also reduce rendering and playback as they will be directly addressable by FCP so your MAC does not need to decode/encode these files any longer. They may also speed scaling and certain other effects as well, bringing the platform ahead of the competion in terms of productivty. Similar to how Matrox AXIO speeds PP on a PC but on a MAC with FCP. AXIO realy shines with MPEG based workflows but falls a bit short in other formats. The MAC is more agile in others. It will be very ineresting to see how this all plays out.
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Old October 9th, 2008, 08:01 PM   #6
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Robert - I like your thoughts about Media Manager. It really is a nightmare but even on the Avid side, the Media Tool isn't that much better - most professional editors get a third party application called "Media Mover" to sort and delete pesky media.

If Apple revamps this, there should be a function of scanning an entire project - listing every render and media file, generating a list for migration / deletion / reconnection.

The bane for me on the media management side of FCP is opening a project with nested sequences and being unable to determine which files are offline. Literally, they appear as un-selectable when you load the FCP project.

As for Blu-Ray - Apple placed a bet on the wrong horse (HD-DVD). I don't think their timeframe for implementing BDR is necessarily slow. It will be there in the next generation and if you can't wait - you can cheat now to make BDR on MAC.

As for Hardware, its not realistic for apple to create a break-out box. They've got third party people (Avid, AJA, BlackMagic) who are way ahead of the game, developing for their architecture. Already, AJA has taken a tremendous amount of load of FCP in it's hardware encoding of Pro-Res with IoHD. This is essentially the breakout box you are talking about.

Even if Apple doesn't implement needed changes (ie - you can still edit HDV on a G4) they'll still be edging out Avid because of the Studio package's value - so I guess I don't see them as "boneheaded".

Also, lets look at SAS - it was implemented almost concurrently with the PC guys. If SAS were Blu-Ray, it'd already be an option in the Mac Pro's (from SAS development date).

I guess I don't see the urgency with the hardware. My vote would be for 64 bit FCP, fixing the media management errors, updating color (sheesh - great 1.0.2 but it needs some love) and working with integrating other codecs within the code (seriously - put flip4mac out of business and integrate WMV, MPEG, AVI, in FCP).

Good Topic Robert.

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Old October 10th, 2008, 08:14 PM   #7
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Christopher Drews is spot on. Wish they improve media manager. Blueray will most likely be in the next version, after all they need to give you a reason to upgrade. I'm not in a rush for Blueray, not enough ppl have it to make it viable for now. Apple makes most of its money off its proprietary hardware so you'll always be handcuffed. Annoying but nothing new about that.
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Old October 13th, 2008, 09:27 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Lane View Post
Nothing Apple has in it's current lineup can match that laptop at any price.
At the time of writing, I'm about 24 hours away from the Apple event, so I won't comment on that.

Apple may have backed the wrong horse in HD-DVD, but have since recapitulated in stating that the future may not be with shipping bits of plastic per se, but in pushing file based HD. I'm not so sure - I like my DVDs (no fear of DRM plugs being pulled), and BD-ROM has been very useful. But whatever.

Both FCP and Avid have to juggle advancement with precedent. And both are getting on a bit. FCP's built on a curious mix of PC and Mac legacy code, and as such, contains much that is bogglingly stupid (like font handling, media management). There is so much to be fixed that really it should have a total re-write. But that introduces so much toe-curling danger one wonders how long Apple will hold off the inevitable.

I just want the stuff that's broken FIXED first. It's all Guy Kawazaki's fault. "Just ship it! Perfect it later!" - well, guys, "later" was a few years ago and there's lots to fix.

Don't get me wrong - it's not an FCP vs AVID thing - it's a Professional Software thing.
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Old October 13th, 2008, 09:53 AM   #9
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Well stated, Matt.

And to those who ignorantly think Apple and other companies don't actually pay attention to forums such as this for feedback, you're dead wrong. They do, and in fact Apple went out of their way earlier this year to dispel a few rumours that were floating around forums such as this. In fact, web-based non-solicited feedback (such as forums and blogs) have become such a new standard that every large corporation has a small team of "web-watchers" who do nothing but scour the web for anything with their company's product or service reviews.

Let's hope the past 2 years of globally published wishful thinking and outright rants have finally made it to those who assign developers the task of rethinking the pro apps design. Adobe has been hard at work and their CS4 versions show it.

It's past time to pick up the pace, Apple.
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Old October 13th, 2008, 10:09 AM   #10
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One thing I desperately need is for them to update color. Every time I want to use Color I have to unplug monitors because color can not run on a system with more than 2 monitors attached. No, them being off doesn't count... UNPLUGGED!

I also would like to see a complete move into 64 bit, since I have a mess load of ram, and 64bit processors. I would also like a rewrite of the multicore code to address 8 cores. Right now the 4 core limit is not allowing me to access all of my power I have in my system, which is annoying because why did I buy this system in the first place... final cut.
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Old October 13th, 2008, 01:33 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Matt Daviss View Post
Apple may have backed the wrong horse in HD-DVD, but have since recapitulated in stating that the future may not be with shipping bits of
Honestly, I never paid a lot of attention to who backed what in the past... although I just got a Blu-ray player for my HDTV and I love it. But my recollection was that Apple was one of the original backers of Blu-ray back in 2005:

Slashdot | Apple Backs Blu-ray
Apple backs Blu-ray ? The Register

I realize they haven't put drives in their computers yet, but wasn't aware they ever joined the HD-DVD camp. Did I miss something?
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Old October 13th, 2008, 05:33 PM   #12
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I think what he is referring to is that in DVD studio pro and Compressor, there is only HD-DVD. This means Apple must of backed HD-DVD.


As for FCP improvements I wish they could borrow Adobe Photoshop's tabbed panel interface. There is something I find difficult working with all their windows. Especially in compressor, I'd rather have two windows one to select source and destination and another window for the compression settings. I find I have to do a lot a clicking just to do a simple task, don't like how batch is another application when it should be just be compressor. In fcp I hate how view tab works for effects and text. If you accidentally double click on a clip you're already working on then the settings tab gets hidden by the view tab.
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Old October 14th, 2008, 12:12 AM   #13
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before all the big stuff, apple needs to fix the simple bus like premult with black render errors that are all over FPC. its horrid. try dissolving a white title with a blur for a prefect example. then there is the abominination called motion.

now that CS4 is out, all I can say it adobe is about to send apple packing. dynamic link with AE is way beyond FCP / motion. motion, however cool, is still a toy compared to AE, combustion, flame, nuke... and even shake.
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Old October 15th, 2008, 07:35 PM   #14
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Now we know what Apple is doing - and not

I'm flabbergasted by the amount of quizzical and even angry emails I've gotten just today about some of the not-so-great news from Apple. Complaints about everything from lack of BR options to *only* glossy screens on laptops (are you kidding me?!) to FW400 disappearing across the board, and no mention of FCS3. Really?

Honestly, I really expected that on the laptop side they'd have taken serious cues from the Lenovo laptop with dual-drives, color-correct screen etc. I also expected that BR being supported in 10.6 would get mentioned and that the pro apps would see some resurgence of updates. Nada.

I hate to say it but I think Apple has just officially launched their own slow exodus of professionals away from it's apps and hardware, especially potential new users who haven't decided on "Mac vs. PC".

Considering the competition (hardware and software), the economic status globally and Apple's continuing ignorance of pro-user needs and requests Apple seems to be moving further and further away from being the innovative pack-leader to being blinded by it's own ego-centric "i-Attitude".

As someone said in a previous post: Vote with your dollars - or lack thereof.
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Old October 15th, 2008, 07:51 PM   #15
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Well, Adobe just released CS4 today, and I'm goin' that-a-way. I guess Apple can kiss my upgrade money goodbye. Too bad...their professional apps support has been abysmal, and the hardware is taking a turn for the worse, too.
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