Apple’s new Final Cut Pro X: excitement and terror

So Apple rolled out Final Cut Pro X last week at NAB. The software is a complete (and necessary) rewrite of the venerable non linear editor, with great features like a magnetic timeline (so your sound and picture don’t go out of sync without you telling them to do so), automatic cleaning up of sound and one click color matching.

But there are also quite a few unanswered questions about FCP X. A lot of them have to do with tape based workflows and matching back to film, neither of which are particularly pressing issues for me. But one change does give me the willies something serious: the apparent lack of a Viewer.

“Traditional” (if there is such a thing) NLEs operate on the same paradigm as an old A-B tape based editing system. YOu set you in and out points on a source monitor, set an in and/or out point on a timeline, and edit. I’ve been using this system for literally decades, ever since I sat down at NAIT in front of two 3/4 VTR decks and made pictures come together with a mechanical “clunk” sound eevery time I made an edit.

But FCP X has a filmstrip instead of a viewer, and this might be a huge dealbreaker for me. Maybe it’s just that I’m old and grouchy, but for me scrubbing through a film strip just isn’t the same as having that source video right in front of me. I can see where they’re going with the metaphor, and it time I might even accept it, but for right now the thought of using a filmstrip to comb through video and then fix things via the timeline seems like a backwards way to work. It might actually be a better way to tell a story, but it’ll take me a while to wrap my head around the concept and embrace it.

But on a meta level I can totally see why Apple has made the changes they have in FCP X. The “pro” market for TV and film is important but fundamentally tiny compared to the exploding amount of content being crafted for the web, mobile and streaming video. My current job, as a digital media editor, means I deliver videos on a weekly basis to a specific niche audience but with production values if not equalling television than certainly approaching it in terms of quality and presentation. That’s just one example of many of people creating professional video that never, ever goes onto a television screen. This trend will not only continue, it will accelerate, and that’s where I think Apple is aiming the new, cheap and ultimately more adaptable Final Cut Pro X.

I just hope I can come along for the ride without too many bumps.

Cord cutting or saying goodbye to cable

I’ve just come back from a four month sojourn in Japan and China, and a pleasant side effect of this trip was a break from North American media. I say that, but I had pretty much unbroken contact with any media I decided was worth watching, I simply didn’t access it through traditional means.

Japanese television, despite its charming commercials and genuine enthusiasm for the absurd, was nothing I could watch consistently. Instead I relied on downloads and streaming media, sometimes through a VPN connection. The VPN allowed me to access American sites like hulu.com along with the UK iPlayer app, all by telling these services that I’m actually in their country of origin.

In China this solution was less effective for streaming media, because China’s internet is slooooow. But since a VPN was an absolute necessity to access Facebook, Twitter, anything hosted by WordPress and practically anything else China’s Internet censors whimsically decided wasn’t harmonious, I didn’t feel cheated.

Now that I’m back home the VPN is the cornerstone in my plan to cut cable television out of my life. Since I can watch BBC shows live or on demand, and since I’ve just discovered a pile of great documentaries and indie films on Netflix.ca, I don’t really feel any need to watch the paltry offerings available through Canadian broadcasters.

In effect, this move to on demand media is no different than my shift away from radio a few years ago. The only radio I listen to anymore is courtesy of the CBC Radio app on my iPhone. Local radio is completely irrelevant to me, supplanted by podcasts about topics ranging from the Mac to the media to video games to philosophy.

I’m an outlier. But it’s only a matter of time before more people take the same step. More and more people are perfectly comfortable with watching films on their laptop and short videos on their phones. Being in Canada may actually accelerate this process for many people, because Canadians are online more than anyone else in the world, and because our old media dinosaurs are hell-bent on keeping the public from watching anything they actually want to see and would rather fight tooth and nail for their obsolete business models. Canadians are savvy enough to work around these arbitrary restrictions, and one way or the other I’m sure we’ll see a dramatic decrease in cable subscriptions in the next few years.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to save money and enjoy great content. I don’t think I’ll miss cable in the least, and I’m betting soon others will join me in cutting the cord.

 

Andrew Marr doesn’t like bloggers

Andrew Marr, host of the excellent Start the Week and former political editor for the BBC doesn’t like bloggers. While I see his point about abusive, nonsensical and and angry commenters, his outright dismissal of new media as a legitimate medium is laughable at best.

More to the point, it’s the typical elitist broadcasting reaction to a democratized media world. The playing field, while still imperfect, is much more level than ever before, and traditional broadcasters do not like the fact that they now face competition from all corners. Some of that competition is indeed “pimply, aggressive and single” but that’s always been true. The larger point is that the self-appointed position of cultural curator has been snatched from the hands of broadcasters and put into the hands of the people. It might not be pretty, but it’s reality, and no amount of bitching from upper-class talking heads will change that.

Having worked in broadcasting myself, I completely welcome this change. Broadcasting has its role and will continue to provide a valuable service, but it’s long past time we were able to create our own content, express our own opinions, and transmit our own shows. The expansion of mobile into every corner of our lives will only accelerate the process. And if Andrew Marr doesn’t like it, tough.

Why Max Headroom WAS the future (which is the present)

Max Headroom was one of the best television shows of the Eighties. In fact, it’s fair to say that Edison Carter is one of the reasons I got into television, along with Doctor Who director Graeme Harper.

Well, Wired has a tribute to our pixelated forefather, and the article makes the very good point that with the rise of Youtube, video blogging and web series we have all become Max. Everyone is a digital sound-bite, but the difference is we aren’t in thrall to all powerful television networks as portrayed in the show. Instead the internet has made everyone into a network, for good and ill.

playing around with BoinxTV

I’ve been working through various ways to create compelling internet content, and I’ve explored various options including scripted material and making elements for FInal Cut Pro so I can film, drag and drop. All off this comes from the idea of minimizing the inputs while maximizing outputs…but it would still involve a lot of work. Putting together the two Fruitygamer pilot episodes required about half a day of work for each segment, in addition to being down at E3 in the first place and filming the interviews.

That’s all well and good, and there’s no reason I can’t use that same methodology for special episodes. But if I want to create a lot of content quickly the way to do it is live and streamed. So I looked at BoinxTV as a viable option. I got Boinx when I bought one of the MacHeist offers for $40 a while back, and as the program is normally $299 I got a pretty decent bargain. But since I had no use for it at the time, Boinx sat on my computer unused, until now.

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Mobile TV finally coming to North America?

The New York Times has an article up about the coming wave of mobile TV headed to North America. Asia and Europe have had mobile TV on their phones for years, and it’s frankly surprising that we haven’t followed suit.

Or maybe it isn’t. Canada’s mobile industry is woefully behind the times, and one more deficiency isn’t in the least bit surprising. Bell offers a Mobile TV app, and Rogers presumably has some weak-assed mobile version of RODO in the works, but frankly I have better luck rolling my own media solution on my iPhone. I have Al Jazeera English, NHK World, Livestation Mobile’s numerous streaming news channels, and the TWIT network, and that’s without even trying.

I think before North American carriers get around to providing mobile TV, appmakers and content providers large and small will work around them and provide their own solutions.

Why the Streamys are stupid

Mashable gets it exactly right. The Streamy Awards are an annual event meant to celebrate the best in web video, but this year they did so with a crude, juvenile ceremony, for which they soon apologized. More to the point, the entire exercise heralded web series done by B-list celebrities and wannabe types who haven’t made it into Hollywood’s inner sanctum (but surely desire to, more than anything.)

As Mashable points out, all of this entirely misses the point. Media has become democratized, with the ability to mount a compelling, great looking production within the reach of anyone with a laptop, a DSLR or higher-end camcorder, and talent. But for some reason a lot of the web video world’s supposed luminaries want nothing more than the supposed legitimacy of recognition from old media. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and in the end it’s really a fool’s game. Why jump onto a sinking ship?

Media, the iPad and CD-ROMs

Not as random a collection of words as you’d think at first glance. Scott Rosenberg of Salon fame has a post up on Silicon Alley Insider where he relates the excitement of Big Media over the incoming iPad as parallel to their clueless exuberance over CD-ROMs in the early 90’s. The web showed up soon afterward and the CD-ROM became a historical curiosity.

It turns out that nothing can compete with people connecting with each other around common interests. While the iPad will likely have some of those features, the Big Media hope of creating new walled gardens through apps is likely just that, a hope. Personally I would but a New York TImes or Wired app, provided the price was cheap enough and it took advantage of the platform in ways I couldn’t experience with any other medium. BUt I think there wil likely be quite a few misfires as big media outlets try, and fail, to turn back the clock.

Does that mean the end of the Ipad? I don’t think so. The tablet form factor is advantageous not just for reading media but a host of other applications, including ones we haven’t yet come up with.

The iPad cometh

After years of waiting, rumours and nonsense, the Apple iPad is finally upon us. Am I impressed? Am I blown away? Kinda.

Clearly it makes sense to move media from the somewhat clunky interface of keyboard and screen to a touchpad, and Apple is the company to move the computer industry kicking and screaming into a new paradigm. And what the iPad does, it does very, very well, from we surfing to reading books and newspapers. And yet….there’s something missing. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s no camera, no multi-tasking and the fact that the iPad seems geared more to content consumption than content creation.

As someone who creates content for a living, that leaves me high and dry. I can’t use the iPad for quick and dirty vlogging or podcasting and I definitely won’t be editing video on it anytime soon. I have a Macbook Pro and an iPhone, and between the two of them I get everything I need without a third device.

But on the other hand it’s a new platform, so as a content creator that makes me happy. In theory, the iPad form factor makes it an ideal platform for video and for print, both fields I happen to work in. It even opens up the possibility of new forms of magazine, hybrids of video, audio, game content and print articles, distributable by small publishers consisting of a writer, developer and designer. In a way it could be the rebirth of the zine.

In fact, the potential of the iPad is almost limitless. But right now, that’s just what it is…potential. And that’s why i won’t be getting one just yet.

New York Times and the Curse of the Paywall

For the second time, the NYT is thinking about instituting a paywall. My personal feeling is that it’ll be slow suicide, but maybe the brain trust at the Gray Lady knows something I don’t. Apple’s new tablet might be a revolutionary product that heralds a new media delivery system, and in the process makes the NYT “app” worth both paying for and subscribing to. And if I had to pick a paper I’d pay to read, the Times would definitely be the top contender. But….it all smacks of desperation and futility. Matthew Ingram, who recently left the Globe and Mail to become a senior writer at GigaOm (itself formed by former BusinessWeek reporter Om Malik) has written an interesting post about the NYT paywall. Check it out.