Friday, September 22, 2006

I Have Seen The Future… And It Gives Me A Headache

- Harry B. Miller III, A.C.E.

Keycode Media hosted a presentation of new software called Avid Interplay. Although impressive in capability, the implications for it in the editing room are very troubling.

What is Interplay? I had no clue, which was why I went. Unfortunately, the presenters from Avid weren’t very good at explaining what it is, although they were good at explaining what it does. Essentially Interplay is a media manager. When added to an editing room, it would work sort of like Avid Media Composer’s Media Tool.

Ahh, but it is much more. And that started my head throbbing.

It was suggested that Interplay could be used to link many / all parts of post production (editors, sound, vfx, producers), and share all media files. A producer, for example, could look at dailies in his office on his computer. The VFX department could update VFX shots and add them to the media system. Editors could send cuts to a director’s computer, all of this being hooked up through local Ethernet.

The problem I have with this idea is 1) who is supposed to be in charge of all this media and 2) who tracks the latest version of a shot, a cut, memo, spreadsheet, schedule, sound effect, or sound mix.

This isn’t Interplay. Its Chaos.

The Avid folks didn’t have very specific ideas about who would take charge of managing the media. It would be an ‘administrator’. Well, if it is the cutting room it should be the picture assistant. But now they are in charge of everyone’s media. Yeow.

I wondered how an editor would know who had updated material needed to be viewed or integrated into the cut. What if a producer looked at a cut on-line, made notes, forgot to let the editor know but presumed he did know? And another producer made conflicting notes? And how many producers / directors care to be that tech savvy? How does anyone know that the editor has all the latest VFX versions in his cut? A producer could see it on-line, then get mad that it wasn’t in the latest picture cut.

And more troubling still, depending on the speed of one’s computer / network connection, it is likely you would need more than one compression of dailies: one for the editor, one for a producer with a slower speed connection. In one step Interplay has double the amount of media files to manage, doubled the assistant’s workload, and increased storage requirements.

Interplay has some cool potential, but if not used in a well thought out manner, it could be a disaster. To paraphrase Firesign Theater, Interplay is a technology that can only be used for good or evil.

I’m off to get some aspirin.


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