Sunday, June 21, 2009

2008 ACE Equipment Survey

Reprinted from Cinema Editor Magazine
by Harry B. Miller III, A.C.E.

Nothing is a bigger block to the creative process than a tool that fails: a pencil breaks, a pen is dry, a splicer blade is dull. The worst for the modern film editor is the computer system that crashes. That was one of the common themes from ACE editors who responded to the latest survey.

The annual equipment survey of ACE members showed there weren’t many big changes in our editing rooms this past year. There were 100 responses, slightly up from the past. The types of shows (doc, feature, episodic) remained nearly the same. This time, however, there were zero reported mini-series. The Camera Original remained nearly the same, even though it seems we hear about more shows shooting digital instead of film. Storage remained about the same, with Unity having a 64% share, external 23%, and XServe 5%. (click on the image to enlarge)
The biggest change here is the introduction of the new Avid DX hardware. It seems to be directly replacing Adrenaline. Final Cut is slightly up. There were no Lightworks shows reported.

An interesting added breakdown was that Final Cut was evenly split between scripted and non-scripted shows (11 to 10), while Avid was solidly scripted (73 to 5). Although anecdotal, reality shows (not well represented in ACE) are very solidly Avid. (click on the image to enlarge)
In Delivery Format, there has been a definite trend away from finishing on film and finishing in standard definition tape. High resolution digital finishing is clearly taking over. (click on the image to enlarge)
The results here are always disappointing. I don’t know how, but editors need to at least try to assert their influence over what machines we use. I’m not sure crying will work, but may at some point give it a try.

This is a new question in the survey, and it was surprising to me how many people used HD during their edit.

Many people responded to the additional questions in the survey. Here is a sampling. A more complete list will be posted on the ACE Tech Blog.

What is needed

Avid: internal search engine, 5.1 mixing, ability to set the sound levels for a whole sequence, ability to import ScriptE files (electronic script supervisor notes), networking ProTools and Avid along with the ability to ‘round trip’ audio, copy and paste Audio keyframes, stereo tracks linked as one track, more real time effects, live timeline, multiple plugins on an audio clip, subframe sound editing, simple camera shake (handheld effect)

Final Cut: better trim mode, better multiuser environment, a script function, a simpler way to retrieve cuts after a crash, locators that remain in position, color track assignments, ability to make specific undos

And finally “a great assistant” and “a button that makes all my creative decisions for me.”


Frequent crashes tops the list here, on all systems, followed by system speed. I recently worked on an episodic series that used Meridiens. Although frustrated by the lack of modern features, it is remarkable what a solid performer the Meridien platform is. Almost no crashes, and a robust performance even though it was on an older Mac G4 tower.

What Feature Would You Like Implemented

These include: a link between titles (subtitles) and a text document or database, programmable macros like Quickeys, real DPX material, streaming to broadband.


Not many reported using tutorials, but there are some out there. The web sites Creative Cow, You Tube, Video Co-Pilot, and Avid (ALEX) were listed by some.

Message to ACE 

The following are a sample of messages to ACE (edited for space):

 “Avid MC  2.7 worked great without any crashes so far. (T)his compared to working on FCP with as many as 10 crashes a day.” Edgar Burksen, A.C.E.

“Remember to pass on your GOOD habits to your assistants - we teach by example!” Peter Basinski, A.C.E.

 “Love the Nitris DX. Get off of Meridien and help facilitate using new MC and especially the HD platform Nitris DX.” Martin Nicholson, A.C.E.

“Meredien worked just fine. Isn’t it about time that Avid was shamed into providing a useful and reliable product” Peter Boyle, A.C.E.

“prefer Moviola” Anonymous

“Technological advances are like your Mother-In-Law: often intrusive, but they’re not going away. You’ll be happier if you learn to embrace them.”  Stephen Semel, A.C.E.

“This is my third episodic series on FCP and I still find it amateurish and disruptive to the creative process - its a toy! Prefer my Avid.” Bonnie Kohler, A.C.E.

“Learn FPC. Its coming. And campaign for an affordable Avid editing system or a software-improved FCP.” Lori J. Coleman, A.C.E.

“This was the first time we attempted to use the ScriptSync and I found it totally unreliable.” Nancy Morrison, A.C.E.

“The Avid software only system is very good.” Anita Brandt Burgoyne, A.C.E.

“I love ACE.” Richard Halsey, A.C.E.

Message to

Finally, a survey question was “What message do you want to send to Apple / Avid / Lightworks?”.

First of all, there was no need to send any messages to Lightworks, as none were directed to them. 

Both Avid and Apple were sent email messages, with an attached document that had all responses to the above question. Each company was asked to respond in any way they’d like. The caveat was this magazine article had a deadline.

In just over a week, Avid sent two letters by Kirk Arnold, President of Avid’s Video division. The first was a reply to the general themes in the comments. The second was a specific answer / response to each comment from an ACE member.

The response from Avid was impressive by its detail, its breadth, and its timeliness. The ACE Board of Directors was impressed enough to send copies to each ACE member by mail and email. The letters are also posted on the ACE Tech Blog.

The essence of the reply was that Avid is listening to its customers, especially ACE, and is changing its products to meet the needs expressed by the comments they read.

From Apple? After two and a half weeks, the exchange of several emails with a senior products manager and their PR department, Apple had not responded to the ACE comments before this magazine’s deadline. If they do respond, it will be posted on the ACE Tech Blog. If….


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