Wednesday, July 07, 2010

2009 ACE Equipment Survey - Notes

Reprinted from Cinema Editor Magazine

The results have been compiled for the 2009 ACE Equipment survey (see complete results below). This was the first year the entire survey was conducted over the web. Thanks to everyone that contributed. For those who meant to, but missed, Ill be counting on you next year to help.

As stated on previous surveys, the results are helpful in showing trends for ACE editors, for providing feedback to equipment and software vendors, and to ACE. There is no suggestion that these results reflect the video editing industry as a whole just the trends, thoughts, and feelings of the best editors in the world.

First of all, there were 130 responses submitted, a new record for the 6 years of this survey. Here is are partial results.

(see the Edit System Results below)

Avid DX / Mojo is making a very strong showing, not replacing Adrenaline but heading in that direction. Final Cut Pro remains steady at about 20% of the systems. Lightworks had two projects, so there is still someone still cutting on that platform. For those wondering, Lightworks is now owned by EditShare, a company in the UK.

(see the Show Type Results below)

Wow: the Mini-Series is Back! From 0 to .78%. Otherwise, not much to glean from this category. Either there are fewer features being made or fewer feature editors are filling out surveys. Youre pick.

(see the Camera Original Results below)

This shows a huge shift from shooting film to shooting HD 24p. It bears out what Ive heard from several shows who this past year dropped film for digital (NCIS, BONES). I suspect this trend will continue  and our editing rooms will get the firehose of digital dailies every day. This is because while shooting film, production was more likely to turn the cameras off once and a while. Digital photography is another reason to learn more about technology and how your production pipeline works.

(see the Who Chose System Results below)

The editor is down to 39%, while producer / studio is over 54%. Ugh. I absolutely hate when a system is chosen without my input.

Selected comments from the 2009 ACE Equipment Survey or 
"The Easy-Bake Oven of Editing Software"

The following are some of the comments submitted with the 2009 ACE Equipment Survey.

Question: What feature to your edit system is most useful?

This question drew a wide variety of responses including Compressor, DVDit, Squeeze, Color Correction, Sapphire, Marquee, Timewarp, Boris, and trim mode. But the largest number of responders mentioned ScriptSync (16), Avid vfx (13), and Motion (7). I dont use ScriptSync much, but I know several editors who do and find it a essential feature in their workflow.

What feature would you most like to see added to your edit system?
Audio: "I would like to be able to assign number values to the volume level on the timeline rather than slide the markers up and down."

"Change Audio level on all clips in a bin at once (imported music comes in way too hot)."  Current versions of Avid allow you to lower the level of imported media. FCP doesnt have a way of lowering master clip volume in a bin or on import, and it is certainly needed.

Audio Effects: "Multiple audio effects." Many respondents listed multiple audio effects as one of their requests. This is a capability of FCP.

Audio Editing: "In AVID I'd like to be able to cut sub-frame sound."  Several people suggested this.

Sync: "(Fix) FCP audio in sync with client monitor."  Although Ive heard it said "sync is the hobgoblin of a small mind", yes this is a terrible problem that has never been addressed.

Search: "GLOBAL SEARCH INSIDE CLOSED BINS (Come on, it's 2010 already!)"

DVD: "Instant output to DVD." This request came from multiple respondents. It is such a common need that having to first go to Compressor, or Squeeze, or DVDit to make a DVD is silly.

"Timeline keeps playing while you move around. / Select groups of audio keyframes so you can move them together / Multiple audiosuites on same clip. / Easily move media to another system." This must be from an Avid user, as much of this describes Final Cut Pro.

Rendering: this is a big issue with many responders. Visual effects and outputs require a lot of render time. One of the ways of reducing rendering is to have specific hardware to render on the fly visual effects. But most people want less proprietary hardware. There is no simple answer to this.

"Background creation of Quicktimes." This can somewhat be done by outputting a Quicktime Reference file, then finishing the QT within Quicktime Pro.

ScriptSync: "A transcript of a sequence edited from ScriptSync would change my life, and blow FCP out of the editing rooms."
Message to Avid execs

The following are some of the comments forwarded to the CEO and the President of Avid Technologies.

"Final Cut does not have as good an interface but has many features that are leaving Avid in the dust."

"Make your software more friendly to standard video I/O cards like Kona  and Decklink, and have your software use QuickTime files instead of your proprietary formats, which take forever to convert to standard files for post sound work."

"Presently I have to transcode my AVCHD files to Quicktime in Adobe Premiere then import into AVID.  It would be nice if the .mts files could be imported directly into avid."

"Figure out a way to have the Avid software work without the expensive hardware so that the system costs are on a par with Final Cut Pro."  Actually, the costs between the two systems are close to the point of irrelevance.

"Crashes are still a problem." An Avid engineer told me that the crash rate has been improved to near Meridien levels of one crash every 18 hours. Not me. I think I sometimes crash at least 10 times a day. My motto: Save Early, Save Often.

"Spend  an entire day in a feature cutting room and observe the work flow first hand. See what happens when you get 25K feet of film a day and how better Avid might meet the needs of a feature editor." Just before the 2010 Eddy Awards, one of Avids senior product engineer visited for an entire day at my cutting room on Caprica. He talked with every editor and assistant, and wrote down every bug, every concern, and every feature request. And he solved several problems. The next day he visited a big budget effects feature, where I believe he did the same thing. The only similar time I had with an Apple engineer, he told us we werent using the software correctly, and showed us a few workarounds.

"I'd like to have better online access to tech support questions." The Apple and Avid forums are really great resources. I have great luck with people answering my questions.

"Please fix the scripting system to allow multiple lines to be scripted within one take."

Memory management: "Avid tends to get clogged up as we open new bins.  There is no good way to refresh the memory use, other than restarting the MC.  Doing a complicated show like Avatar where we used 24 video tracks for every reel radically slowed the system and we crashed everyday if not every few hours.  Much work was lost and had to be redone.  The auto save function would not work, because the memory of the system was used up.  There will be more movies using the maximum video tracks and they will encounter the same problems."

"I would like to see the porting of more time consuming activities like rendering, consolidating, etc. to work 'behind the scenes,' allowing the user to continue working on the system."


Although Apple has a substantial presence in film and television editing, they aren't the biggest player in software. The good news is the biggest player, Avid, has become very responsive to the needs of editors. They are making significant improvements in the software and hardware. And they very much are paying attention to what ACE editors say.

So it is incumbent on us to research technical issues and to make an effort to solve them rather than just complain. There are lots of sources of information. Many of the problems mentioned in the survey have been solved by newer versions of Media Composer, such as transition preservation. And if you like a specific version of software, you are under no obligation to cut on a newer system. There are plenty of Meridien systems available still.

Me: Im just happy someone is paying attention.

Finally, my favorite comment to Avid:

"(You) need to work on you PR because people in the low budget world think FCP is the only choice and I have a hard time convincing them otherwise.  And to me, FCP is still the Easy Bake Oven of editing systems."


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