The Moving Picture: Bundle Up
Posted Jun 14, 2005

Over the next couple of months EventDV will be reviewing two "Studio" editing software bundles from Avid and Apple. Both are non-linear editing collections that include an NLE interface (Avid Xpress Pro and Final Cut Pro), as well as audio editing software, DVD authoring software, and other creation tools--Avid FX and Avid 3D in "Avid Xpress Studio" and Apple's Motion 2 motion graphics application in Final Cut Studio.

Adobe actually started this concept of bundling post-production software, at least in the non-linear editing world, a couple of years ago with its Video Collection (Adobe did the same thing for digital imaging with the Creative Suite). And, at a first cursory and cynical glance, their initial bundles smacked of marketing and profiteering. Here was Adobe taking industry-standard products like Photoshop and AfterEffects that everyone used and grouping them with products that either had greater competition, like Premiere Pro and the web-authoring GoLive, or were just being introduced in the market, like Encore DVD and Audition. Of course, the bundle prices were relative bargains compared to the products sold separately, but also added to Adobe's bottom line if the alternative was weak sales on the new products.

Yet Adobe's method wasn't the madness of greed, but rather about helping users to work smartly and efficiently. In fact, Adobe's bundles were a long time coming and followed years of re-engineering work by Adobe developers. Visibly, Adobe redesigned many application interfaces in order to deliver a consistent look and feel across the product line. But more importantly, Adobe engineered its applications to share not just files and file formats, but entire project files. That means, for example, you can work with Photoshop layers in Illustrator or Encore, or maintain Premiere Pro title effects and timeline video and audio tracks when you move to AfterEffects for motion graphics and back again. So, while the budget-pricing of Adobe's Video Collection and Creative Suite might be shrewd marketing, enticing more AfterEffects users to take another look at Premiere Pro instead of Avid, Canopus, Leitch, Ulead, or some other third-party editing interface, the real benefit is a more efficient workflow.

In his must-read article on building your next DV editing system, Configuring a DV Workstation, Jan Ozer analyzes each of the different hardware components in a typical editing system. How much actual time does a faster processor, or more RAM, a faster DVD burner, or direct-to-disc production, save you working on a typical editing project? I can't imagine buying a computer without agonizing over the price/performance ratios of each, as explored in Jan's article, and I found his test results illuminating.

Timesaving, or time-wasting, in software, on the other hand, is harder to assess. Everyone has a somewhat different way of working and most editors can tailor their workflow to whatever editing interface they've got. But that may not be the most efficient way to work. For example, early versions of Adobe Premiere were notoriously poor when it came to media management. Basically, you had a list of clips displayed in alphabetical order. That might have been fine for short multimedia projects that had a couple dozen clips and a few still images, but not for half-hour shows with a couple of hours of footage. And while Premiere Pro is much better now, offering the ability to group clips, build folders, and sort by any number of clip properties, those early media management shortcomings contribute, arguably, to Premiere's reputation as less-than-professional among some high-end users.

A more current example of timesaving is authoring a DVD. Any DVD authoring application out there can import a finished video file, build and link menus and buttons, and burn the disc. And, if you never make mistakes, the client never requests changes, and you never want to tweak the end product creatively, that workflow is fine. However, if real life happens to you, too, it would be nice to not have to re-import assets into your DVD authoring application, or worse, re-author the entire project. Adobe's Encore, for example, shares project data with Photoshop, After Effects, and Pemiere Pro. That lets you to make changes to a finished video after it's finished, or adjust a motion menu after you've shown it to the client, or tweak a menu background in Photoshop to match the button still frames--all with round-trip efficiency and all without ever having to close your Encore authoring project.

Avid and Apple each have an impressive set of tools in their respective bundles. Avid's Xpress Studio HD features Avid Xpress Pro, Avid FX, Avid 3D, ProTools LE, and Avid DVD. Apple includes Final Cut Pro 5, Motion 2, Soundtrack Pro, and DVD Studio Pro 4 in its Final Cut Studio. As we review these bundles, we'll evaluate each of the tools and point out ways different features help the event videographer. But with each of the individual tools maturing and becoming familiar to many users, how each editing interface opens its effects editor or trims an audio clip may be less revealing than how the different applications work together to help you work more efficiently.