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NLE for Free? Almost.

Apple and Avid giving it away By Charlie White
You know the year's off to a great start when you hear that Avid and Apple are giving away nonlinear editing software. Well, almost. The other day Apple introduced a reduced-cost ($299) DV-only version of Final Cut Pro, called Final Cut Express. Not to be outdone, Avid announced that by the middle of this year, they'll be handing out free copies of software that sports a simplified version of the fabled Avid interface, in a training-wheels app called Free DV. Not that I'm complaining, but hey, what's going on here?

Apple and Avid are getting smarter, that's what. They saw how Microsoft gained dominance in the Web browser market, crushing all competitors by offering Internet Explorer for free. Grabbing market share and mind share can be expensive, but it's worth it. But there's more to it than that. These nonlinear editing software packages each represent a subculture of the postproduction industry. It looks to me like the corporate-think is, if you can get them into the fold while they're young, for free, you'll have a customer for life. It's the same sales tool used by another enormously successful group of marketers -- drug dealers.

This all starts to make sense if you think of it in terms of that phenomenon where the first intro you have to a new concept seems more special to you -- more real. Think of your first love, or your first nonlinear editing system. That seems to make an imprint on your brain, telling you that's the way this thing is supposed to be. We old timers can remember, long ago, when Avid and EMC were the only two editing systems on the market. Even though they could only be used for offline editing because of their awful picture quality, at the time they seemed miraculous to me. At first, Avid was nonlinear editing. So for me, I can still see the remnants of that vestigial thinking, still lurking in the nether reaches of my brain -- Avid is nonlinear editing, it repeats to me from time to time. I guess I got brainwashed.

Well, that's what these two clever companies are trying to do to the next generation of up-and-coming digital video editors. I think it's a smart strategy, and I think it'll work. And, it will behoove the smart newcomers to this field to take advantage of this opportunity, too, because if you're looking for work as an editor -- love 'em or hate 'em -- if you don't know the Final Cut Pro and Avid interfaces like the back of your hand, you might as well get used to asking the question, "Do you want fries with that?"

This software giveaway doesn't end with those two, either. Apple's great new iMovie 3 takes the simplest of the free nonlinear editors to a new level with new effects like Lens Flare and Aged Film. And, Apple's added what it calls the "Ken Burns effect" where you can create camera moves with stills and transition between them. Similar improvements are being made on the Windows side with Windows MovieMaker, albeit not as sophisticated. How's a company like Canopus, with its excellent Imaginate application (which does about the same thing) going to compete with this? Times might start getting tough for companies that specialize in plug-ins for these applications when they're already being included. The excellent new text tool in Premiere 6.5 also comes to mind, which makes the need for an outboard character generator pretty redundant. Who needs Inscriber when you can get it for free in Premiere?

Software developers like Apple and Avid, dealing with a slump in sales, are taking a few techniques out of Microsoft's playbook, and I think the users are going to win in the short term. But in the long term, I'd rather not see the failure of innovative plug-in companies like StageTools, makers of MovingPicture and MovingChart (both applications of simplicity and power, two terms that are an oxymoron when it comes to software). But not to worry -- there will always be room for innovation, no matter what features are added to existing editors, or which crippled applications are given away. Back when Windows 95 was introduced, many thought accessory and plug-in developers like Norton would be crushed, which didn't happen as completely as many predicted.

Anyway, unless these companies like Avid and Apple give away the entire farm, this software largesse has got to be good. At least it'll give window shoppers a free and easy opportunity to take the applications for a test drive, and some might want to just stay with the down-sized versions. It also might draw in some talented newbies where they may not have had the funds to try these applications before. I applaud this effort of the big players in content creation software development, because it's going to intensify interest already-bustling world of digital video editing, bringing it even closer to a mass-market phenomenon.

Charlie White, your humble storytellerCharlie White has been writing about new media and digital video since it was the laughingstock of the television industry. A technology journalist and columnist for the past eight years, White is also an Emmy-winning producer, video editor, broadcast industry consultant and shot-calling television director who has worked in broadcasting since 1974. Talk back -- Send Chazz a note at cwhite@digitalmedianet.com.

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Related Keywords:editorial, Charlie White, commentary, Avid, Apple, nonlinear editing software, Avid interface, Free DV, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express

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  • NLE for Free? Almost. by DMN Editorial at Aug. 03, 2004 11:45 pm gmt (Rec'd 3)

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