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Migrating from the Moviola

While I was attending the Broadcast Asia show in Singapore, a major product release happened. It was not at the show, but the news was all over the blogosphere; the release of the new version of Final Cut Pro caused much furor.

In its current guise, it is by no means a replacement for the legacy version. For the broadcaster, this raises two issues. One is the editor; which tools do they use, and how can they migrate to new products? The second is the many aspects around integration of the NLE into the wider systems.

Processes we carry out with software rely on a limited number of applications. For photo editing, there is one dominant product; and word processing is dominated by a single application. To edit video there is a wider choice, but still just a handful. Most editors become proficient with one application and only acquire a passing familiarity with competing products. If one NLE works for you, why bother with the rest? After all, it's a means to an end, a tool to edit the program.

It's change that causes problems. If editing never changed, we would still be using the Moviola. Every now and again, there must be changes to the tools to adapt to the media environment. The evolution from film to tape to solid state as the capture medium is one such change in the environment. Another is the move from dedicated hardware to much cheaper, commodity IT platforms, and the advantage of the massive processing power available.

In the wider broadcast chain, there is constant change. When I joined the industry, equipment was expected to last at least 10 years. Today that may be the case for infrastructure, routing and signal distribution, but even that is strained. How do you handle 3Gb/s and 5.1 audio when the system is 1.5Gb/s and stereo? The rate of change is accelerating, and infrastructures like IP help to manage that in a more format-agnostic way.

Final Cut Pro was widely adopted across the broadcast production chain for many reasons, but one was the ease with which it could be integrated into the wider workflow. Another was the low cost. The new version is a completely new product that bears the same name. As such, it no longer drops into existing workflows as a software upgrade.

Recently, I wrote an article about the use of Apple in the newsroom. (You can read the article online at http://broadcastengineering.com/automation/apple-in-then-newsroom/index.html.) Hundreds of stations use Final Cut for craft editing in the newsroom, tightly interfaced to the NRCS and the media management. In this issue, on page 8, I write about BPM and SOA. SOA potentially provides a solution to part of the current problem. If the NLE is encapsulated as a service, then plugging in a different product should not affect the rest of the broadcast operations. However, there is the human — the editor — an essential part of the editing service. Switching the editor to a new NLE application requires retraining; it needs time and the will to change.

The route forward for stations and networks that heavily depend on the legacy Final Cut is unclear today, but by the time IBC rolls around, I believe that the choices will be much clearer.

Broadcasting faces a time of great change, adapting to new distribution formats. This needs new tools, and it needs business agility to be able to adapt. There is not the option to preserve the status quo, but to embrace change. We have come a long way from the Moviola, but the journey has not finished; it's accelerating.

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