|By Larry Jordan
The end of a year, and start of a new one, is a good time to look back and reflect on changes over the last 12 months, which is how this blog starts.
I also invited users to share their thoughts on the last year. So, here is a look back at 2012 both from my perspective and from the point of view of the folks in the trenches.
NOTE: In the truth-in-advertising department, I edited many of the reader comments for spelling, length, and clarity.
To me, 2012 was a year where our industry continued to struggle under tremendous pressure in three areas: business, technology, and jobs.
The biggest business challenges in 2012 were the twin hammers of more competition creating smaller budgets. From my perspective, this translated into five business trends emerging over the last year:
▪ Barriers to entry continued to drop, which increased competition for available jobs, which meant jobs pay less
▪ Shrinking budgets are affecting all of us
▪ Being an early-adopter does not translate into increased revenue
▪ Deadlines are shorter and staff needs to be smaller
▪ Compared to phones and tablets, media production is a very niche market
One of the problems of being a niche market is that it is very hard for vendors to keep prices low with limited volume, yet it is very hard for filmmakers to pay high prices when budgets are getting squeezed.
This is quickly shifting the mantra from "higher quality is better," to "the quality is good enough."
Here, the key trend that I saw was that technology is now changing faster than most editors can afford to upgrade to it. This caused many to continue using last year's technology and delay making new purchases because there is not enough perceived value in the new offerings; especially when combined with enormous budget pressure to control costs.
So, lots of cool stuff gets announced, but adoption rates are slow to take off.
▪ Hardware and technology are evolving faster than budgets can support upgrades, which means many editors are delaying purchasing new gear
▪ Storage capacity and speed became more important than computer speed
▪ GPUs took over the heavy-lifting in video editing
▪ Camera codecs continued to proliferate and caused no end of confusion and frustration
▪ Software prices are plummeting
▪ The Cloud is here with reasonable benefits for production. The Cloud may be here for post production, but the benefits are still limited, insecure, and over-stated.
▪ There are still no affordable long-term archiving solutions for small to medium production houses and editors
A sidelight of this is that product reviews and evaluations from trusted sources will become increasingly important.
▪ Jobs are starting to appear again, though the competition will be greater for them
▪ Editors are increasingly asked to "do it all"
▪ Editors are less likely to define themselves by the tools they use
WHAT THIS MEANS
What all this means is that there is more work, with smaller budgets, being spread between more people. I expect those pressures to continue into 2013.
As editors, this means we need to keep our skills sharp, our costs low, and carefully evaluate every purchase to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs. Also, the industry is not standing still. Older software tools will not be supported forever. Cameras change, codecs change, connectivity and storage change - we need to prepare ourselves to change with them.
As vendors, this means that companies that have price elasticity, the ability to reach beyond their traditional markets, and compelling benefits compared to price will be more successful in the industry than those that don't. The increasing numbers of new users in filmmaking also means you need to market to people you don't know, yet.
As for the storage industry, developing yet another "me-too" storage product will be an exercise in marketing to low-margins. However, developing a long-term way to archive those assets at a seriously affordable price point is an out-of-the-park home run. Still, it will probably take someone outside our industry to think outside the box enough to solve this problem.
SIDEBAR - THE WAKE-UP CALL
Apple's launch of Final Cut Pro X in 2011 was a wake-up call to the industry that we needed to redefine who we were. We saw those results playing out throughout 2012.
In the past, editors would define themselves by their tools: "I'm a Final Cut Editor," or "I'm an Avid Editor." As we discovered, those distinctions can get in our way.
Clients hire us because we can tell stories, on time and on-budget. Whether we use Final Cut, or Premiere, or Media Composer, or a Commodore 64 is irrelevant to a client giving us a job.
Just as you wouldn't hire a carpenter simply because of the brand of hammer that they use, we discovered that clients could care less what software we use. This year, we discovered that, in today's world, we needed more than one editing technology in our toolkit.
I am a fan of Final Cut Pro X because there are some things it does amazingly well. I'm also a fan of Premiere Pro CS6 because it can do things that FCP X doesn't. And I still edit projects every week using Final Cut Pro 7 because there are things it does better than Premiere and FCP X.
In other words, I am not defining myself in terms of the tools I use; I am defining myself in terms of the work I create. And, based on conversations with many other editors, they too have come to the same conclusion.
Everyone has the right to choose their own tools and to encourage others to follow their lead. However, I think 2012 took us past the "one-tool-is-enough" stage. Now, there are so many excellent software tools, at increasingly attractive prices, it is foolish not to know more than one.
It is equally foolish, though easy to understand, to remain wedded to the technology of the past. DV, tape, and standard-definition are all almost dead. You may be able to get a bit more life from them, but you need to be planning NOW what you are going to do NEXT.
READERS RESPOND - WHAT WERE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF 2012?
CHIP DIZÁRD - Baltimore
▪ Clients don't care what NLE I use, as long as I get their project [done] on time.
▪ FCPX updating to 10.0.7 to a real NLE I can use day in and day out.
▪ CS 6 customizing it like FCP 7 so when I want to go back to my familiar editing space, I can.
FRANK MAXWELL - Trowbridge, England
I think Apple should take the highlight and us folks who have the cash should take the spotlight.... I like FCP X better than FCP 7. It is much better to understand and everything is at my fingertips.
ALAN DAY - Cape Town, South Africa
My highlight for 2012 turned out to be going back to FCP for a client's edit and finding out how utterly dreadful it was!!! So happy with Adobe.
STEVE ABARTA - Simi Valley, CA
I'm really impressed with the advances made by Apple with FCP X this past year. This was, for me, already a wonderful upgrade from FCP 7, but where it is today compared to just 12 short months ago, is really miraculous. Oh, it still has its "crash" moments, but I have really fallen in love with it.
MARLENE HIELEMA - Calgary, AB
The most significant product in the photo industry - which I am part of - is the coming of age of the mirrorless cameras - most notably the Panasonic Lumix GH3, its fast lenses and its video capabilities including real video autofocus capabilities! This makes it a true hybrid machine for photographers (hybrid = photo+video+ audio).
The most significant change in my business is the addition of video to my [still photo] services, on a limited basis for now. Plus, I started video blogging with a new group a couple of months ago.
DOUG SPARKMAN - Murfreesboro, TN
Obviously, the most significant thing is that Apple turned FCP X into a pro caliber NLE this year. CS6 is also significant.
JIM MCQUAID - North Carolina
It's been the best year to buy a fantastic new digital cinema camera. And, it's been the worst year to buy a new digital cinema camera.
Products like the BlackMagic camera, the Sony F5 and others are amazing but the rate of change is still so high that it's crazy. I'm holding my cards for another year and sticking with the lowly DSLR (and my trusty EX1)."
JEFF ORIG - Honolulu, HI
[I want] to emphasize how important the Gangnam Style video is. We have to keep in mind that this song is from a Korean pop star sung mostly in Korean. This is important because the US is notorious for NOT liking foreign language material. This is seen in the lack of foreign films [displayed] in the US. and further represented by strong anti-immigration feelings in the US.
FCP X turns one; great improvements to software that represents the future of editing. It still has a ways to go to being perfect like FCP7 (FCP7 was perfect for old workflows) but FCP X is the future.
All 2,482 new cameras that were announced. When camera companies compete, buyers/consumers of these cameras win. A few cameras that are of note on my radar: Canon 5Dm3, 6D, C100, Sony FS700, VG-900, F5, F55, Red Epic, Scarlett, battle-tested Red One's, BlackMagic Cinema Camera, GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition, Sony RX100, NEX7, and on and on and on. Which is great. Competition helps pricing and breeds innovation.
Apple announces the MacPro for 2013.
Thunderbolt is amazing with drives and accessories reaching market.
USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt on MacBooks is awesome. USB 3.0 is super fast and affordable. I love downloading CF and SD cards with my USB 3.0 readers to Thunderbolt drives.
Hollywood continues to use DSLR [cameras] as a part of production. This is an inspiration and I no longer have an excuse to not make movies.
The digital revolution has now reached a major milestone that it has democratized content creation. Cameras and editing systems of professional quality are within reach of almost everyone in the first world.
Plus, distribution of the content has also been democratized with services like YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook. We are no longer at the mercy and whim of traditional distributors like studios or networks.
KEN ACKERMAN - Portland
As a video hobbyist, the most significant thing that changed for me this year has been the introduction of Adobe's Creative Cloud. I have never been able to afford the latest Creative Design Premium Suites from Adobe due to their pricing. The Creative Cloud has changed that for me.
IMO, this is really a masterstroke of strategy by Adobe. It maximizes their return and increases their market share. My guess is they will attract enough "new" users to effectively claim ownership of the " Pro" NLE market, leaving Apple in the dust.
Up to date quality tools are crucial for those earning money from video production, but now it doesn't preclude hobbyist's either.
JERRY THOMPSON - Christiana, TN
Deliverables are changing. It is becoming ever increasingly difficult to pick up media (blank or mastered/audio or video) in retail stores. Severely shrinking inventories at retail locations force us to purchase larger quantities from places like DiscMakers or B&H.
RICHARD OSSO - Hanson, MA
Apple finally made a significant amount of upgrades for FCP X that I am now going to upgrade. Though I have little time to play and shorten my learning curve, I am grateful that you provide video tutorials to get us through that FIRST FEAR of something new.....until we become comfortable enough to slide our projects from FCP 7 to X.
STU AULL - Fairbanks, AK
[The lack of] reasonably priced LTO archiving systems for small production houses! [Especially as a Red owner] one of the big challenges is archiving reams of image and program data on some cost-effective, "reliable" medium.
The first one out of the gate with an affordable package will deservedly make a killing.
IT'S A WRAP
Those are my thoughts and those of other readers. As always, I'd love to know what you think.
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Larry Jordan is a producer, director, editor, author, and Apple-Certified trainer with more than 35 year's production experience. Based in Los Angeles, he's a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America. Visit his Website at http://www.larryjordan.biz.