FCPX, Zap Mama, and the ASR-33 Teletype

Yesterday Apple released their new software Final Cut Pro X. The release has received, to be generous, mixed reviews. Editors invest a lot of emotion in their editing software. As a group they are disproportionate to the general population left-handed and intelligent. Certainly, they will in time spend more time with their preferred software than the software company marketing reps and probably more than the people that wrote the code. When editors talk about editing software they can be very serious. I watched a video of Larry Jordan discussing FCP X and by his demeanor, you would have thought he was talking about AIDS in Africa or the latest Japanese tsunami fatality numbers. No, he was talking about editing software. A long time ago I began my editing career by agreeing to teach others if I would be given access to the latest computer technology, the CMX340 editor. I also had to learn the program loading through the DEC PDP11/03 minicomputer, the Re-Edit Assembler Program and audio mixing with CMX300 as a synchronizer. Because of my study and some luck in job openings I ended at CMX in Santa Clara as an instructor, software test supervisor, and chairman of the software review committee. By the time I was in software review position, the CMX software was approaching 11-13 years old. Elements of code from the original CBS labs and Memorex project that created the first light pen and disc based system in 1970 were still in the software code. (It was the CBS/Memorex project that gave CMX its name.) It was clear by this time that many things about the CMX software needed changing. For one there was a need for more information in the EDL that CMX created and which still bears its name. However, even though CMX owned a 70% market share of video editing systems worldwide, that hold was perceived by the company officers as being very tenuous. Nothing, nothing would be done that endanger the relationship with legacy customers. Some of the very early legacy customers still loaded their software and printed their EDLs on an antiquated museum piece called the ASR-33 teletype machine. The ASR-33 teletype machine printed a line length of 72 characters. The CMX EDL format was and would remain limited to the width of that which could printed on the ASR-33 teletype. 72 characters. It didn't matter that more information was needed in the EDL format; 72 characters was where it would stay locked in perpetuity. Other changes were needed in the CMX software. And passion about editing software was just as intense then as it is today. At trade shows like NAB my ear would be chewed off by editors that would seek out their fellow editor, me. Many things were needed, some small, some big. A database rewrite was needed. But that rewrite would take time and the risk of that delay in improvements was just too great. So instead of making the commitment to software changes that would renew the life of the product, the software was just patched over with the basic structural concepts remaining the same. Oh, yes, there was the brief flirtation with voice recognition and a keyboard with soft context sensitive keys on the CMX3400 or the reintroduction of a disk based system, the CMX approach would eventually die. And that is the brutal fact of video editing software. Each iteration has a life span. They will all will eventually die. Kind of like your dog that is your best friend in whole world, sooner or later you're going to have to say goodbye. There have been numerous video editing system companies that I can name and some of you will remember. CMX, of course, Convergence,Datatron, ISC that became Grass Valley, Ediflex, Montage, Epic, Lightworks, and on and on. Avid came on the scene in the early 90s. It too has gone through much the same story arc as CMX did. Over the years I have heard complaints about the Avid software and Avid the company and I would say to myself, "Geez where have I heard this before." Avid has faced many of the same dilemmas that CMX faced. They were both relatively small companies, although Avid is much, much bigger than CMX ever was. As their respective softwares got long in the tooth, the choice was A) patch the existing software or B) start over. The second choice for these small companies was just not acceptable. When Apple entered the video editing market, it represented a new paradigm for a company making video editing software. All previous entrants into the video editing market were start-ups with essentially no business outside their core product area. Avid's survival is due, in part, to its slightly broader product base. Apple entering the editing market created an immediate user base of Mac users. Many (most?) of these users of Final Cut had never touched a linear editing system and many to this day probably have never used Avid. This relationship with this user base created a unique clique of Mac users. These were customers of Apple that did not represent the core mission of the company as a consumer product based company. Video editing software is special in the spectrum of software complexity. At one point in the 90s it was said that the Avid was the most complex software that ran on a Mac. That was then. Video editing software has made huge strides since. Like all the developers video editing system software packages before, Apple would at some point face a choice. Patch the existing software and slowly watch it die or as they have done, start over. No previous developer of video editing software has had the resources to go for the second option. All went for option "A", patched their software and watched it slowly die. Back when the first users of Final Cut started using the software, Apple was a weaker company. It could care more about this small user base of professional editors. But, as the focus of Apple has changed, this allegiance can not be as strong. Maybe it never was. It's easy to forget that Apple is THE FIRST entrance into this arena of video editing software from consumer product based company. I have gone through phases in my music appreciation. My tastes change. At one time I was listening to a lot of World Music. One group on the World Music scene has been Zap Mama. I still kind of like them. They put on a great concert. At a Zap Mama concert, I would always be shocked and pleasantly surprised by how big the crowd was and how enthusiastic they were. Why, it was very easy to get in the feeling that, "Why this is the best music in the world! Everyone will love this music! Not just the people here, but people all across the world!" Well, the truth is that once I left the concert hall, I found this enthusiasm was not to be found. In fact, most people had never heard of Zap Mama. And this is why I am coining the expression "The Zap Mama Logical Fallacy". It is a very seductive conclusion to draw that because everyone around you feels a certain way about something, that EVERYONE feels that way. When you are in the middle of a very much self-selected group, conclusions about how the rest of the world feels are highly suspect. So, in the example at hand, a large number video editors, no matter how large or vocal, on the Internet does not reflect the world or the core interests of Apple. So what conclusions can be drawn from this? Well, after over 30 years, the script remains the same. Just the players change. All video editing system software packages die. It's sad. Especially when you are deeply attached to them. (I still miss my dog, Joe.) And if you make a deal with a consumer products company that has the wherewithal to start over with a new product... well, this is the first time this has happened. We'll have to see.

What To Post? What To Post?

At NAB someone asked Philip Bloom how to make a blog popular. "Well, make it funny.", he said. "And don't just post a collection of links to other people's blogs." I would agree. One man's "aggregation" is another person's "stealing". Look at sites like Gismodo and Engadget. Sometimes they are stealing from blogs that stole from someone else. It can take some serious digging to get to the original source. On the other hand, I have friends on my Facebook page (which I don't intend to link to here), that would like an archive of the links that I find there. Not all of these friends are as obsessively connected as I have become and do not see what some might think is common knowledge. So, I'm thinking, I will try to do both. I will continue to "aggregate". And, when I can organize a coherent thought, I will post that as well. My guess is that there will continue to be more aggregation than original writing due to time constraints.

Red Epic HDRx “Impossible Shot”

Read about this test shot here. To quote Stu Maschwitz about the Epic HDRx: It was designed to make highlights nicer. To take one last “curse” off digital cinema acquisition. This is not that. This is “stunt HDRx.”

Large Guelaguetza Prints On Display In Los Angeles

On Friday March 4, 2011, four of my large Guelaguetza photos went on display at the Guelaguetza Restaurant in Los Angeles. The restaurant is named after the festival at which the photos were taken.

The photo of the Huahuapan de Leon dancer with the swirling dress is behind the cash register

Toward the back of the restaurant there is a slightly raised seating area where the other three photos hang.

Lightworks – Soon To Be In A Commericial Near You


Light Works from Supernormals on Vimeo.

Ingenious use of bokeh - the effect caused by a subject out of focus. Behind the scenes of Lightworks.

Light Works - Behind The Scenes from Supernormals on Vimeo.

ArticShooter’s Photostream

Helge-Morten Mortensen has a most advantageous location for shooting a striking gallery of photos of the Aurora Borealis. Check them out here.

Smartlapse Software Upgrade for Oracle Controller

Kessler SmartLapse Tutorial from Tom Guilmette on Vimeo.

This tutorial is a bit long and and will, for me at least, a second or third viewing to fully comprehend. More can found at Tom Guilmette's blog Information on the Oracle upgrade can be found here.

Revisiting Vietnam

Catherine Karnow revisits Vietnam 20 years after taking the photograph of a moment in time on a train. It is that photograph -midpage-that drew me to this post. A composition and a moment of humanity captured together.

The Secret Photo Life of Vivian Maier

Chicago resident John Maloof found a box of 30,000 negative at an auction. He now is the caretaker of one of the most prolific street photographers of the 20th century.

Anatomy of A Great Photo

Lisa Bettany details how she took her remarkable photo of a full rainbow over the San Francisco Bay Bridge.   While there obviously was quite a bit of luck involved, there was also no small amount of  skill.