Our short and sweet blog post yesterday about switching to Avid MC6 for our broadcast work touched off a flurry of requests for yet more information on our decision. Folks want to know “what specific features did it have that the others didn’t.” “Can you break it down feature by feature, why you made the switch?” “You seemed so gung-ho about Adobe early on in your switch.”
Honestly I can’t break it down like that. For almost 6 months now we’ve had one edit suite running MC6 and one running Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 pretty much full time in each room. FCP 7 has been used in both rooms as necessary and I’ve also been cutting with Adobe CS 5.5 primarily on smaller projects. So this has been a real solid test. Three rooms cutting real projects with real clients in the room.
In a situation like this, you don’t compare “feature by feature.” You compare, “how does this work with the client looking over my shoulder?” Is the system efficient, can I do everything from FCP, what is the client experience, does the system service all of my needs?
Real world, client over the shoulder experience, Avid’s strength is the performance of the software in our FCP based infrastructure. What that means is my entire facility was designed to support Final Cut Pro. Mac Pros, AJA Kona video I/O boards, Small Tree Ethernet based shared storage system and a slew of third party hardware and applications. When we dropped Avid Media Composer 6 into that infrastructure with the appropriate AJA Kona drivers, the system didn’t miss a beat. We were truly stunned that Avid’s support of our hardware was that good. Tape capture and mastering are more efficient and more accurate than what we ever had with FCP. Overall performance of the Avid MC6 software on the same exact machine as FCP7 is much faster.
In comparison, Adobe Premiere Pro causes all sorts of playback and audio issues on output to our external monitors. This led to less than desirable client experiences in the edit suite. As long as the client wasn’t in the room, we would leave the external monitor turned off, but even there audio playback issues still plagued the system. See when I first started testing and posting about Adobe Premiere Pro, it was all from my 27″ iMac at home, so there was no external monitoring. At first the output seemed to work pretty well, but then things kept getting wonky and we could not get output to ever work consistently across multiple workstation.
And all of us were disappointed, to say the least, that tape capture / tape mastering is abysmal in Premiere Pro CS 5.5 with tape still being a very large part of our day to day workflow. Yes, the world is going digital, but we have a lot of shooters who still shoot tape and we have thousands of hours of tape on our shelves that get used for documentary and news projects. Lack of audio controls in the Source, track assignments and a lot of other small things created stumbling blocks and inefficiency in the workflow. Our overall feeling is that Adobe has got a lot of advanced features that nobody else has, but the basic core editing experience leaves a lot to be desired and at the end of the day, we’re storytellers and need a solid core editing tool. Yes we are aware that Adobe is most likely going to introduce CS6 soon and with any luck some of these issues will begin to be addressed. Premiere Pro will still play a part in our facility on smaller projects and potentially an independent documentary.
But right now, after so many months of using both systems in our core FCP infrastructure, Avid MC6 just performs so much better. It’s actually a more limited toolset when you consider that we purchase the Adobe Production Premium suite that comes with all the other applications, it seems like a waste to spend that money on just one tool. But it makes you appreciate the tool for what it is. One hell of a very fast storytelling machine. Yes there is frustration because we have to “un-learn” a lot of our FCP mindset and re-think our workflow more with Avid than a transition to Adobe Premiere Pro. But that’s just learning which buttons to press.
So there you go, that’s more of our reasoning on taking Avid MC6 to all of our broadcast work, in a nutshell there’s more of a comfort factor bringing the product onboard for broadcast. This was probably the biggest decision I’ve had to make in my career after almost 12 years of keeping Avid OUT of my facility. But Avid truly did listen to what we told them and opened up the software to a world of possibilities by letting me simply drop it into an existing infrastructure.