Because you asked… More on our Switch to Avid MC6

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.

 

 

13 Comments

  1. I ran both AVID MC 6 and Premiere Pro 5.5 side by side for a month to make my decision. I WANTED AVID to work but the deal breaker was it wouldn’t play nice with my two MOTU audio interfaces which have become an integral part of sound design work I do.

    I see AVID has partnered with MOTU on new gear but if AVID wants the penetration it wants, they have to get serious about opening up to audio interfaces much beyond Pro Tools and their other related brands.

    It was really clear to me within hours that AVID from a pure editing perspective was best but unless you have specific approved gear, it won’t work.

    Obviously, they realized the importance of getting AJA cards to play nice with AVID and made it so but they still have a LONG way to go in terms of interoperability with other hardware, particularly on the audio front.

    Glad it worked out for your shop Walter.

    -Andrew Stone

    • I honestly don’t know anyone running MOTU equipment in their edit suites. I do know that Avid works brilliantly with AJA, BlackMagic and Matrox products which are the three third party hardware solutions most former FCP editors were using.

      MOTU asked me on several occasions to test out their products, but we never did because we had heard from multiple other users that the products did not work all that well with FCP, especially compared to the AJA products we already run.

      Sorry that didn’t work out for you, but Avid has done a remarkable job getting MC6 to work well with the predominate third party hardware out there including not only the video cards but third party shared storage solutions.

      Best.

      Walter

  2. Walter,

    Have you been thinking about upgrading to a shared project environment as well? To me, it is the biggest leg up that Avid has on anyone else. Nothing can beat it when you are working on a multiple episode run of a show and want to easily collaborate across edits. FCP and Premier have nothing to compare to it.

    As for MC 6, have you come across any bugs that are worth mentioning?

    Thanks for all your wonderful sharing of info!

    - Liam Lawyer

    • Yep, all of our projects have been shared projects so far, it’s pretty cool how that works.

      Nothing on MC6 that is a show stopper, all software has quirks and MC 6 is no exception, but it’s a very solid piece of software and simply works so well with our hardware. It’s a no brainer to put it into broadcast production quite honestly while still keeping Premiere Pro running on non-broadcast projects.

  3. Walter,

    How exactly is your shared storage working with Avid? I was under the impression that a file level SAN wouldn’t work properly with Avid as the media database would be written over by each workstation. Are you using something to get around this issue?

    -Chris Tomberlin

    • We are using zero SAN management software and it just works. We have tested two workstations writing / reading to the exact same partition on the SAN and have only run into an issue when both systems are capturing and finish their captures at the exact same time. We’ll get a “corrupted file” message from one of the workstations. Simply recapture and all is well.

      Two times we had to trash the database file on the SAN partition and have it rebuild itself and all was well.

      The fact that Avid Media Composer can works so well with our SAN (actually it’s a NAS if you want to be technical about it) was the clincher for us bringing it on into production.

      • But are you actually sharing a single project on the Small Tree based Nas? Can you open the same project on two or more systems and have proper bin locking? It sounds like you are sharing media, not projects. The real beauty of Avid project sharing requires Avid file system emulation, or has Small Tree found some other way?

        • To date we have not attempted to have two system share a single project. We haven’t required this workflow in the past, we have come up with all sorts of alternatives using Final Cut Pro and we can continue to do so now if we need to.

          We ARE sharing the exact same media partition between two systems with multiple projects and that is working just fine.

  4. Walter, you are spot on when you say that PPro CS 5.5 has many cool features that I wish were incorporated in MC. And, you are equally correct when you say it is a poorer editing product. I run mostly CS 5.5 with Matrox hardware. When it works, it’s great. But I can’t count on it working flawlessly from one edit session to another like I can with MC.

    • It’s not so much that CS 5.5 is a “poorer editing product.” In some ways it far exceeds what Avid can do today. But many of the simple, core features needed to edit simply and quickly are still not quite there. Too much “designed by an engineer” still there. It does have a place in our facility, just not broadcast or reality editing.

      I’m expecting CS6 will be a major step forward and am looking forward to seeing what Adobe brings to the table in Las Vegas. But we’re all happy with our choice to move forward with Avid MC6 for broadcast editing and of course we’ll still use a large chunk of the CS 5.5 suite for graphics / compositing, etc….

  5. Hi. Dario from Argentina. I have been working with Avid since the last two years. Now I update from 5.5.2 to MC6. The first version of MC6 had a lot of bugs, so I wait to MC6.01 and now I can say is stable and do my pass to it. works perfect.
    I use a Qnap Pro to share projects and works perfect.
    When I do small projects, I work with Edius PRO 6. It’s really rocksolid like Avid, and do an increible job in work with a lot of codecs and transcode. Very very fast and is the only software that can edit from the begining with dsrl material without need of transcode.
    The last month I have to work with a project done in Premiere, and was painfull. The slow process and the crashes I had was terrible.
    So, for me, documentaries or larger projects, Avid. Small project that need fast workflow, Edius PRO 6.
    Sorry for my bad english, I must practice.
    See U
    Dario

  6. Walter, clearly you are a knowledgeable and talented man. But I’m curious why you were so adamant about keeping Avid out of your facility for so long to begin with?

    “Tape capture and mastering are more efficient and more accurate than what we ever had with FCP.” That’s nothing new for those of us who have been forced to deal with finishing in both Final Cut and Avid these last few years. I’ve cried tears of pain here in Los Angeles anytime a project was brought to me that needed an HDCAM finish and had ben cut in Final Cut Pro. Creative editing might be another story, but when it comes to finishing, Final Cut Studio has been a nightmare since day one, in my opinion. When it came to tape layoff and finish, Apple never had it right. I think in the coming months you are going to find your shows flying out the door with a swiftness you never thought possible.

    • Walter, clearly you are a knowledgeable and talented man. But I’m curious why you were so adamant about keeping Avid out of your facility for so long to begin with?

      Easy. Cost vs. performance. We built an entire company around Final Cut Pro because it was a great tool, excellent price and we could meet the most demanding network requirements. I was not going to buy proprietary hardware just to support one software application. Proprietary hardware that was way overpriced to boot. I could build 3 or 4 FCP edit suites to one Avid suite and run them at a more cost effective rate for my clients. That’s how we’ve expanded our company twice in the last 11 years.

      When I say tape capturing / mastering are more efficient and accurate than ever, I really mean when it comes to insert editing. I’ve never had a problem with actually mastering shows via FCP. I don’t know how many hundreds of broadcast shows we’ve mastered over the past 11 years but everything was done with FCP.

      It wasn’t until Avid finally opened up the software to third party that it became viable for our facility. So now we’ve added to our toolbox along with Adobe Premiere Pro.

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