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Avid's "New Thinking"

Avid's Kirk Arnold speaks on Avid's new solutions By Kevin McAuliffe

With the recent release of Media Composer 3.0, new hardware configurations, a price cut on both hardware and software, and their "New Thinking" philosophy, Avid is turning a lot of heads in the post production industry.  DMN contributing editor Kevin McAuliffe had the chance to ask Kirk Arnold, Executive Vice President of Customer Operations at Avid Technology about some of these bold steps.

DMN: Tell me a little about Avid's "New Thinking" philosophy.
Kirk Arnold: Avid's "New Thinking" philosophy, at the core, is about transforming the company to focus more directly on the needs of our customers. "New Thinking" was built on the following four principles: increasing the value of Avid's products, workflows, and services; advancing technical and customer support programs; investing in the community of media professionals; and fostering an open, two-way dialogue with customers. It's not a campaign designed to run for just three or six months, it's something we are continually driving toward as a company,  in everything we do. The transformation has been underway for the past four months and we've received a lot of positive feedback from our customers and the industry at-large.

DMN: Avid has now given us a one in four choice, when choosing an editing platform/package. For people who are unfamiliar, or are buying a system for the first time, can you give us an idea of who these packages are directed at (i.e. Mojo DX, MC Nitris, Symphony Nitris, DS Nitris)?
KA: As a company focused on supporting content creation and the business of moving and managing media, we don't believe in a one-size fits all approach for our products. Our products are delineated by what our customers are trying to achieve. On the post production side, we see the breakdown of the products to serve the following groups.

Media Composer software-- Ideal for independent or mobile film and video editors looking for a portable offline editing solution with support for file-based editing.

Media Composer Mojo DX -- Ideal for small studios, production companies or customers looking to do on-location work-- offering standard digital SD and HD I/O.

Media Composer Nitris DX-- Geared towards post production facilities or anyone looking for a full feature edit bay--offering analog and digital I/O with Avid DNxHD encode and decode.

Symphony Nitris DX--Ideal for online finishing facilities looking for all the features of the Media Composer plus secondary and relational color correction and universal mastering.

DS Nitris-- Ideal for large online finishing facilities looking to do HD, SD, and 2K/4K finishing and compositing for film, television and commercial work.

DMN: Avid has made some pretty aggressive strides in the last six months with the "New Thinking" campaign, the price drop across the board on all hardware and software and the "merging" of XpressPro with Media Composer.  What message is Avid trying to get to its customer base, and the rest of the post community?
KA: The most important thing to the livelihood of Avid as a business is our customers. It's critical that we continue to have a two way dialogue to help them solve their business and workflow issues and better understand what they need to be successful and profitable as businesses and individuals. They've told us that value, performance and quality of solutions are what matter most to them. Without these key ingredients, they are not able to effectively do their jobs.

That was why the recent launch of our DX product line was so successful. Our customers saw that we were making good on our promise to engage with them and deliver a set of extremely fast and responsive HD editing solutions that provide greater creative freedom and flexibility, at a compelling value point.

DMN:  With no mention of its future, or even its "now", where does Adrenaline fit into Avid's "New Thinking" plan?
KA: When we announced our new editing lineup in April, we also announced that our Adrenaline products would be in production through December 2008. Customers can purchase Adrenaline systems through December and we will continue to offer support on those systems through Q2 2013 - to customers with Avid Assurance contracts. However, with our aggressive pricing and the performance our customers have been seeing from the new DX lineup of products, we would encourage any customer looking to purchase a new system to look at the new products first.

DMN:  Looking at the new MojoDX specifically, is there a reason that Avid moved away from an SDI/firewire capture device to a unit that requires a PCIe x4 slot (for workstations) or a ExpressCard slot (for laptops)?  What is Avid doing to take care of their "firewire" user base that capture from SDI enabled VTR's?
KA: The primary reason for moving from Firewire-based hardware to PCIe-based solutions was to enhance the performance of our solutions and remove some of the latency issues associated with Firewire. In workflows requiring multiple HD streams, Firewire's 400 megabits per second ceiling can be very limiting. Even in less taxing workflows, PCIe hardware allows for better ballistics. So far, our customers are very impressed with the responsiveness of the Nitris DX and Mojo DX systems. Of course we realize that we have a significant installed base of customers using our Firewire-based products. To ease their transition, we made sure that the latest releases (Media Composer 3.0 and Symphony 3.0) continue to work with Firewire-based Adrenaline and Mojo hardware. Symphony 3.0 continues to work with the PCI-based Nitris as well. If our Firewire-based solutions are meeting customer's needs, they can continue to use them with our current generation of editors.

DMN:  With all the changes that Avid made to its product line, why are Symphony and Media Composer still two separate platforms.
KA: Our customers have told us that based on their job responsibility, they don't necessarily need all of the functionality in one application. Through these conversations, we still believe that the two applications fit their specific niche in the market. The major difference between the two is that Symphony Nitris DX includes finishing features such as the Symphony Color Corrector, with secondary and relational color correction for more powerful color tools and greater productivity, as well as HD Universal Mastering (23.97/24/25). That's not something we are seeing as "must have" features from the core of our customers who are using Media Composer for the creative edit process.

DMN: These days we're seeing more and more individuals purchasing editing systems to edit in their homes.  What do you feel makes Avid the editing platform of choice for the independent producer/director/editor?
KA: We understand what our customers need to be successful and our goal is to provide them with the solutions that help them solve problems and achieve success. For instance, we know that the majority of independent producers/directors/editors are working on tight budgets-- thus they need to make sure that the technology is reliable, flexible and works within their constraints of time and budget.

The three features we consistently hear independent filmmakers rave about are: our media management capabilities, ScriptSync and the clean offline to online workflow Avid systems offer.

Our customers have told us that our superior media management capabilities have made it a no-brainer for them to use Avid solutions on their productions. In the case of documentary work where there is so much footage to handle, our customers rely heavily on being able to organize that media, track where it's stored and easily access it whenever they need it. Losing media in the middle of a production is one of the worst things that can happen to an independent filmmaker-- because it can take days and weeks to find or restore it and most of these productions don't have the kind of budget required for that.

ScriptSync takes Avid script-based editing to a new level by accelerating the editorial process using phonetic indexing of text and dialogue to "sync" source clips automatically with the script itself. Once synchronized, the user can find the best performance instantly by quickly comparing takes in the context of the story. We've had some customers tell us that this has allowed them to complete this process about 25 times faster than what it used to take doing it manually. The nice thing about it is you can also use it in unscripted work as long as there is a transcript, which makes it perfect for documentary and reality TV work. We recently showed this to a group of reality TV show editors (who also dabble in documentary work) and their jaws dropped-- they couldn't believe how much time it was going to save them.

Independent customers also tell us that they love the seamless transition from offline to online with Avid systems. Using a complete Avid workflow enables these customers to complete the creative editorial process on their Media Composer software-only system at home and bring that complete project to a facility that has an Avid Symphony Nitris DX or Avid DS Nitris,  for color correction, FX or finishing. The transition from offline to online in Avid is seamless and filmmakers don't have to worry about dropped frames, not passing QC or having to deal with heavy fixes-- because all of the media is the same from one Avid system to the next. This is where independent filmmakers often spend the majority of their post budget - fixing errors that originated in other systems.

I've shared a couple of quotes from our indie filmmaker customers to help elaborate on my points:

"There are a lot of tools available to filmmakers today, but I still prefer to use Avid on projects that require a professional edge. When I'm cranking in the edit suite with my editor, I want to make sure what I am using is reliable, transparent and able to deliver the highest-quality project every time. Film editing is an art form and I can't afford to have technology interrupt my creative flow and cause things to go wrong in the 11th hour." --Annie Sundberg, 2007 Independent Spirit Award nominee and Director of the 2007 Sundance film The Devil Came on Horseback

Dan Carey, producer of 2008 Sundance Film Festival film "Pretty Bird" said, "We were under very tight time constraints, so using a reliable system for editing became critical. Our portable Media Composer software system allowed us to finish our edit in an efficient and extremely cost-effective way. I've worked with Avid systems for a long time, and I'm amazed at the evolution I've seen in the product lines. Independent film production often means trying to do a lot with limited resources, and the options that are available now from Avid are great."

DMN: Years ago, video editing on the PC was practically non-existent and the Mac platform was Avid's platform of choice.  Over the last ten years, Media Composer on the Mac seems to be an after thought.  With Media Composer moving over to the Leopard OS, how does Avid plan to win back all the former customers who have switched to different editing applications?
KA: We are very focused on continuing our application parity between the Mac and PC platform. A majority of our customers in the Hollywood community are Mac users, and we plan to continue to develop our software for that platform. I think the performance that early adopters have seen on our new product line has been a first step in proving to these customers that we are very focused and committed to providing the same value, performance and quality across all of our product lines and platforms. In fact, we just announced this year that our Symphony Nitris DX product is back on the Mac. We'll have to continue to prove to the market that we are listening to their feedback and understand how important the Mac platform is to the work they do. By continuing to deliver on these promises, we are confident that creative professionals will continue to invest in Avid systems as their tool(s) of choice.

DMN: One complaint I always hear from editors is that the big corporation's that make editing applications don't listen to their user base when adding new features or new hardware to their lineups.  What is Avid doing to get their user base more involved?
KA: As I mentioned earlier, continuing to maintain a two-way dialogue with our customers is critical to the success of the company. Both Gary Greenfield and I have spent our first six months at the company out visiting customers across the world, just listening to what they have to say and taking that feedback back to the staff. This will not change, as talking and visiting with customers is part of our weekly regiment.

Some other examples of how we are getting more involved with our user base is by conducting focus groups with customers, which we did this year in Las Vegas around NAB. We've also started working very closely with an A.C.E. Editors Advisory Committee -- which is comprised of a group of very well respected and vocal film and television editors. We meet with them regularly to listen to feedback and share our ideas, discuss product features and to offer them input into the development of our new products.

This past spring we hosted a small event at our Burbank office and invited folks from Dreamworks, Disney, Pixar and a few other studios to discuss how we can help them build a next-generation pipeline for 3D animation. We had a very open conversation with these customers about how this pipeline will evolve - with elements like Stereoscopic 3D and HD.

And just a few weeks ago, we hosted an event in LA for a group of Reality TV editors who expressed interest in learning more about Avid and how we can help them make the transition to HD. Several of those editors (some who have worked on Avid for years) walked away with a brand new knowledge of how our tools can help them day-to-day on the job.

These are just a few examples of how we are focusing on communicating with our customers and listening to what they have to say.

DMN: Should editors get excited about Avid again?
KA: Editors should know that we are very committed to making them successful. As a company, it's our mission to create the best tools for the digital content creation industry and we know that the only way to be successful is to continue to foster strong relationships and be a customer-focused company that delivers rock solid solutions.

I want to thank Kirk for taking the time to answer my questions, and hopefully give readers an insight to where Avid is going from today forward.  I recently wrote a review of Avid's Media Composer 3.0 for Leopard, and you can read it by clicking here .  For more information on Avid, their new hardware line, and Media Composer 3.0, you can visit

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at

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