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Interview: Media 100 Moves into HD

Media 100's Mike Savello on the past, present and future of the Mac-based editing systems By Dave Nagel
It was just nine months ago that Media 100 was on the verge of dissolution and just six months ago that it was rescued from oblivion by its new parent company, Optibase. But Optibase did more than just buy out Media 100. It infused the company's development team with the capital it needed to stay alive and to continue pushing its technologies forward. Now, with solid financial backing, Media 100 has gotten back on track quickly and adopted a new focus toward rapid development. Today we've seen the first tangible result of the company's new situation: Media 100 HD.

Media 100 HD, which began shipping today, is a Macintosh-based HD editing system with a few twists. It allows for SD and HD media in the same timeline. It allows for 4:3 and 16:9 media in the same timeline. And it supports multiple QuickTime codecs in the same timeline--as well as a mixture of compressed and uncompressed formats--all with real-time performance.

The new system also ships with Media 100 software version 10.0, and all-new release that includes real-time keying (RGB, YUV and HSL) and color correction (RGB); a new software codec with support for real-time, full-motion alpha channels; and an extensible timeline with support for up to 99 video tracks (among other new features).

Media 100 HD's layered timeline

But more than just these new features, for many Media 100 users out there, today's release of Media 100 HD will read as something beyond just another new product announcement. It's proof of the company's return to good health following a brush with death. It's evidence that users of Media 100 systems aren't going to be orphaned in the near future. And it signals the return of Media 100 to aggressive development on the Mac platform following something of a dry spell. (Media 100 i V8 was released back in 2002, followed by a single incremental update to 8.2.)

And so, on the eve of the release of Media 100 HD, I had the opportunity to interview Media 100's vice president of sales and marketing, Mike Savello, and get his views on these significant developments.

DAVID NAGEL, Digital Media Net: Media 100 has spent a lot of time and effort on its PC-based systems. You dropped iFinish and replaced with with the 844/X, which is now up to version 3. But we haven't seen much in the way of development on the Mac line for nearly three years, since the release of V8. Obviously that's changed now, but I'd like you to talk about how you rank your Mac customer base in terms of priorities and how you expect to serve them now that you're back in the game.

MIKE SAVELLO, Media 100:  At the risk of sounding a little defensive, we've been continuously investing in the Mac line all along.  Media 100 i Version 8 software came out in mid-2002.  It was followed up in mid-2003 with V8.2--a release that we probably should have called V8.5 because of all of the cool new features in it.  It was right about that time that we started building Media 100 HD, which we first showed at NAB 2003.  A year and a half later, we're shipping Media 100 HD and it's now the industry's leading solution for editors who need to work in SD and HD simultaneously.  The Media 100 customer base is our most important target market, as it should be at any company.  If this weren't true then Media 100 HD would not be a product right now.

NAGEL: What's the ratio in your customer base between Mac- and PC-based systems?

SAVELLO: Since 1993, when we shipped our first system, Media 100 has installed over 30,000 Mac-based editing systems globally.  The number of PC-based units is a fraction of that.

Media 100 HD and 844/X are two different classes of system, so the ratio of sales will continue to reflect that.  Media 100 HD is our new high-volume, low-priced offering.  844/X was never intended to be a high-volume solution.  Thus our installed base will continue to be weighted more heavily toward Mac for the foreseeable future.

NAGEL: The Mac video market has changed tremendously since Media 100 first got involved. Can you talk about the impact of low-priced professional systems on your business and how they've affected your development approach?

SAVELLO: I wonder if the market has changed as much as you state.  When we first started shipping Mac-based systems, Adobe had a very popular Mac-based software solution called Premiere.  We even embraced Premiere for what it was--and sold large numbers of Premiere-based product ourselves.  All that's really changed is Premiere is no longer on the Mac and has been replaced in that category by Final Cut Pro.  But there will always be a market for professional, integrated solutions where the software and hardware are not only available from a single vendor, but were actually designed in parallel by one team and designed to work flawlessly 99.99% of the time.  Customers looking at these types of solutions will always want the reliability that comes with this level of integration, as well as the ease of support in interfacing a single vendor.

Our development approach for Media 100 HD was based solely on the evolving HD market and how to produce an HD/SD editing solution that dealt with the realities of this market.  Again, this is where being a unified vendor of software and hardware is an advantage.  We could build an integrated solution that allows users to mix HD and SD clips, 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio media and compressed and uncompressed data in the same timeline.  This is what users are asking for.

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