Apple have announced a new version of Final Cut Express. It features the Final Cut open format timeline. You can mix DV, HDV and AVCHD on the same timeline. It’s the application for all those disappointed by the lack of fine control in iMovie ’08.

$199 for a piece of software that most people will see has a majority of the features of Avid Xpress Pro. Looks like Apple is doing all it can to create a critical mass of people who are comfortable with the Final Cut user interface. My definition of critical mass in this case is the point at which people start setting up post-production consultancies that support medium and large productions using Apple software.

I think Avid need to reduce the price of the next version of Xpress Pro to $199 with no extra bits of software. To get upgrade money from current users of Xpress Pro, they need to bundle equivalent applications that match the ones in Final Cut Studio – to make Avid Xpress Studio. They also need to make sure that all the apps have a 21st century user interface that is consistent across the suite.

My one word to Avid right now: Express!

Today I visited Ascent Media in Soho. I was there on a tour that was organised as part of the Soho Shorts festival. The festival organisers feel that celebrating the culture of Soho includes visits to the artists who work in the post industry.

On Tuesday I visited St. Annes Post, where we had the opportunity to play in a Da Vinci grading suite (UK: grader / US: colorist), and see Avid DS Nitris in action. Today we had a tour of sound and picture restoration, a big machine room and a new media department.

I suppose that Ascent (which includes Rushes and St. Annes) looks at the post world in a different way from Outpost Digital. Ascent uses ‘the right hardware for the job’. Each room is dedicated to a specific operation. The control surfaces for audio and grading stay in their chosen suites. Outpost Digital uses the flexibility of software to make each suite multi-purpose.

That means betting the business on Apple products. As Apple acquires an example piece of each stage in the post flow, Outpost Digital dumps the competitor product and buys the Apple solution. Apple buys Nothing Real’s Shake, Silcon Color’s Final Touch, Proximity’s Artbox. No need to buy the next expensive version of the high-end compositing, grading or asset management software.

The man from St. Annes says that more and more people are learning DS. The grader knows that Da Vinci is just a tool. People are adding more seats to their Unity networks.

We’ll see who wins out in the end. It makes little difference to me. As Ascent and Outpost Digital say, the most important thing for their business is finding the right people to operate all that technology. I wonder if I should get involved…

That’s the thing about being a professional editor. You need to make it seem that whichever system people provide, that’s the one you are most happy to use.

So I’ve started writing a guide to Avid for Final Cut users. If any of it doesn’t make any sense, please comment!

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