2011 Video Production Industry Year in Review
2011 is drawing to a close and before I start making predictions for 2012, I thought I’d have a look back at 2011 to revisit some of the video industry developments that I thought were the most significant for the segments of the event and corporate video production industry that I work in and cover as a video industry journalist. Now let me be upfront with my biases because they certainly shape my preferences and the perspective in which I see video industry developments.
I derive more than 95% of my income from my Vancouver video production business, so changes that benefit my own video businesses’ workflows are naturally going to be featured more prominently in what I follow, research, and write about. As a columnist and contributing editor with the recently defunct EventDV Magazine, I have and continue to be approached by manufacturers who request product and software reviews. So I have lots of opportunities to test a wide variety of products and software but I only review products that I would consider using in my own video production business and this means they would have to be compatible with my own existing and future workflows. If there isn’t a fit I encourage them to contact another writer who is a better fit for a product review.
One example that comes to mind is Singular Software and their latest software plug-in, Presto. I’d love to review it and incorporate it in my own video business but it is only supported on Sony Vegas Pro on the PC and FCP & Adobe Premiere Pro on the MAC- I edit with Adobe Premiere Pro on the PC, so I’m not about to change my NLE in order to test a plug-in. Well, at least at this point, after 10 years in the video production business, all editing on Premiere – but back in 2003, I was on the verge of ditching Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5, in favour of Sony Vegas, because there was a third-party multi-cam editing plug-in for Vegas that heard good things about and the third-party one that worked with Premiere (which I bought and tested) really sucked. Within a week of my decision, and before I was able to start a new project in the Vegas trial that I downloaded, Adobe announced multi-cam support in PPro 2.0. I upgraded to PPro 2.0 and have stuck with Adobe for my editing software.
In addition to my own workflows, I’m also influenced by discussions in the communities I take part of, including the BC Professional Videographers Association (BCPVA), WEVA, Videouniverity, DVXUSER, and most recently, Twitter. So enough of me explaining the relevance of my opinions… And on with the unveiling of my Top 5 Video Production Industry news, trends, and products that I felt were the most impactful in 2011.
1) Apple Final Cut X and Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5
You can’t tell the story of the rise of Adobe Premiere Pro without first mentioning the failure of Apple Final Cut Pro X. The two stories are linked and it wasn’t so much that Adobe did anything special with their CS5.5 release that lead to their unprecedented increase in paid users (22% overall and 45% on the MAC year-over-year, as of IBC in September) as it was that Apple failed to deliver a suitable follow-up for the aging Final Cut Pro 7.
Ever since Adobe simultaneously brought Premiere Pro to a native 64bit platform and added GPU support with CS5 in 2010, Final Cut Pro users had been demanding similar improvements for their 2011 release. They also wanted native codec support for DSLR footage.
The level to which Adobe raised the bar with their CS5 release was significant and I’m surprised the video industry didn’t make more of a big deal about this advancement while CS5 was current. I was blown away by the video rendering speed improvements. A lot of attention was paid to the native 64bit platform, which removed the 4GB RAM limit that a 32bit O/S is limited by, but I feel that GPU support has made an even bigger difference. By enabling GPU support with qualified NVIDIA CUDA video cards, editors benefited significantly from both reduced render times (7-10x improvement) AND improved video quality (thanks to the use of floating 32bit color processing). Render times and render quality aren’t usually areas that can be simultaneously improved but the parallel processing on a video card is much more efficient at video rendering than a CPU and the combination of a 64bit architecture and GPU acceleration gave Adobe a sizeable lead over Apple in render times and video quality.
CS5 was a very successful release but it didn’t steal away market share from competitors the same way that CS5.5 did. As I mentioned before, it wasn’t really something that Adobe did that caused video editors to switch to Premiere Pro CS5.5 in droves but rather something that one of their competitors did, or rather didn’t do, that lead to (by my estimation) 2011 seeing the biggest change in market-share since NLEs first came to the desktop. Although Apple no longer exhibits at NAB, they chose to announce the long-awaited follow-up to Final Cut Pro 7 at a Supermeet in Las Vegas during the NAB week. Final Cut Pro users are a loyal bunch but Apple’s two year product update cycle for FCP was especially long compared to Adobe’s annual updates, especially when FCP lacked 64bit support and native DSLR editing.
Final Cut Pro 7 wasn’t updated. It was replaced with Final Cut Pro X, an entirely new editing system that lacked basic features that editors required, including the ability to import FCP 7 and project files. And remember the multi-cam feature that 8 years prior led me to leave Premiere? FCP X, a 2011 release, lacks multi-cam editing. Critics and users both agree that it is more like an iMovie Pro than a follow-up to Final Cut Pro.
Now Premiere Pro CS5.5 does have some new features and is slightly faster than CS5, but Apple’s failure with Final Cut, the 50% off switcher program that Adobe ran for several months, and several big-name video industry celebrities pledging support for Adobe’s flagship NLE (Bloom, Laforet, Harrington, Guglielmo) has led to a significant increase in Premiere Pro CS5.5 users. So it isn’t that CS5.5 was that much better than CS5 (which is miles better than CS4), it is just that CS5.5 just happens to be the current version when Apple failed with Final Cut X.
Need an example of how much faster CS5.5 is over Final Cut Pro 7? Richard Harrington exported a 45 minute project (mainly interviews, so I would assume not much in the way of motion graphics) from Final Cut Pro 7 on a Mac Pro. It took “well over two hours”. He then exported the same project using Premiere Pro CS5.5, on the same Mac Pro, and it only took 30 minutes. Then he took the project over to an even faster PC (Mac Pros are limited in RAM and processor speed) and it took only 17 minutes.
(On a related note, those looking to build a PC editing system for Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 should read the Videoguys.com DIY9 article, their first recommending Intel Sandy Bridge.)
The failure of Apple Final Cut X and the rise of Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 is my top video news story of 2011.
Stay tuned in the days to come as I unveil my remaining Top 5 Video Production Industry Trends for 2011.