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7 reasons to upgrade from Snow Leopard

Today Adobe announced it's dropping support for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. While Adobe says it only affects a small number of customers, there is still a sizable number of users running the older OS, with some surveys suggesting as much as 19% usage.

Here are 7 reasons why you should upgrade from Snow Leopard to a newer version of OS X.

It's less secure

Apple is no longer fixing OS X bugs and some browser manufacturers no longer offer 10.6 support, leaving your system vulnerable.

Many new applications won't work with it

Not just Adobe, many other apps no longer support 10.6, including all Apple and Avid applications and many hardware products and cameras. Some upcoming new products from us will require newer OS versions to take advantage of more recent technologies.

It's slower

With every new OS release there is normally a speed boost from more efficient code execution, as well as new performance-enhancing technologies like AV Foundation, timer coalescing and compressed memory.

You're missing out on new features / technologies

Useful new technologies for pro users since 10.6 include AV Foundation, compressed memory, tabbed Finder windows, file tags, Airdrop, Notification Center and Airplay Mirroring. This is in addition to the aforementioned performance-enhancing technologies.

Developers are making sacrifices for older OSes

While we don't shy away from embracing features from newer OSes if they have a clear benefit to users, maintaining two codebases for a small subset of users is complex and takes time away from feature development.

Upgrades are cheap

10.9 is free and 10.8 is $20 on the Apple Store.

You can make it look and behave exactly like Snow Leopard

Lion introduced several controversial features like reverse scrolling and an inability to Save As. Luckily some of those decisions were reversed in later versions and others are completely customizable. We have a guide to making newer versions behave more like Snow Leopard here.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Mar 6 2014 to Analysis, Apple, Software

2013 - Year in Review

2014 is now here so here's a look back at the past twelve months.

This was our biggest year yet with the launch of our new cloud workflow service, Kollaborate. As well as being a video review tool with timecode integration and marker exports, it’s also a platform we are building all of our products around. Cloud-integrated apps include Post Haste, Preference Manager, Cut Notes and CinePlay (the latter two also have free Kollaborate-only versions for clients and colleagues).

If you’re reluctant to upload data to the cloud we also offer Kollaborate Server for businesses to run in-house on their own servers and storage.

We also launched CinePlay for iOS - a professional video player with timecode overlays, markers, masking, cropping and integration with Digital Rebellion products such as Cut Notes, Editmote and Kollaborate.

In addition we released major updates for Marker Import, Cut Notes, EditCodes and Preference Manager. In total we released over 80 free updates to our tools.

Our most popular free app was FCS Remover and our most popular paid app was Pro Maintenance Tools. Our most popular iOS app was Video Space Calculator.

The most popular blog posts of 2013 were:
How to locate corrupt clips on your timeline
Final Cut Pro X hangs when loading a project
How to sync metadata between QuickTime movies
Avid Codec Guide
5 hidden features in Adobe Premiere CS6

Things you may have missed:

So what’s next? As well as continuing to improve our existing products, we are planning additional product launches in 2014 and will be putting extra emphasis on expanding the range of platforms we develop for. Keep an eye on the blog, follow us on Twitter or subscribe to the mailing list to be alerted when new products and updates are available.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Jan 2 2014 to DR News, Front Page News, Analysis

Apple limits availability of non-Retina MacBook Pros

Today Apple aimed to reaffirm their commitment to professional users with more details on the new Mac Pro. While some have correctly pointed out that the starting price for the new version is higher than the old model, this seems entirely reasonable to me given the significant leap in specifications. I was also relieved that it is reasonably upgradeable, minus the graphics card, although Mac users have never had a wide variety of cards to choose from anyway.

However, at the same time Apple took away some professional options. The Retina MacBook Pro was updated with more screen size options and improved specifications, however it has almost entirely replaced the older non-Retina model.

There are very specific reasons why some pros would choose a non-Retina model: matte display, greater availability of ports and upgradeable interior. The only option Apple is offering is a 13" version, which seems strange because I would have assumed that the type of user who chooses the non-Retina model would aim for the largest screen size possible. This would suggest that Apple is not aiming this laptop at spec-sensitive professionals at all, but instead users who are looking for a cheap option. However, it's only slightly cheaper than the 13" Retina so I'm really not sure what their target market is (if you can figure it out, let me know in the comments).

My 2011 MacBook Pro recently got destroyed so I was in the market for a new one. I considered a Retina laptop but in the end I opted for a 15" non-Retina MacBook Pro that was barely faster than my 2011 model. I could grudgingly cope with the glossy display and reduced ports but the lack of upgradeability was the deal-breaker for me. While it is good that Apple has reduced the prices of the Retina model, you'd be a fool not to max it out at the time of purchase. As I've said before on this blog, Apple is charging a premium price for a throwaway computer and they really need to factor that into the initial selling price.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Oct 22 2013 to Apple, Analysis, Hardware

Buy OS X 10.8 while you still can

While Apple recently instituted a policy of offering older versions of an app to users on older versions of iOS, it does not have the same policy on the Mac App Store and has so far given no indication that it will make older versions of OS X available upon the release of Mavericks. Consequently, the moment OS X 10.9 is released (possibly tomorrow), OS X 10.8 is likely to cease to be available for purchase.

Sometimes it can be difficult to juggle the OS compatibility of multiple third-party applications, particularly if you are still using deprecated apps in your workflows (e.g. FCP 7). So even if you have no plans to install it any time soon, we'd recommend buying OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on the App Store today so that you have it tied to your account for future use.

Update: While 10.7 and 10.8 are no longer available for direct purchase from the Mac App Store, Apple is now offering redemption codes for OS X 10.7 and OS X 10.8 on its main online store.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Oct 21 2013 to Video Editing, Analysis

My thoughts on the new Mac Pro

Apple just gave us a sneak peek at the new redesigned Mac Pro.

* It's not dead!
* It finally has Thunderbolt and a significant spec bump
* Dual GPUs
* The Thunderbolt ports are not all running on the same bus
* It's significantly smaller and lighter

* No space for internal PCI cards - all expansion is through Thunderbolt
* The hard drive is not user-replaceable
* It will definitely not fit in a rack
* AMD cards will not run CUDA-optimized apps like Resolve well

* Price
* Is the RAM replaceable or soldered to the motherboard?

The cons are not cons for everyone and it seemed like my Twitter feed was split down the middle. It looks like Apple has focused on FCPX as the target application but not really paid much heed to other pro apps people might want to use. I think this is a sign that people at the very high end of the industry may want to look elsewhere for their pro computers, whether that is a Hackintosh or a Windows box.

A big problem with lack of internal upgradeability is downtime. If the hard drive dies in a regular Mac Pro, it is not difficult to replace it, and you can be up and running again in minutes if you were smart enough to clone the drive beforehand. The problem with the new Mac Pro is that every issue is potentially a visit to the Apple Store, which could take a day or more for them to fix (not to mention the added cost if you're out of warranty). So it is probably best for facilities to have multiple spare Mac Pros that they can swap out easily.

Which brings me onto my next point - how much is it? Apple didn't say. But assuming everything is soldered to the motherboard and the case can't be opened, the Mac Pro will essentially be a disposable computer that you should not expect to last for as long as your current Mac Pro. A disposable computer should be sold for a disposable price, so I expect the success of the new Mac Pro to entirely hinge on the pricing, especially as comparably-specced Windows computers can be purchased for less.

What that means is that right now we don't really know if the new Mac Pro is worthwhile until we get more details, but it's clear that Apple has put its cards on the table and very much hedged against making a computer that will meet everyone's needs in our diverse industry.

Update: Apple has posted more details on their site and it looks like both hard drive and memory are upgradeable. This is great and makes me feel much better about the machine but I still think it will depend on pricing.

Update 2: Blackmagic says work is underway to support the Mac Pro in Resolve and Adobe says the upcoming Premiere Pro CC should support it out of the box.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Jun 10 2013 to Analysis, Apple, Hardware

5 things Apple should change in OS X 10.9

OS X is a mature operating system so it's probably largely meeting most people's needs already, however here's a list of five things we'd like to see in OS X 10.9.

1. AV Foundation improvements

The QuickTime API is horrible and I'd love to ditch it completely, but AV Foundation has some catching up to do before that can happen.

It needs support for third-party codecs like DNxHD, support for reference movies and the ability to update a file in-place (like QT Edit does) without having to re-encode the entire movie just to make a small modification.

2. Native support for containers other than QuickTime

It'd be great if OS X could natively deal with MXFs, AVIs, MKVs, etc as if they were QuickTime movies.

3. Encrypted folders

Ability to encrypt and password protect a single folder on your hard disk, instead of the entire drive or the entire home folder.

4. Finder improvements

It looks like Apple may already be bringing tabs to Finder (great) but we'd also like to see an editable location bar like Windows has, bring back Cmd-clicking on the title bar to open another folder in a new window, and a solution to the scroll bar temporarily obscuring the last item in a list.

5. Second screen support

An API for low-latency visual output to an iOS device would be great for status windows, scopes, etc.

Things Apple definitely shouldn't change:

1. Don't kill QuickTime yet.

2. Don't make it so we can't run 32-bit apps anymore.

3. Don't force all apps to be sandboxed.

4. Allow untrusted apps to run if the user desires.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Jun 5 2013 to Analysis, Apple, Software

My thoughts on Adobe's new rental policy

You've most likely already heard about Adobe's move to get rid of Creative Suite and offer rental-only software from now on. When the announcement was made my Twitter feed exploded with both love and hate for the new policy.

While some of the negative points people made are purely hypothetical or FUD for its own sake, others are genuine concerns. There has also been a lot of misinformation flying around, in particular with regards to being connected to the internet. You do not need a constant connection - the software will connect once a month and you will have a grace period of 99 days (soon to be 180 - thanks Todd) if the connection is unsuccessful.

Another common misconception is that the apps will run off the cloud or that they will automatically update without your permission. The apps run locally on your system as they did before but the licensing is handled on the cloud, so instead of a product key you now use your email address. Software updates will not occur automatically without your permission and Adobe has said they will periodically create fixed archived copies of the applications so you can revert to a particular version if desired.

The cloud is cheaper for new users too, although it may end up being more expensive for some of Adobe's existing customers, especially if they often skip versions. Actually, that's not strictly accurate. It is cheaper at the currently announced prices, which brings me on to my own primary concern: cloud users are susceptible to future price rises and policy changes. What if the price rises? Tough luck, you have to pay it anyway. What if Adobe releases a new privacy policy that you don't want to agree to (see Facebook, Instagram)? If you ever want to access your projects again, you'll have to agree whether you like it or not. If you are planning on building your workflow around Adobe products, you have to be prepared to essentially pay Adobe every month for life, no matter the cost. Your project files are hostage to future Adobe pricing and policy changes.

I have no issues with the cloud or rental policies as concepts, my only objection is to being forced into them. It is difficult not to interpret this as a power grab.

Another thing Adobe may not have considered is that they have different traction in different markets. Photoshop is clearly the king of print and graphics, but Premiere has only started to gain traction since the demise of FCP 7. I know several people who were looking for FCP 8, thought they'd found it with Premiere CS Next and are now hesitating.

I have been fortunate to have access to pre-release versions of some of the new Adobe apps and the new Premiere is fantastic. The dev team has really listened and I try to use the new version over CS6 whenever I can. It's sad that instead of talking about the great new features, the whole Adobe MAX event was overshadowed by this decision from upper management.

The worst part is that in spite of all this I will still unhappily subscribe and so will many others. I am certain that this will end up being financially beneficial to Adobe, but it erases a certain amount of goodwill.

Posted by Jon Chappell on May 7 2013 to Adobe, Analysis

2012 - Year in Review

2013 is now upon us so here's a look back at the past twelve months.

It was a big year for us with our customer base expanding by 50% and us welcoming many new corporate clients and broadcasters.

We launched six new products: Pro Versioner, Post Haste for Windows, Video Space Calculator for iOS, Video Space Calculator for Mac, Film Terms for iOS, Film Terms for Mac.

In addition, we released major updates for Editmote, Cut Notes and several other products. In total we released 7 major updates and 53 minor ones in 2012.

Our most popular free app was FCS Remover and our most popular paid app was Pro Maintenance Tools. Our most popular iOS app was Video Space Calculator.

Our site traffic was up significantly with over a million more pages viewed and over 6 million more hits compared to 2011.

The most popular blog posts of 2012 were:
Making Lion and Mountain Lion more like Snow Leopard
How to export chapter markers from FCPX
Avid AMA best practices
Adobe dynamic link troubleshooting

Things you may have missed:

Looking forward, we predict 2013 will be our biggest year ever. We have several big releases planned and we'll be exhibiting at NAB in April for the first time. I can't say more than that but definitely watch this space.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Jan 1 2013 to DR News, Front Page News, Analysis

Adobe announces Creative Suite 6

Today Adobe announced the full feature set of Creative Suite 6. Here are the features that stood out at me:

  • Open CL - Mac laptop users do not get a choice as to which brand of graphics card they use so it's great to see GPU acceleration extended for people with ATI graphics cards.
  • Full-screen playback - Premiere Pro can now play back your sequence in full screen on your primary monitor, which is great if you're on the move.
  • New trim mode - This one seems to be aimed at Avid users with dynamic trimming via JKL.
  • Adjustment layers - This is something I've wanted to see in an NLE for a long time. You can add a Photoshop-style adjustment layer and it will affect all clips beneath it. This is great for applying global effects to a sequence.
  • Combine mono, stereo and multitrack clips into a single audio track - One big point of confusion for Final Cut Pro switchers was the way Premiere Pro CS 5.5 dealt with audio tracks. Instead of having one audio track per channel, Premiere can create mono, stereo or surround tracks, which means that mono clips can only be added to a mono track and stereo clips have to be added to a stereo track. These limitations are now removed in CS 6.
  • Big thumbnails that can be "hover-scrubbed" - This looks to be almost identical to skimming in Final Cut Pro X. You can even set in and out points from the thumbnails.
  • Ability to toggle Work Area off - The Work Area was another point of confusion for FCP users. It allows you to set a certain area of the timeline for rendering and exporting which can also be achieved by setting in and out points. If you don't plan to use this feature, it can now be switched off in CS 6.
  • Markers can now be assigned a color and duration - I've always felt the marker implementation in Premiere was poor so this is great news. There is also a marker window that provides a summary of all markers in the sequence and you can quickly jump to them. No word yet on whether you can import and export marker lists.
  • Unlimited multiclip angles - I was disappointed with the four-angle multicam in CS 5.5 so this is a big improvement.
  • Uninterrupted playback - You can now adjust effects on-the-fly without pausing playback.
  • New apps - Prelude and SpeedGrade
  • Prelude has an SDK - Adobe's new tool for ingesting file-based media has an SDK to allow production houses to integrate it into their custom workflows.
  • Ray tracing, extruding and 3D tracker in After Effects - Adobe is really aiming at the higher end of the visual effects market with these features.
  • Variable mask feathering in AE - I've never been keen on AE's mask tools so this is a big improvement.
  • Automatic Duck integration - Pro Import AE is now bundled with After Effects and allows you to import Avid projects into AE.

What's clear from this release is that Adobe is aggressively targeting a broad range of users. There are features in the new release that will be familiar to Avid, FCP7 and FCPX users. Since the demise of Final Cut Studio, Creative Suite is the only suite in town and this release fixes many of my complaints with CS 5.5 (although no word on new developer features yet). I don't think it will change my plan to use Avid for long-form and Premiere for short-form but the wide-open nature of the NLE market right now is something that is clearly producing great results for editors.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Apr 12 2012 to Adobe, Analysis, Video Editing

Developer features I will miss from Final Cut Pro 7

I'm currently working on a feature film that will be my last Final Cut Pro 7 project. I'd just finished implementing a custom solution to automatically log and sort clips as they are brought in, when it suddenly occurred to me that a lot of what I was doing would not be possible in the future with a competing NLE (at least not on the Mac; Sony Vegas has great scripting capabilities).

Here is a summary of things we can do with FCP 7 that is impossible or less smooth with its replacements:

(Note: we don't develop effects plugins so this post does not delve into plugin-related differences between the apps. But it's a post I'd be glad to link to if someone else writes it.)

Controlling the NLE

Developers can use Apple Events to perform such tasks as programmatically saving and loading projects, highlighting items in a bin and searching. None of the competing apps are able to do this.

We can also communicate with Final Cut Pro over MIDI, which we put to good use in Cut Notes, but Premiere and FCPX unfortunately lack this feature.

XML Interchange

It is important to be able to easily get data in and out of the editing application. There is mixed support for this among competing apps. Avid has XML output via FilmScribe but this is not as fully-featured as FCP XML and I have found the FilmScribe app to be unreliable. FCPX XML exports do not include all of the information within the project or event. Premiere gets full marks for including FCP 7 XML interchange support.

Avid does get some bonus points for being able to import and export marker lists though, which none of the others can (it's even better than FCP 7 which was limited to export only). Some people would say this feature is unnecessary if you have XML input, however it's very useful for applications that don't need or cannot access the underlying project, such as our own Cut Notes app.

Manipulation of project data

Probably the most useful feature is the ability to change data within the project. You can add new clips, batch modify metadata and sort clips into bins. It's very powerful and you can specify various options when importing a clip or bin such as only adding clips that do not currently exist or making copies of existing clips.

More importantly, it can be done on the fly without needing to close the project or modify any files on disk. Quick Bins, FCP Versioner and several of our other apps make use of this feature.

Avid doesn't support this at all and Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere only support this via manual XML import / export.

Premiere wins extra marks for basing its project file format on XML but it then loses most of them by not documenting the project file format nor encouraging development of it.

These are all great features that we're putting to good use in our apps and it's a shame to lose them. We've developed workarounds for most of them but these often require additional manual work by the user, which we're keen to avoid.

Apple created third-party developer ecosystems with FCP 7 and FCPX that simply don't exist with other NLEs (and FCPX's developer features still need some more work, as noted above). We're putting this post out to encourage NLE manufacturers to increase their focus on third party developer-friendly features. Fostering third-party development helps end users, developers and the manufacturers themselves. Everyone wins.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Mar 26 2012 to Analysis, Avid, Adobe