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The Editor's Spin: PIP: NLEs and DVD at NAB
Posted May 1, 2003 Print Version     Page 1of 1

What was the best-percentage bet in Las Vegas during the week of April 7, when the city played host to NAB 2003? "All Others," offered at 3-2 odds, if you could bring yourself to bet against Tiger Woods' pursuit of his third straight Masters championship at the embattled Augusta National. Forget those ludicrous promises of 97.8% payoffs on quarter slots. We're talking about 150 golfers against 1, and only one of those 150 has to come out ahead. I've never been much of a gambler, and nor one to pick against a favorite (a personal favorite, that is). My mistake, it appears, with Tiger languishing mid-pack as I write this on Saturday afternoon. That bet looks even better now.

I'm no expert on probability, but I doubt the Vegas bookies have ever offered a bet that so clearly contradicted it. After all, they've got it down to a science there—all you had to do was ride the NAB shuttle bus to the Las Vegas Convention Center to see the Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and glimpse the scholarship afoot. But then again, we're talking about betting against Tiger, perhaps the most dominant single figure in the history of sports (except, perhaps, his tennis-playing contemporary, Serena Williams, whose name was nowhere on the board at the MGM Grand Sports Book). Betting against Tiger this year probably sounds a little like, in NABs past, betting against Avid, Adobe, or Final Cut Pro. But then again, as with the Masters, there's much more to NAB than picking or predicting the winners.

Entering this year's NAB, it was easy to lose yourself in the dynamic swirl of broadcast-centric technology, the latest in "accu-weather" tracking and reporting equipment, and behemoth screens staging the fall of Baghdad. But there you'd also find a pretty clear picture (perhaps a picture-in-picture) of where digital studio technologies like DV editing and DVD authoring fit in the mix, and how the purveyors of those technologies are positioning themselves vis à vis one another and positing a more integrated workflow.

DVD authoring giant Sonic Solutions was on-hand with its full software line, but no sign of the much-anticipated new DVDit! But in the meantime, Sonic's soundest strategy is happening behind the scenes, as they lay their money on another longtime market leader, Adobe Systems, which is attempting to take DVD authoring in a completely different direction.

Sonic tools like Scenarist, Creator, Producer, and Fusion, and to a lesser extent DVDit! and ReelDVD, were designed for very different times in DVD authoring. The earliest and (still) highest-profile DVD authors, who from the beginning thrived on their mastery of tools like Scenarist, Creator, and Spruce's DVD Maestro, often described themselves as "post-post," and left the video editing to the video editors. Consequently, it made perfect sense that Creator and Scenarist weren't designed with video editors in mind, and made no pretense of commonality with NLEs like Adobe's Premiere. Regardless of where (or on which tool) a DVD's video assets were edited, there was little likelihood they would be authored for DVD by the same hand.

Today, the accessibility of DVD's essential building blocks—primarily, authoring tools and DVD recorders and media—has revolutionized the DV-to-DVD workflow. And while Adobe isn't the first to integrate video editing and DVD authoring—Pinnacle got there first with Studio 8, Sonic Foundry followed with Vegas+DVD, and Pinnacle struck again at NAB with the dazzling-in-the-demo Edition Pro—it's Adobe's Encore DVD that attracted the most attention at the LVCC. This is ironic because it isn't much to look at—maybe I was just sitting too far back, but during the Encore DVD demo, I could hardly tell when the instructor switched to Encore from Photoshop or After Effects or Premiere. Which is exactly the point. Even as that Sonic engine hums along beneath the surface, workflow within the suite of Adobe video production tools is designed to be absolutely seamless, and from where I sat, so it appeared.

The other interesting strategy apparent in the Adobe sphere was another invisible one: the advancing estrangement of Adobe and Apple. Between the stagnation of Premiere for Mac, the dearth of Mac-side promotion from Adobe, and Apple's efforts to fill the gap between FCP and iMovie with Final Cut Express, the lines are drawn, and these longtime allies are clearly parting ways. Meanwhile, Apple has put plenty of R&D behind the new Final Cut 4 (available now)—familiar but enhanced, seemingly render time-free, and impressively optimized for the dual-processor G4. DVD Studio Pro 2 (due in August) looks like a complete overhaul, and seems to resemble the acquired (and apparently abandoned) DVD Maestro as much as previous versions of DVD SP. Integration of DVD SP and FCP remains about the same (that is, there's not much), but workflow within each tool seems nonetheless improved.

Meanwhile, on the DVD hardware side, Pioneer demonstrated the PRV-LX1, a set-top DVD recorder tailor-made for professional DVD creation. It's a veritable digital daily factory, boasting real-time recording to two A05s and a 120GB HDD; FireWire, USB 2, and LAN connectivity; a 32-choice bit-rate range; and multiple menu customization options via remote or USB 2 mouse/ keyboard. I'll still do my recording on the PC-based A05 (fastest of the horses that got me here, and of the same lineage), but set-top or desktop, my money remains on DVD-R, the format that plays in all my players. Just playing the percentages.

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