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As Hollywood continues to move toward reopening, Avid CEO Jeff Rosica caught up with The Hollywood Reporter, sharing the company’s views on a range of topics from the future of remote and cloud-based production to why he’s urging film editors to use the latest version of its Media Composer editing system — the system that’s the de facto standard used by most high-end motion picture and television editors. Avid introduced a new interface in a 2019 Media Composer software update, but at this stage most leading film editors have chosen not to upgrade and prefer to rely on the earlier version.
Rosica also discussed why Avid, which typically builds massive exhibition booths at trade events such as the National Association of Broadcasters Show, has decided not to participate in major shows during 2021.
Avid isn’t exhibiting at events such as NAB and IBC. Could you share your thoughts on the future of trade shows?
I can’t imagine not going to a trade show. But I think we’re being a bit premature as an industry to rush back to trade shows. Some markets are starting to return to some normalcy, by not everywhere around the world. We had to make the decision months ago and I made a decision that we would not go to the big shows this year.
And having IBC [the International Broadcasting Convention, which moved its Amsterdam show from its standard September window to Dec. 3-6] and NAB [the National Association of Broadcasters Show, which moved Its Las Vegas-set event from its familiar April timeframe to Oct. 9-13] a month away from each other — I’m willing to publicly say it — it’s a bad idea. I wasn’t involved in the decision and I wasn’t asked, but I think it’s a bad idea. And NAB will be right around the corner again in April . I understand the reasons for the organizations doing what they’ve done. I just think this is a bit premature right now.
Generally I’ll say this, we support trade shows. I support those organizations fully, but I think the [marketing mix] post COVID [will change]. I think we’ve all learned that customers want more content. They want more engagement. Not everybody can fly to Vegas or Amsterdam to see a trade show or Anaheim for NAMM [National Association of Music Merchants]. We’ll support shows in the future, but I think we’re going to probably rebalance our mix a bit, of what we spend and where.
How has the pandemic impacted your thoughts on postproduction?
We’re never going to go back to the way it was, but we’re also, I think, not going to operate in a fully remote, fully distributed environment. I think it’s going to be something in the middle. There’s some real benefit in allowing people to do some of their work remotely. But it’s not going to be really easy to replicate, you know, Atmos mixing suites in everybody’s home. I do think there’s going to be a swinging back of the pendulum a little bit, where people want to collaborate in person. We have to create a very flexible environment.
We already were looking at things like how do we allow people to work from anywhere. The COVID situation forced us all to try them out. How is remote — or I prefer to say “work from anywhere” really gonna work for a production team on a film or a TV show? How are we going to replace things like collaborating together in a room? Obviously we had to help people keep going during the pandemic, but what’s really key for us is just how much this is moving the needle on how people are thinking about workflows.
What is Avid actually working on in those areas?
So I think the way I’d answer is there’s a lot of development going on, both at the product level with features and functions that uniquely will help people do this in a better way, but also expect new solutions coming to market that will really empower some of these distributed teams.
With regard to the Media Composer, I’m still hearing that a lot of the high-end film editing community isn’t using the new interface that you launched a few years ago. They continue to use older versions of the software. Why? And could you give us an update?
I think it’s just getting people used to it. Editors, especially at the high-end, have become so skilled at using the software that it is almost an extension of their brain and of their thought process and how they do things. And they don’t let the technology get in the way of their editorial process. They’re very fluid with the tool. I think the reason why they probably are more apprehensive is that they don’t want to lose that fluidity. They don’t want the software tool to become an impediment to them moving quickly or keeping their focus on the creative decisions.
Will you continue to support the old interface?
We’ve stopped the old interface, development-wise. We’re support the older versions to some degree, but new features aren’t going in the old interface. When we built the new Media Composer product — it’s not just an interface, there’s another layer of technology in that product — part of the reason we did the rework of the engine and the product is to give us more capabilities under the hood to create features and functions that take us to the future. We were not gonna be able to do those kinds of things in the old product. And so we do need the industry to move to the new product for sure, but we’re trying to be as patient as we can because we understand the apprehension.
You have a partnership with Microsoft Azure as your preferred cloud service provider. What are you working on with them?
We’re continuing to work with them. They bring to bear that real hyper-scale cloud environment that gives us a lot of capability. As you know, we’ve put our Nexis collaborative file system up into the Azure environment. We’re just continuing to march down the path of how we, you know, really create more powerful capabilities in the cloud, how we make it easier to deploy, how do we make it easier to use and how we start to narrow some of the technical gaps that people see as they tried it out. So there’s just a lot of work iterating, [so that] what people experience in the cloud is similar to what they experienced when it was on-prem. I think that’s the first step, but I think the bigger step is going to be how we really innovate workflows. And that’s not just with Microsoft.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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