Incremental progress vs. starting over

As creative professionals in 2013 we often find ourselves bridging a divide, with Adobe’s products on one side and Apple’s on the other.  I spend most of my time switching between Final Cut Pro X and After Effects (with Motion 5 thrown in for good measure).  FCPX is by far my NLE of choice, and going back to FCP7 or Premiere feels like a trip back in time.  Meanwhile, After Effects is still the reigning champ of the motion graphics world, so learning it is a must.  But looking at these two applications side by side illustrates two very different philosophies when it comes to embracing change moving forward.

After Effects is an incredibly deep and useful piece of software with a history and code base that dates back over 20 years.  Each successive release has added new features and workflow improvements while retaining practically everything that came before.  It is in Adobe’s best interest to keep their customer base happy, and not rocking the boat seems to be their plan to achieve that (Creative Cloud subscription controversies notwithstanding).

The downside is that this strategy may ultimately hold Adobe back.  Freelance editor and animator Lou Borella posted an interesting comparison video on Vimeo that highlights the performance differences between After Effects (CS6 and CC) and Apple’s Motion 5- it’s really worth a watch, and make sure you stick around to browse the comments.  While both versions of AE struggle to play back a single HD video clip in his demonstration, Motion handles it effortlessly, even after he applies additional layers and filters during real time looping playback.  His argument is that the legacy code in After Effects is preventing the program from fully embracing current hardware advances.

Apple, as we know, took a different route when Final Cut Pro was at a crossroads.  FCP7 was stuck in 32-bit and could only address a fraction of the RAM installed in high end systems.  Most material shot with newer cameras had to be transcoded to ProRes before editing could begin, which took many hours of productivity killing time.  Apple responded with version X.  Here are a few of my comments on the state of the transition back in September 2011:

I’ve said this before, but FCP X is not finished.  It feels like a stable beta release, but one where many features are missing or incomplete.  If I was forced to make a decision today to switch from FCP 7 to something else, the answer would be clear: X is not an option.  But a year from now?  Two years from now?  Things could be entirely different.  The question is whether or not the pro editing community can hold on that long.

It’s been two years, and things are indeed a lot different. Final Cut Pro has seen a steady march of point release updates (with a major revision coming next month alongside the new Mac Pro) and I’m using it for virtually every broadcast editing job that comes my way.  Adobe Premiere and After Effects are great products and will continue to be the go-to tools for a large portion of the market.  After Effects in particular is extremely powerful and I use it daily, although the lure of real time playback and a refined interface has me dipping more and more into Motion 5 lately.

Roger Ebert, never once to mince words

Ebert’s review of Vince Gallo’s “The Brown Bunny”:

I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.

When the movie’s director responded by mocking Ebert’s weight, Ebert said, “It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny.”

Courtesy of Stacy Conradt at Mental Floss. She has some other choice Ebert quotes worth checking out.

The End of TV’s Golden Age

Andy Greenwald marks the return of Mad Men by declaring that the creative renaissance of mainstream TV is about to end.

The so-called Golden Age of Television began that January night with James Gandolfini stressing over the ducks in his backyard, and it signaled a sea change in popular entertainment. During the roughly 10-year period that followed, the small screen went from being cinema’s idiot brother to the last auteur-driven mass medium.

And then, without fanfare, it was over.

show opens: part five

FX’s new series American Horror Story features a pretty fantastic opening sequence.

Created by Kyle Cooper’s company Prologue (the same people who brought us the credit sequences for The Walking Dead and Seven), this show open is a mini horror movie it itself.  I really like the bold title treatment for the actor credits, and the music track comes straight from former Nine Inch Nails member Charlie Clouser and sound designer Cesar Davila-Irizarry.

Apparently the iPhone 4S is doomed

International Business Times has published a hard-hitting report entitled “12 Reasons Why Apple iPhone 4S Will Lost to Motorola Droid Bionic.”  Things get off to a rollicking start (after the link-bait headline, that is) with this intro:

There were rumors that Apple Inc. has sold 4 million units of iPhone 4S during the weekend but officially it is known that pre-orders reached the 1 million mark.

Considering this article was published on Monday, after it was confirmed that the iPhone 4S moved over 4 million units in the first weekend, things are not looking good for the quality of this journalism.  Not surprisingly, the unnamed author rattles off the usual list of Android benefits: screen size (BIG!), processing speed (FAST!), Flash support (IRRELEVANT! Oh, sorry, I don’t think that was their point), and so on.

I mention this not to drive more traffic to IBT, but to highlight the common misconceptions tech journalists cling to when touting one platform over another.  Apple’s consistency in the iPhone’s form factor and the OS’s look and feel is seen as a drawback, as opposed to something they got right from the start and have been refining ever since.  And there is a market out there for a jumbo sized smartphone, but I think it’s marginal.  Most people like the ability to hold and use their phone in one hand without stretching to reach the far side of the screen with their thumb.

Questionable Apple design

Those are words that don’t usually sit anywhere near each other in the same sentence, but Apple is coming under fire for its latest round of skeuomorphic interface choices in both iOS and Mac OS X.  CNET’s Lance Whitney writes about how Apple has “screwed up” the new Music app on the iPad in iOS 5, and Chris Rawson at TUAW kicks off his review like this:

Not all of these changes are for the better. In fact, some of them are big steps backward for the app’s usability. The iPad’s iPod app was once my favorite way to browse music on any device, but the new Music app on the iPad is the worst music browsing experience I’ve had since Winamp 2.

Meanwhile, in OS X Lion, the latest version of iCal has received widespread criticism for taking the clean design of the past and replacing it with something that looks as if it was designed by Filofax.  John Siracusa breaks it down in his excellent OS X Lion review on Ars Technica:

The trouble is, the new iCal looks so much like a familiar physical object that it’s easy to start expecting it to behave like one as well. For example, iCal tries very hard to sell the tear-off paper calendar illusion, with the stitched binding, the tiny remains of already-removed sheets, and even a page curl animation when advancing through the months. But can you grab the corner of a page with your mouse and tear it off? Nope, you have to use the arrow buttons or a keyboard command, just like in the previous version of iCal. Can you scribble in the margins? Can you cross off days with a pen? Can you riffle through the pages? No, no, and no.

It’s not clear to me what Apple’s direction is on this.  I understand the motivation to make software look more like the real-world object it seeks to replace, but these latest releases take form over function to a new level.  It also creates inconsistency across the Apple branded apps.  Why give Address Book and iCal the corinthian leather desktop metaphor and not do something similarly real-worldy to iMovie or iPhoto?  Those apps still look like Mac OS X Finder windows.