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Apple's Color, my thoughts

COW Blogs : walter biscardi's Blog : Apple's Color, my thoughts

On Sunday, April 15 at the NAB Apple Event, I fully expected to see the application formerly known as Final Touch re-released under the Apple name. What I did NOT expect was for the product to re-christened Color and for the application to simply be given away as part of the new Studio 2 package.

A little history here. Final Touch was the brainchild of Silicon Color and was positioned to compete against the likes of daVinci, a very high end color correction tool used for broadcast and feature films for years. Generally a daVinci session goes for anywhere from $200 to $750/hour depending on the facility and artist performing the work. This is also due to the tremendous costs of installing and maintaining a daVinci system which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Along came Final Touch which brought the tools down to a reasonable $995 to $25,000 depending on if you needed an SD to 2K version of the software. Much like Final Cut Pro did for editors, this price point allowed independent colorists to purchase the software and make a move to independence. Colorists could literally work out of their houses and small offices much like many Final Cut Pro editors have set up shops in their homes, yet still provide the quality and performance their clients demanded.

In addition, Final Touch allowed small Post production houses, like my very own Biscardi Creative Media to add an extremely powerful color correction tool our workflow to better position our shop against the "big boys" in town. One daVinci session alone would cost more than the price of Final Touch HD so it was a cost effective decision to purchase the software.

Now we have Color available to the masses as part of the new Final Cut Studio 2 bundle. According to Apple, there are over 800,000 registered users of Final Cut Pro across the world so that's potentially 800,000 new "colorists" that will be unleased on the world. Much as Editing is an art form, Color is also a very demanding art form. I always make it clear to people in my shop that I'm an editor first who has an understanding of color correction. A Colorist is a very specialized artist who can truly "paint" any scene of a project.

What I fear is that with simply giving away Color, Apple has actually made it very difficult for estabilished professional artists to differentiate themselves from enthusiasts and beginnners. By having a price point of $995, $5,000 and $25,000 Final Touch required the user to invest into an application and allowed the end user to promote something that was not available in every single edit suite out there. Now Apple is going to completely dillute the Color Correction market by handing the tool out to everyone.

While there will be some very talented artists out there who will do some amazing things with their hands on this tool, I fear what Apple has done is really set back the color community much as what happened when Final Cut Pro first came out. The product was derided because a lot of really bad editors made a really good tool look bad. It was cheap and anyone with the money could call themselves an editor, hence we saw a lot of really bad projects come along. I feel we're going to see a lot of bad color decisions being made which will sink the stock of Color among the editing and color community.

A professional grade color tool should require the investment of the user to properly learn it. A price point of $2,500 by Apple would have allowed the company to greatly reduce the price of the application, while at the same time allowing end users to differentiate themselves from the pack of 800,000. In my case, we spent $5,000 for the application and then another signficant sum to bring in colorist Bog Sliga to train us in the use of the product and color in general. This was an investment and a way to set us apart from other shops in the Atlanta area. As noted above, this was a great invesment vs. one daVinci session. By simply giving the tool away, Apple makes it very hard for those of us who have invested greatly in our skills and equipment to differentiate ourselves from the pack, both in the tools used and the rates we can charge. There comes a point where you can't simply keep investing in HD hardware while dropping your rates because the software prices keep dropping.

On the one hand I'll be happy to have three copies of Color when we upgrade. On the other hand, now we'll have to find another way to differentiate ourselves from the pack of 800,000 who now have the very same powerful color tool.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours?



Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 17, 2007 at 6:40:52 amComments (13) editing, hd, apple, final cut pro

Comments

I get three copies now!
by walter biscardi

Giving Color in Apple's FCS2 will be a little of a strain at first, but I am sure that you'll see that it still takes a trained professional colorist to get the job done correctly. What I see in this... another increased level of production quality and efficiency.

Yep, like I said earlier, this will do for color correction what FCP did for editing, bringing the tool set to a new level of user.  And the other way I look at this, I just purchased three copies of FCS 2 for less than the price of my original investment of Final Touch HD.  So I get three copies now for the price of one!  An NO MORE DONGLES!  Yay!

All too true, Walter!
by Wayne Carey
I agree with you completely, Walter. But this reminds me of the explosion of NLEs we had several years ago when we all thought the business would fall on it face with all of the new editors claiming to be professionals. Welll, as you can see that didn't happen. What it did was to add a new level of production quality that we have never seen before. True, the market did get watered down a little, but the professionals did prevail.

Giving Color in Apple's FCS2 will be a little of a strain at first, but I am sure that you'll see that it still takes a trained professional colorist to get the job done correctly. What I see in this... another increased level of production quality and efficiency.
I've met a few I liked
by Johan Edstrom
I have worked with tons of colorists in various parts of the world and they are all different. I've worked with some I really liked and some I really hated. Mostly though, the bigger and fancier the suites, the less I like the colorists that work there. There's so much hype about this whole part of the business. Of course color correction is one of the most important aspects in post production but it's really not that much of a mystery. It's also better to make it part of the final editing process. If you do a film to tape color correction before your on-line you usually wind up re-correcting everything in the edit room again anyhow. Getting rid of the 10 million gadgetry price tag for color correction really helps those professionals that care more about the end product than how many thousands of dollars they can charge by the hour.

My current process is:

Do one-light (technical grade) film to tape to HDSR and DV. Off-line the DV. Reconform in 4:4:4 12 bit RGB from the HDSR and color correct that as you like in your own edit suite. Master to any format you prefer (even 35mm film). It works great, especially for chroma-key since you have both the color depth and the resolution to get really detailed composites.
Enjoyed the comments
by walter biscardi
Very much enjoyed reading the comments above, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.
The thing is, it could go
by Jacki Schklar
The thing is, it could go either way. If it's like Graphic Design/Layout, yes, people want a pro, but pros don't make what they used to. Not counting those who have added interactive to their repertoire.

If it's like still photography, you are in trouble. Affordable digital cameras have impacted that field tremendously. Most serious pro still photogs these days have money from their parents and just like to feed their egos with their images. Not only can everyone shoot(or thinks they can), but they can copy what they paid you to shoot as well and it's almost impossible to protect your work. But I'm not bitter...

And the craft of photography...So bad I can't believe it. Look at the images on CNN.com or half the magazines. Can't really call it "photography". I received a very expensively printed Jeweler's ad, 8x11 8 panel mailer with a gorgeous model and pro make-up and someone did not know how to move a strobe around to an angle so the jewelry box would not cast a shadow on her face, and her nostril was glaring in another shot. Not an artistic expression, just really bad photography. And this is beginning to happen in video, we all know it.

I do think editing/post is a bit different because it's really important to learn with a production and post production crew or from a master, unlike a lot of graphic design and photography skills that can actually be self taught.

There are a lot of really really bad self taught editors out there. However, (this is where I get a little off topic, sorry) I guess I'm going to become one of them because I've tried to get into the post production field every way I can think of for three years and have failed. I'm not used to failure and don't like it. Premiere Pro, here I come...

I agree about all the bazillion channels, don't even think about all the new internet channels popping up. One of my mentors at Maine Public Broadcasting told me that the heyday of TV is over, so don't do it unless you love it.

The color correction market
by walter biscardi

The color correction market needs to be diluted. No more sessions with stuck up, overpriced colorists that destroy your product.

Johan, you're working with the wrong colorists.  I've worked with Ron Anderson here in Atlanta and Bob Sliga and both were incredibly gracious and incredibly talented artists.

It's cheaper than tuition for most of the young'uns.
by Andrius Simutis
The fact that the tools are more accessible is a good thing in the long run. To take the point made about the desktop publishing and how every lost cat flyer had 20+ fonts and looked horrible, you really have to look at what happened after that. Design calmed down and the overall level of work greatly surpassed what was there before the advent of cheap DTP solutions. Now the average design that sees the light of day blows the older stuff out of the water! Not only that, but the average consumer has been trained to expect more from graphic design simply through exposure.
I think that we will inevitably see some wacky color treatments for the next couple years, but I'm excited for what will come after that. The overall level of quality will surely improve in time and then the consumer will expect to see better quality as well. In the long run, everything will look better.
How can a drop in price be a bad thing?
by Johan Edstrom
Why be so grumpy about cheap software?

The more, better and cheaper the merrier!

The color correction market needs to be diluted. No more sessions with stuck up, overpriced colorists that destroy your product.

Johan Edstrom

http://www.apparatfilm.se
This is a change I like (and my wallet likes too)...
by Paul Escandon

"While there will be some very talented artists out there who will do some amazing things with their hands on this tool, I fear what Apple has done is really set back the color community much as what happened when Final Cut Pro first came out."

This seems to be an unevitability in the industry and I don't see this type of "progress" changing any time soon. Inevitably, a company like Apple with insert themselves into a high-end market where very few tools exist and the ones that do are mastered by a small group of very talented professionals who have honed their crafts. This will open the door for tons of new users to see what this color correction and grading is all about. Also inevitably, there will be some untalented people who think they have what it takes or maybe just want to give it a shot and they'll produce some bad products. However, over time those with actual talent will rise to the top and keep getting work while those who obviously don't know what they're doing will either lose their ability to do jobs or lose interest in it all together. There will also be a whole new breed of people who maybe couldn't break into color grading exactly because they had no experience in it and had no access to a system... and now they'll have the ability to learn the craft and break into a new job that they might never have previously, and I think that's always a good thing.

I see no reason why if someone can spend less than or around a couple grand to have access to creative tools to make high end motion graphics, composites, 3D modeling and animation, edits, and graphics, etc etc, they shouldn't also be able to have the tools to do high end color correction of around the same price. It just makes sense to me, and to my wallet. I'm very indie at heart, and I'm loving these developments personally.

 

-Paul Escandon
Outdoor Channel
Post Production/Editor/Motion Graphics

Oremus Productions
Producer/Director
http://www.oremusproductions.com

I totally agree with Adam.
by Winston A. Cely
I totally agree with Adam. I couldn't say it any better.
its an industry wide epidemic...
by adam taylor
I agree with everything you said, Walter.

As someone who spent many years learning my craft in the linear world, i still find what is now achievable to be simply staggering, and more so when you consider the relative inexpense required.

The downside is that what was once a craft is now something anybody can do on their home computer (really?), and as a result the perceived skill level required has dropped (when in reality, the skill level required to work to a consistently high standard is far greater than ever, simply because we are all expected to be masters of a wider range of techniques, styles, equipment, etc).

I used to get really annoyed by the "cheapening" of my craft, however, I have been in the game long enough to take the long view. The hobbyist cutter will come and go, and for a brief period the stuff thats get put out will suffer because of him. His budget cutting approach may be snapped up by short sighted clients, but they will soon realise that you need to pay a fair price if you expect to get a fair product in return.

And we can't just blame the kit manufacturers - the broadcasters are also to blame. They are constantly starting new channels, to give more choice (700 channels of crap? great choice!) Each of them scrabbling for advertisers so that the advertising revenues are being spread thinner and thinner. Little money means less to spend and this quickly feeds down to the program makers. And unfortunately, if they can find a cheaper editor, regardless of ability, then whoopee. After all - the world is run by accountants, and how many of them could spot a bum edit (or even care)?

I know that the clients that i really want appreciate the talent rather than the bottom line. The variables are so great that its just not economic sense to go by the cheapest quote.

It all boils down to talent and craftsmanship. If you have it, you will find the work. I understand your concern about differentiating your skills from Johnny No-Stars, but i think you are probably better off letting your work speak for itself.
Craftsmanship matters
by Tycho Sjögren
Having supported professionals in typesetting, prepress and video business since the 70:ths I've seen this happen over and over again.
Remember the DTP revolution when people used 20 fonts, 8 colors and all strange styles such as outline, shadow etc on one single page.
Or those horrible color separations that reminded of East Germany 1956.

What happened in all those fields is that those who have the craftsmanship and make a good job survive while the others die away, no matter of how good tools they have.

Keep the good job going...
democratization, it's a [female cowdog]
by David Walker
you say: "Apple makes it very hard for those of us who have invested greatly in our skills and equipment to differentiate ourselves from the pack, both in the tools used and the rates we can charge."

i say: welcome to the world of avid editors who made investments of time and money, seeing their investments go up in smoke with cheap tools run by inexperienced drivers who give real pros a bad name.

same for betasp even digibeta shooters who saw business run away to kids with vx1000s who couldn't even shoot in focus.

don't get me wrong. i love being on the benefit side of democratization. but every revolution means that the higher-than-median folks get brought down exactly as far as lower-then-median folks get brought up.

think of it this way -- the $145k avid ds nitris gets grief for undercutting what discreet rooms can charge.

so i'm going to love having color in my bag of tricks, but i feel your pain.

yrs,
dave


Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.

 




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