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?