The Inevitable Convergence

It’s interesting to watch various pieces of software slowly converging into the realm of tools which only a few years ago were beyond financial capabilities of most mortals.

Premiere Pro slowly integrates tightly not only with After Effects (which received a long needed 3D boost in the CC release), but also with SpeedGrade and – hopefully in the future – Audition. Coming from the NLE perspective, it gains the tools necessary for professional color grading, and compositing/vfx, adding them to its very strong standing in motion graphics. The promise of Direct Link with the workflow devoid of the dreaded comforming issues makes it most certainly an interesting package and a serious contender in this game.

Currently the most powerful application for VFX and compositing – The Foundry’s Nuke – gained recently additional 3D capabilities, and most likely even more integration is on the way, especially after the fusion with Luxology. Nuke 8 will bring enhanced Dope Sheet, which could be considered a layer editor, and it is clear from the hype around the “new and improved” text tool, that some new features are clearly aimed towards mograph market. A very interesting technology demo on the NAB showed Nuke integrated with Hiero, and there were mentions of the timeline for Nuke during IBC. Even though the manipulation is certainly not yet at the level required for either real-time editing or finishing, a lot of the required technology is already present, and I would not be surprised to see at some point some very strong competition to Flame coming out of this house.

Speaking of which, the new Flame 2014 received some serious marketing during IBC, and it is most certainly still entrenched in the high-end commercials workflow. But it also received the timeline, and some great grading tools from Lustre, once again confirming the need for many creative tools. On similar front, Smoke recently received a major face-lift, got more prominent editing interface, and attempts to gain ground among the editors.

HitFilm, the new kid on the block, shows some potential for being the poor man’s replacement for Premiere Pro and After Effects for those who don’t want to rent the software from Adobe, or can’t afford Smoke. FCPX with Motion is a wild card as well, with some great external applications utilizing the power of the new variety of XML, and with the plugin architecture allowing for some interesting extensions, like SliceX.

Finally, various color grading applications also are adding features routinely reserved for either compositing, or editing software. Film Master added keying and blending modes on its timeline a few years ago, and we’ve all seen the direction which Resolve is taking with the release of V10.

It’s very interesting to observe how various once specialized software packages start to outgrow their primary purpose, and begin to drift and converge around the core set of tasks usually reserved for on-line and finishing. In the days of extremely fast hardware, inexpensive storage, and other affordable solutions, the companies, which up until recently were relatively comfortably carving out their own part of the market, will soon start to compete with one another for the client base that wants everything in one package. The demise of Avid DS, which is leaving quite a few users looking for alternatives, only underscores this point.

The creatives wish to remain in the state of flow during their work, and look for software packages eliminating the roadblocks, timewasters and everyday annoyances, simultaneously providing all the desired tools at reasonable cost. Rigid specialization seems to slowly become the thing of the past, as more and more barriers to integration start to crumble. When the dust settles, I wonder where will we be?

Interesting times, indeed.

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2 Responses to The Inevitable Convergence

  1. Jon Howard says:

    Just found your site today while searching for some info about Premiere’s new “export markers” feature. Really enjoy everything you’re doing here. Very helpful! I’ve been trying to push – for a years now – for Premiere to add some Smoke or Hiero-like conforming tools. They already have them in Speedgrade but there’s currently no way of getting a Speedgrade timeline into Premiere, incredibly. I only mention it because you pointed out how the Hiero/Nuke workflow could eventually challenge Flame as a high-end finishing solution. If Premiere had the capacity to conform the way the finishing apps do, I think Premiere/AE (and its not difficult at all to get shots out to Nuke if heavier firepower is needed), could offer a very competent alternative to Smoke (which has no particle system or camera projection). Throw in SynthEyes, Blender and Element3D and it’s incredible – and kind of scary, from a paycheck standpoint – what is possible at a very low price point these days. Thanks again for the great work and the post!

    • BartW says:

      Thanks, Jon.

      Conforming on Premiere is most certainly not as streamlined, as conforming on, say, Smoke. That said, you can export EDL from SpeedGrade and import it to Premiere. I know you’re looking for the possibility to import native SG projects though. I’m not sure it’s going to happen any time soon, unless there is a significant number of users who would demand this functionality. The focus seems to be on the opposite workflow with Premiere as the main hub of the production, and AE, SG, and other applications serving specialized roles.

      But apart from this, yes, there are quite a few low-cost solutions that are production ready. Interesting times, indeed.

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