Adobe really is open

Automatic Duck co-founder Wes Plate talks about his past, present, and future with Adobe.

Last month, it was announced that Automatic Duck, makers of popular plug-ins for exchanging timelines between After Effects, Avid, Final Cut Pro, Pro Tools, and more, had partnered with Adobe to bring best-of-class interchange technology to Adobe Premiere Pro and Production Premium. As the President and co-founder of Automatic Duck, Inc., I was invited to join the team at Adobe and put my experience and ideas to work on the future of the suite.

A little background

In case you’re not familiar with me and my Automatic Duck backstory, let me tell you a little bit about how I ended up here. I started using After Effects in 1996 after seeing some amazing work by Digital Kitchen in which they integrated Avid editorial together with motion graphics and compositing in After Effects in a way I didn’t know was possible. It was an exciting way to work, but it was also tedious because there was no good bridge between Avid Media Composer and After Effects.

By 1999 I had worked out a decent system for rebuilding timelines, but it was still time-consuming. It got me dreaming of a better way. I discussed my idea with Harry, who was the only programmer I knew… and also my dad: What if a plug-in could be made for After Effects that would import Avid OMF files?

In our spare time, we researched the problem, and in 2000 we contacted Adobe to gain access to the After Effects plug-in software development kit (SDK). Before long, we were invited to a developer conference where the After Effects engineers were sharing their technical plans for the upcoming release of After Effects 5.0. It turned out that the technology that we needed didn’t exist yet, but the new SDK was going to start making it possible. It was exciting to work directly with the team to get what we needed into After Effects.

We shipped our first product-a plug-in for After Effects 5.0 that would import Avid OMF 2.0 exports-at NAB 2001 and started to build other bridges from there. The rest, as they say, is history.

Adobe as enabler

The mere fact that Adobe was so interested in working with us to create interoperability between Media Composer and After Effects is alone proof of their openness, but it goes deeper. When we started, Adobe employed an amazing technical evangelist who did a great job ensuring developers were getting the support they needed. But she also built a community feeling among the plug-in developers-she called it a Brotherhood-where we all became friends and helped each other as well. This camaraderie survives today in the Plug-in Pavilion that you see at NAB, where several plug-in makers band together to exhibit in shared space and promote each other.

Fast-forward to today. A lot has changed in the industry in the last ten years. OMF has largely been replaced by AAF, but these “open” formats are incredibly hard to read and write so an easier format using XML emerged and spawned other products and companies. Adobe’s engineers worked closely with Automatic Duck to improve After Effects support for our plug-in but also proved their openness by implementing native XML import and export in Adobe Premiere Pro to enable interchange with Final Cut Pro. The old days of closed systems were truly behind us, but Adobe wanted even it even better.

Automatic Duck partnership

In September of this year, we partnered with Adobe to integrate our technology. After ten years, it was time for Harry and me to embark on a new challenge, and joining forces with Adobe was a great fit. I am personally thrilled to be working with a great group of people, many of whom I’ve known for a very long time. Working for a large company is a completely new experience, and isn’t without challenges, but the men and women working on the digital video and audio applications that you use every day are some of the coolest people I’ve ever met. And it is clear why the products are so great: these people are passionate about their work.

Openness benefits everyone

The saying goes “A rising tide lifts all boats.” I’ve always felt that this applied to the video industry, too—that cooperation is in everyone’s interest. I am hopeful that we can prove that the partnership between Automatic Duck and Adobe will also bring benefit to all users. One shining example of this commitment to users is evident at the Automatic Duck website: the popular plug-ins for After Effects and Final Cut Pro are now available at no charge. So, if you need to import an Avid or FCP7 sequence into After Effects, export a Final Cut Pro sequence to Avid Media Composer, or visa versa, you’re free to do so. Thank you, Adobe, for making it possible.

These days, a lot of editors are considering which NLE they will be using into the future, and Adobe Premiere Pro is the choice for more and more users. Not only is it becoming a fantastic editor, but the integration Adobe Premiere Pro enjoys with After Effects, Audition, and the rest of the Production Premium suite, along with built-in support for open standards such as AAF, OMF and XML, make it a compelling choice. Switchers across the industry seem to agree.

Adobe is strongly committed to the professional video market and really listens to their customers. I can’t wait for you to see what Adobe has in the pipeline. This is an exciting time in our industry, and it is great to be part of an ambitious team who wants to earn your business by working well with all of your tools.

Todd Kopriva

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