Back in January news broke that reality television producers Bunim/Murray were switching their post-production facilities from Final Cut Pro to Avid Media Composer. This probably didn’t come as a great shock to anyone who follows post-production as the release of Final Cut Pro X had left many people (especially those in the broadcast world) a bit stunned at its lack of broadcast features. There was a lot written about this subject but I had a few more questions so I spoke with Bunim/Murray’s senior vice president of Post Production Mark Raudonis as he has been the public face of this switch. Our Q and A follows.
Pro Video Coalition: One question that many might be wondering is why not move Bunim/Murray to Final Cut Pro X?
Mark Raudonis: As one of the largest producers of reality TV programming, Bunim/Murray Productions deals with an extraordinarily large amount of media. We have almost 100 editors working on half a dozen shows simultaneously. Everything is SAN based, and a collaborative workflow is a central part of our creative process. After much testing, we concluded that FCP-X was not going to allow us to maintain the efficient workflows that we had developed over the years with FCP legacy.
Secondary to the first question, why not just continue using Final Cut Pro 7 until it’s finally killed by lack of OS or hardware support?
We were not interested in that option. There are too many changes in codecs, camera formats, and delivery models to just sit on an old software version hoping that you can hang on until something better comes along. That’s NOT a formula for success.
Would the recent update to Final Cut Pro X 10.0.3 that added features such as multicam and broadcast monitoring made any difference in your decision to move to Avid Media Composer?
Our decision to switch was made with knowledge of the features just released in 10.0.3. While these improvements are welcome, and we knew they were coming, there are still too many other issues remaining for us to use FCP-X in our workflow.
Is the move to Avid replacing all FCP installs with Media Composer or does this move pertain to all new installs?
Our intent is to change over all of our editing systems as soon as practical. Existing shows currently in post will continue on FCP until the end of their broadcast run. New shows starting up will switch to AVID. We expect there will be a transition period where we will have both systems in house simultaneously.
You were one of the few who spoke out after seeing an early version of FCPX. Did the direction that FCPX has taken surprise you? When you saw that early version of FCPX did you expect you’d be changing platforms less than a year later?
Surprised? No. Anyone who has paid attention to the industry over the past few years had to have realized that a major change was in the works, and our decision to switch was not made overnight. It was the result of watching the progress of FCP over the past few years.
You famously said that Apple is (to use the hockey metaphor) skating “to where the puck will be” with this new FCP. Do you think that the “puck” is moving away from high end broadcast programming and Apple doesn’t care as much about that market as they once did?
We simply disagree about where the puck “should” be. They have chosen to focus on consumers.
Once you were able to get your hands on Final Cut Pro X did your impression of it change any from the initial demo in early 2011?
No, not really. The version released is essentially what was demoed. Save for some features added in the initial upgrade, it was basically the same.
Does Apple’s recent move to a more consumer electronics oriented company worry you as a professional user who utilizes Apple’s high-end gear? Can you foresee a day when Mac Minis / iMacs and Thunderbolt dominate your facility?
It’s extremely difficult to make long-range plans without the benefit of a publicly announced roadmap for future product development. Basing purchasing decisions on rumors is nota viable way to run a large-scale operation. We do already have plenty of Mac Mini’s and iMacs in our facility. Will these products dominate in the future? I don’t know.
Were there other NLE choices considered besides Media Composer? Adobe Premiere Pro perhaps?
Adobe has made great strides forward with their latest version (CS6), but it still isn’t close to Avid when it comes to group-based workflow and a complete end- to-end solution.
You have cited the ability for Media Composer 6 to work with your existing hardware. How much of a factor did this have in Bunim/Murray’s decision to move to Avid?
Being able to retain all of our existing hardware was a HUGE factor in making this decision. Avid’s new Symphony software only version and compatibility with our existing Kona 3 cards makes the transition much more economical.
Will new purchases utilize the now more affordable Avid hardware or will you continue new purchases with your existing 3rd party hardware of choice?
We expect to use our existing Kona 3 cards for output to tape and critical color correction monitoring.
What is Bunim/Murray’s main video hardware btw?
MacPro towers throughout the fleet. Kona 3 cards for online, color correction, and tape output.
The Final Cut Pro plug-in ecosystem is much larger than that of Avid Media Composer. Will Bunim/Murray be losing any sizable investment in plug-ins?
Most of our shows are not effects heavy. This transition will not impact the visual style or creative efforts of our editorial team.
Will Bunim/Murray be affected by the loss of the existing applications in Final Cut Studio?
Our existing FC studio software will still be available to us if needed.
One of Avid’s strong points is collaboration between editors (which is very important to reality programming). What was Bunim/Murray’s workflow with Final Cut Pro 7?
Describing our workflow would take much longer than this article, and it’s constantly changing depending on the project. We pioneered the use of FCP in a large scale, shared media, workgroup environment. We used X-SAN with Active Storage’s RAID to create media pools for our editorial team. All media was managed and organized at the “finder level”, which is a tremendously powerful feature when dealing with multiple shows simultaneously. We also used the classic “off-line to on-line” workflow where creative editing was done at low resolution. After picture lock, the show would be uprezzed for final color correction and output to tape.
What type of training will Bunim/Murray have to implement to get editors who may not be familiar with Media Composer up to speed? Are the majority of your editors on staff or do you rely on a large freelance pool?
Almost all of our editors are fluent in both FCP and AVID. Our assistant editors will need more of an introduction to Media Composer, and we will provide them with the training needed for this transition.
Thanks to Mark for taking the time to answer these questions as I’m sure he has gotten a lot of requests after the move to Avid.
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