Avid’s finally taken the action many have been calling for. It’s decided to simplify its product line, dropping Xpress Pro and lowering the price of Media Composer. Details here.
The consensus in various forums and mailing lists is that this is another example of too little, too late from Avid. I respectfully dissent. Too late? Only time will tell. Back in May 2006 I suggested it was time to put Xpress Pro out to pasture to gasps from Avid marketing types in the audience. Too little? That’s harder to say. By maintaining its distance from Final Cut Pro in terms of pricing, Avid is saying that it doesn’t compete on price with Final Cut Pro. Now Avid has to articulate its justification for that strategy.
Media Composer has several features that justify its premium price. My three favorites are Animatte, FluidMorph, and ScriptSync. It doesn’t take many hours saved for a facility owner to justify the $1,200 price differential over Final Cut Studio. ScriptSync alone can pay for itself its first week in use.
Avid’s primary failing to date has been getting the word out. I’ve lost count of how many experienced editors I’ve run into who don’t understand what ScriptSync, Animatte, or FluidMorph does. If editors don’t understand a feature, you can bet producers and facility owners don’t either. Pricing Media Composer at $5,000 — a $3,500 premium over Xpress Pro — virtually assured no one would make the discovery on his or her own.
I’ve run the numbers. On a recently completed Final Cut Pro multi-camera project, FluidMorph and ScriptSync would have saved the client twice the new cost differential. But the post production supervisor tasked with selecting the project’s editing platform –a bright guy– didn’t know enough about either to consider the potential advantage Avid offered. And that’s Avid’s fault. No post supervisor can know everything, especially when vendors don’t make a clear case for choosing their product. Buying NLEs has become too much like grocery shopping — look at the price tags and throw the lower one in the cart.
Avid’s new student pricing strategy — $295 for students with valid college IDs — should help, but killing the dongle would help more. I teach at a university. The program is Avid-focused, yet the majority of my students prefer Final Cut Pro to Media Composer. Don’t get me wrong. Final Cut Pro is a worthy editor, and it remains my first choice for several types of projects, but my Post Production I students haven’t logged enough hours in the editing suite to discern which NLE is better for which project. What they have learned is how to share one copy of Final Cut Studio among a dozen students. They go home over breaks and edit their own projects on pirated copies of Final Cut Pro. Avid has to compete with free for the hearts and minds of student editors — and bank on the fact that when they get paid to edit their choice will be Avid.
It’s a risky strategy, but it would show that Avid is serious about the student market — and serious about its future in the NLE space. Once they’ve gotten addicted to those Avid-only features, they’ll be able to justify the price of an Avid solution to employers and clients.