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BlogApple WWDC 2015 and post productionTuesday, June 9 2015

Here’s my take on the announcements at the Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference 2015.

OS X El Capitan

First came details on the next version of OS X, named El Capitan. El Capitan is one of the mountains in the Yosemite National Park in California. This naming is smiliar to how OS X Mountain Lion came after OS X Lion and OS X Snow Leopard came after OS X Leopard. It signals that this update isn’t as big from users point of view. OS X Mountain Lion, Snow Leopard and El Capitan have less big new features that most Mac users will get excited about.

These updates give developers that chance to catch up on new Apple technologies and Apple the chance to introduce innovations that developers can use to do new things. An example could be that if Apple have added more features to AV Foundation, the code that lets application developers (inside and outside of Apple) to do more with movies and audio. Apple Marketing won’t tell the public about AV Foundation updates this year, but will hope that new OS X (and iOS watchOS) abilities will mean better AV applications in the coming months.

Spotlight improvements

El Capitan adds natural language searches “The pictures I took last year in London.” This should also work for searches based media metadata, and eventually metadata added within applications such as Final Cut Pro X: “Select favourites from the second half of the concert in Manchester featuring the drummer and the bass guitarist shot on a GoPro.” Apple haven’t yet announced links between media metadata and Spotlight searches, but natural langauge searches in iMovie and Final Cut Pro X would be useful.

In iOS apps can make their content available to Spotlight so that an iPhone- or iPad-wide search will find content in a specific part of the app.

Metal

[20:30 into main keynote] Last year Apple introduced Metal – a way for iOS gaming applications to better access the power of iPhone, iPad and iPad CPUs and GPUs. Last year the emphasis was on how this would make iOS games better. This year Apple had a demo of how well a game worked with Metal on OS X.

Metal has also evolved to speed up more of OS X. In El Capitan Metal improves the speed of Core Animation and Core Graphics. Compared with when these libaries executing OpenGL commands, they now render ‘up to’ 50% faster on the same hardware.

[21:20] Interestingly for post production people, Apple also said how Metal would speed up ‘high performance apps.’ It does this by replacing OpenGL graphics code and OpenCL distributed processing code (for sharing work between CPUs).

[21:45] The first developer story of the WWDC keynote was from Adobe. They’ve been able to speed up After Effects CC rendering by 8x using Metal for OS X. Animations can be rendered in real time. Instead of waiting for Illustrator CC to rerender complex graphics when zooming, now rendering happens in real time. This brings the power of interactive graphic changes – no waiting for rendering in Illustrator.

“We are committed to adopting Metal on our OS X apps. With performance increases of up to 8x, we are excited about what Metal can do for our Creative Cloud users.” – David Wadhwani, Sr. VP & GM, Digital Media, Adobe [22:08]

David McGavran of Adobe Systems demoed the speed improvements in After Effects CC and Illustrator CC during the ‘Platforms State of the Nation’ session [1:32:15 into this video]. He said that Adobe apps like Premiere Clip already benefit from Metal on iOS.

“Pro app makers are seeing the benefits of Metal like The Foundry and Autodesk. I think were going to see pro users, gamers and all of us benefiting from the performance advantages of Metal” Craig Federighi, Apple [26:55]

AV Foundation

AV Foundation is the part of OS X (and iOS) that applications use to manipulate video and audio. The Editing Movies in AV Foundation developer session has the following description:

Learn how to use the new AVMutableMovie class to modify media files and simplify your editing workflows. See how to support segment-based editing and discover the power of sample reference movies.

The developer documentation for the version of AV Foundation in El Capitan hasn’t yet been updated to include AVMutableMovie.

Speed improvement

According to Pedro Santamaría on Twitter, the current version Final Cut Pro X runs faster on his 2012 MacBook Air – as tested using my BruceX benchmark:

This is impressive given that operating system betas aren’t tuned for speed. I’ll add any update he gives on how much faster the Mac Pro is running El Capitan.

Also…

In each keynote Apple likes to show slides that list ‘too many features to go into right now.’ Some that are relevant to post production are:

File copy resume – could mean that the Finder (or other applications) will resume copying files after a crash or other interruption

Photos editing extensions – could be possible to make changes to photos within video and motion graphics applications. No ‘Movie editing extentions’ yet

Airplay Video – OS X users can already play videos on Apple TVs on the same network, perhaps this mention means that other Macs will be able to play back video.

Should I install OS X El Capitan?

No. Not today.

Unless you are developing Mac software. Although Apple hope it won’t cause any problems on your Mac, it wouldn’t suprise exprienced developers if a fault wipes all hard drives. At the moment there are reports ranging from “No problems” to “Final Cut Pro X crashes constantly.” If you must try it, I suggest you wait for the version Apple releases as part of its public Beta programme.

As regards compatibility, if a Mac can run OS X Yosemite today, it will be able to run the release version of OS El Capitan tomorrow.

Apple ecosystems

Other keynote announcements show that Apple want to maintain and create new ecosystems. As well as supporting big players, their ecosystems include support for small companies and individuals to do well. This makes sense to iOS and OS X developers selling through Apple’s App Stores.

Apple Pay

As well as adding more banks and the UK to Apple Pay, Apple mentioned that Square will soon introduce a terminal that will allow anyone to accept ApplePay payments.

News

The News iOS app is a place for syndicated content from news and media organisations. Apple is also considering content from smaller sites and individuals. For now they need to set up an RSS feed of their stories and apply to Apple stating which kinds of content they create:

News brings together high-quality news, magazine, and blog sources in a single beautiful content experience. Whether you’re a major news organization or an individual blogger, you can sign up to deliver your content to millions of iOS users.

Topics are created and assigned by Apple’s expert editors and sophisticated algorithms.

News Publishing Guide – Apple

This means that if you can demonstrate that you provide relevant content on a subject of interest to just a few thousand people, Apple’s News app might be able to help you connect with the iOS users amongst them.

As well as being able to monetise your content with 100% from any advertising you include, you optionally get 70% of income from Apple’s iAd system.

Apple Music

During the launch of Apple Music, Apple made a point of including unknown musicians. As well as being able to have their music included in Apple Music, Connect helps them maintain their community of fans by adding text, audio, pictures and video to their Apple Music page. Apple Music also takes into account how individuals within families have different music preferences by offering a good value family plan.

At the moment Apple’s Beats 1 worldwide radio station seems aimed at a limited demographic – those interested enough in current and new music to want to hear well chosen music. Those willing to pay for a music subscription. Hopefully Apple will be able to create more advanced radio experiences in future.

Future media ecosystems

This prompts the question of where video, TV and film fits into Apple’s plan. If Apple is consistent with what they are about to do with News and Music, people, small groups and large content creators will be able to share their video content in the same way.

If Apple Movies was built in the same way, there would be an iOS application which would provide a single place to consume and discover video content. It would combine human curation with algorithms that would learn your preferences. If you are a producer, Apple would provide simple tools to make your content available (News) and build audiences (Apple Music Connect).

A similar ecosystem could be built around podcasts – perhaps supported by a worldwide Apple radio station that features presenters and excerpts from podcasts, audio books and radio drama.

The Apple Music family plan prompts me to point out that some media – music, TV, movies – is fun to share with others. Perhaps Apple should find a way for software to create combined streams that would entertain groups of people: A family playlist for everyone until 10pm, then content for the parents. “Stick with this 15 minute short that only your brother likes, something you really like will be on next.” This could work for any group of people – including groups not gathered in one place: hanging out across the internet.

If your media has to fit in a shared customised stream, the methods you use to tell stories might change.

If Google and Apple will eventually meet in a battle of software on hardware vs. software in the cloud, Apple might need to change the field of battle. If hardware devices become so ambient as not needing to be associated with an individual – apart from an earpiece running Siri – Apple’s hardware integration edge will become irrelevant. What survives will be Apple’s ability to maintain and support media ecosystems.

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BlogFCPX Creative Summit 2016 Provisional Schedule – More from AppleMonday, June 8 2015

The provisional schedule for October’s FCPX Creative Summit is now available.

Interesting: Instead of last year’s 90 minute presentation given twice to two groups, the schedule shows a 60 minute ‘General Address’ followed by a choice between 90 minute breakout sessions:

2:00 – 3:00pm General Address: The Future (Apple Campus)
3:00 – 4:30pm Apple Session Breakouts (Apple Campus)

What could Apple be talking about in these sessions which would mean attendees would have to choose one session over an other?

Another point: The Summit was held in late June last year. This year it will be in late October. Given this event is organised to fit in with the plans of the ProApps team, there is a chance there will be more to talk about later this year.

Next week at the WWDC 16 there is a chance that Apple will announce or pre-announce a new version of the Mac Pro, just as they did in 2013. Final Cut Pro X is the application that most people understand needs a lot of power. Perhaps Apple will once again use a Final Cut screenshot during the keynote (which will be streamed online on Monday).

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BlogExploring 360° video with Final Cut Pro XMonday, June 8 2015

I saw an interesting music video today from Bjork – another 360° ‘VR’ video, which prompted me to find out how to create 360° motion graphics using Final Cut Pro X.

If you view this video with the Chrome browser on YouTube, you can drag within the video to look around – left and right, up and down:

Use the cog settings control to increase the resolution to 2160p-4K.

I made this video by scaling a still equirectangular panorama down to 4320×2160 and importing it into a new 25p Final Cut Pro X project.

I then overlaid text on top, animating some of it.

Here is the ‘flat’ video – scaled down to HD from 4K:

Where I wanted text to appear ‘behind’ the initial position – where the left and right edges of the panorama meet, I created two copies of the same title, so it wouldn’t be cut off by the edge.

I exported the video as an H.264 encoded mp4 scaled to 3840×2160 with a data rate of 30 Mbps (more on YouTube’s video upload specs).

For YouTube to recognise that this 4K video was designed for 360° video, I opened the Final Cut output file with Google’s 360 Video Metadata application. The simple UI has a single button:

I clicked ‘Inject and save’ and saved a new file which I uploaded to YouTube.

Looks like I made my graphics too large, but if you avoid moving too far up or down on your background, overlaid graphics should work OK.

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BlogVisit the Apple Campus for a Final Cut Pro X presentation on June 26Thursday, June 4 2015

It seems that after years of very little access, Apple is opening up a little more. On June 26 members of the public will be visiting Apple’s offices to get an update on Final Cut Pro X. The kind of access that usually granted only to a favoured few is available to attendees of Future Media Concepts’ FCPX Creative Summit:

FCPX Creative Summit attendees have the unique opportunity to visit the Apple Campus in Cupertino and hear directly from FCPX product managers! You’ll get a unique perspective on how this video editing software has changed the industry and how it continues to innovate today.

Get an update from Apple Product Managers on the current release of Final Cut Pro X, exciting customer stories, and the thriving ecosystem of third-party software and hardware.

Representatives of Apple’s ProApps team have appeared at professional events over the years, but this event marks the first time a large group of professionals have been invited to visit Apple.

Future Media Concepts is a company that runs training courses in media production in the USA, Canada and online. They also organise post production events such as the Editors Retreat, After Effects World and the Creative Cloud Masters conference.

Livinia Smith, Future Media Concepts’ event marketing manager for the FCPX Creative Summit says that after running events for Adobe and Avid users for many years, recent improvements in Final Cut prompted them to turn to Apple’s software. The weekend of June 26-28 is just over four years since Final Cut Pro X was launched. Did that factor into the timing? “Future Media Concepts approached Apple about hosting an event dedicated to this platform. We both decided the date for the conference” says Smith.

Smith went on “Regarding the visit to the Apple Campus, when we pitched the idea to Apple, they saw value in directly interacting with this community of FCP users and they agreed to host a talk with the conference attendees in a lecture room at Apple.”

Peeking out over the parapet of a besieged castle

Although Final Cut Pro X and its companion applications Compressor and Motion have been very successful over the years, Apple hasn’t seen the need to publically involve itself with the user community. Compare their activities with those of Adobe and Avid – companies whose video editing applications were the traditional competitors of Final Cut Pro.

As well as constantly updating their websites with Premiere Pro and Media Composer case studies, their online activities include blog posts, tweets and Facebook updates with named staff members. They run support forums that feature contributions from software engineers. If a small user group somewhere in the USA gets in touch with Adobe to say they’re organising a meeting about Premiere Pro, there’s a good chance product manager Al Mooney will appear to give an entertaining presentation on his baby.

In recent years parts of Apple have been interacting a little more with the wider world. For example last year’s launch of Swift, a new programming language for developing OS X, iPhone and now Watch apps was a big surprise. Apple going on to launch a programming blog on Swift is even more of a surprise.

Anyone who visits the online forums discussing Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Avid Media Composer and Final Cut Pro X know that the harshest critics of most applications are those who use them every day for their livelihood. The combination of a long-established culture of Apple not sharing much information and the rabid nature of online power user debate means that it will be hard for the Final Cut Pro X team to change how they interact with the wider Final Cut community.

On the way towards a professional application community

Hopefully the ProApps team will be able to more directly support a Final Cut Pro X community. Online support would include

  • A buyers guide for third-party hardware and software
  • A consultants network
  • Continually updated training materials
  • A job board for employers and job seekers
  • Forums and discussion groups where the developers of the application itself can take part
  • Regular conferences so people can learn from each other and network

The majority of Final Cut users are individuals don’t need to set up complex workflows and never need to call on consultants. However, knowing that there is a robust community standing by makes trying a new complex application that bit less daunting.

Although this kind of community might seem at odds with the way Apple works, they have a model of their own they can look to: FileMaker. FileMaker is Apple’s professional database system. The FileMaker website has all the features I listed above.

It is interesting that Apple refers to FileMaker as a platform – as it is made up of an authoring tool, a server product and software that runs on Macs, PCs, iOS devices and in web browsers.

Perhaps the ProApps applications might end up as a platform/ecosystem too. I hope June’s FCPX Creative Summit is a step on the way.

Disclosure: I’m happy to say I’m presenting a couple of sessions on Apple Motion at the Summit.

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BlogFacebook=Coke, Twitter=Pepsi: If you’re No. 2, do what No. 1 cannotWednesday, June 3 2015

In “Odyssey” by John Scully, the former president of Pepsi described one of his main strategies when competing with Coca Cola. He turned one of Coke’s major brand elements and turned it against its owner. From 1923 onwards the Coca Cola company used a patented bottle shape to promote Coke. They put a great deal of marketing money behind associating its distinctive shape with Coca Cola.

Pepsi didn’t have a specific alernative bottle shape to promote in opposition to their rival. Instead of spending millions to add a physical packaging design to their brand, they used the flexibility of not having a specific shape to create different kinds of bottles. This flexibility made it much easier for Pepsi to sell bottled cola in locations not previously associated with soft drinks.

Chris Sacca has written an article suggesting what Twitter should do to compete:

Hundreds of millions of new users will join and stay active on Twitter, hundreds of millions of inactive users will return to Twitter, and hundreds of millions more will use Twitter from the outside if Twitter can:

  1. Make Tweets effortless to enjoy,
  2. Make it easier for all to participate, and
  3. Make each of us on Twitter feel heard and valuable.

Accomplishing this isn’t hard and there are obvious, concrete steps to fix it all. Done right, countless users new and old will find Twitter indispensable, use Twitter more, see great ads, buy lots of stuff, and make the company much more money along the way.

There are many interesting ideas in his post. Many of them are ways of using ideas from Facebook without becoming too much like Facebook: including providing views of the feed that aren’t in strict chronological order, and breaking up Twitter into multiple apps.

While Twitter is considering which of its baseline features to change, they should also think of doing new things that Facebook cannot.

You are not your social media

The base assumption of all social media networks is one person = one account. When you sign up for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Amazon, you create an account that represents your relationship with the social currency that the network manages: updates, pictures, videos and purchases.

Now that Apple want to make corporate attitude to privacy a major martket differentiator, I think Twitter could make it appealing for people to participate if they helped users be more than one person on the internet.

At the moment professional Twitter users know how to use tools like TweetDeck to maintain multiple Twitter accounts. Most TweetDeck users are maintaining accounts for different clients or departments.

I think Twitter should encourage people to have more than one Twitter identity. Each Twitter identity would be associated with the different lives people live:

  • Professional life (one for each area of expertise) – your place in a wider industry
  • Work life – what you are working on at the moment
  • Alumnus life (one for each instutution – be it educational or workplace)
  • Acquaintances life
  • Friends life
  • Family life
  • Personal life

The results of who you follow, who follows you, what interests you have, the tweets you write depend on whether which of these lives you are living.

The privacy promise that Twitter could offer is to never associate one identity with any of the others. If your family life identity searches for presents for a niece, there’s no need for your professional life identity to be connected to those searches. Also your friends won’t be interested in your professional opinion on an important industry issue. Also organisations who want to communicate with one identity will not be given access to any of its associated identities.

Twitter users will feel safer contributing to Twitter because it more accurately represents the way their different lives intersect with the world. Twitter could then talk about how many millions of identities access Twitter content each day.

Twitter would gain benefit from knowing what state a person is when using their service. Other apps and protocols would also be able to configure themselves depending on which Twitter identity is current. Amazon – or an upstart competitor to Amazon – should look different to me depending on whether I’m searching for professional, family or personal reasons. Wherever there is a ‘Tweet this’ button, there should be a UI to switch Twitter identities.

This would be very hard to explain to prospective users and hard to design, but the effort might be worth the reward.

Facebook’s “one account per person” is their ‘distinctive Coca Cola bottle shape.’ I hope Twitter turns this restriction against them helps people maintain a distance between their true selves and the ones they maintain on the internet.

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BlogAncestor of tomorrow’s personal robots: The Lily ‘throw and shoot’ drone cameraThursday, May 14 2015

Me in 2025:

“Ten years ago we didn’t have personal robots. We didn’t have physical digital friends like you do. One of their ancestors was introduced in 2015: A flying camera that you could throw into the air that would follow you wherever you go.”

Planet5D Blog’s exclusive inside look at the Lily self-flying, throwable waterproof camera drone.

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