Apple WWDC 2015 and post production

Tuesday, 09 June 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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