Final Cut Pro X at RTS Swiss National Television and the future of post production consultancy

Tuesday, 08 March 2016

A new case study shows how collaborative storage systems are coming into their own for TV stations using Final Cut Pro X. The team behind the implementation demonstrates how different the Final Cut high-end post production consultancy ecosystem is from the ‘left over from the 20th Century’ establishment. 

Ronny Courtens and the implementation team have written a detailed post at fcp.co:

[National Swiss TV broadcaster RTS ] needed a 100 TB effective and fully expandable enterprise NAS system with high redundancy and high-availability for 24 client connections. 12 connections over 10Gig SFP+ to their existing fiber channel network for the editing stations and the audio and ingest stations. And 12 connections over Gigabit Ethernet to their existing Cat6 network for extra ingest, titling and graphics machines, Open Directory and system admin.

...

all editing and ingest clients must be able to perform high-speed file transfers to the server without affecting the sustained Read bandwidth of any editing station. This is one of the biggest problems most NAS systems will face in this kind of setup. During the tests they did with the previous systems, bandwidth dropped considerably and brought the editing systems to a halt as soon as one of the Studios or Outside Broadcast trucks started streaming live multicam footage onto the server over the high-speed network. Or even when one of the editing stations did a simple export over 10GigE.

‘Mystery is Margin’ no longer

As well as the detailed technical story of the solution, the article includes the business story. On reading about their case study about factual TV production in Denmark, RTS engineers went to a freelance workflow consultant and his colleague for help. Ronny Courtens and Anouchka Demeulenaere proposed a new solution from a LA-based company LumaForge

It can’t be very often that a national TV station goes to a pair of freelance workflow consultants with no website or Twitter account. One of the videos embedded in the case study contrasts the old method of post consultancy (‘Mystery about how things work means Margin for us’) vs. the modern (‘Let’s work this out together’).

After trying to get one system working:

Finally they sent us a tech guy who started writing in the Terminal without explaining anything.

Compare that with:

The guys from LumaForge came in and Eric explained the entire system to us. 

Freelancers to the rescue - A new job for the 2010s?

Despite wanting post professionals to take a look at Final Cut Pro X, Apple have shown little interest in fitting into the ecomomics of post production consultancy. They might offer engineering support with proposals and support, but they don’t make it easy for people to make money out of installing and maintaining Final Cut Pro X at the high end. The software is too cheap and easy to buy, there is very little margin in Apple hardware.

There used to be money in multiple training courses for staff. Recently a person from another broadcaster responsible for ensuring that hundreds of journalists and camera people keep their skills up to date told me that they toured the many newsrooms full of Final Cut Pro X a few months after initial training. He asked them if they wanted any more training. They all said they didn't any: they were happy to find all the answers they need by going to the internet.

It could be that some post consultancies don’t recommend Final Cut Pro X because they can’t make enough money on those installations. They have expensive offices, salespeople and teams of engineers to support. 

In the case of Metronome in Denmark and RTS in Switzerland it wasn’t one of the big companies that provided the solution. It was Ronny Courtens and Anouchka Demeulenaere. They found a way of delivering a solution and making enough money to justify their time.

Ronny says:

We are not even consultants or integrators. The projects we get come from people whom we have known for years in the industry, or from people we know from the forums and groups. So we don't need a website or Twitter, nor do we need a large team. We just make the contacts, we analyze the issues and then we team up with people we think will be able to help us provide solutions.

Usually we don't charge anything for a first meeting, no matter where it is. We are always interested to discover new companies and workflows.

Things have indeed changed a lot lately.

The FileMaker model

That might be an interesting model to take to Apple. The Pro Apps team can’t get the rest of Apple too excited about helping a few thousand high-end post people make TV shows and feature films more easily. That doesn’t match Apple’s aim of empowering people and “leaving the world better than we found it.” What if the Pro Apps team proposed that they support thousands of freelance post consultants in introducing video to businesses and organisations of all sizes all over the world.

They do something very similar to this with their FileMaker database product and freelance community. Go to their website now and imagine the word FileMaker replaced with Final Cut Pro X. Where you see ‘database developer’ imagine ‘post workflow consultant’ instead. See software that can be bought and rented, where workflow tools work on Macs, servers and iOS devices. Also discover how much Apple promote and involve freelance developers with third party tools.

Making Final Cut Pro X a platform like FileMaker would help Apple truly revolutionise the future of video for businesses and organisations everywhere.