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Check Us Out on FCVUG Volume 3

September 9, 2014 Tags: ,
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Sam here…

So… I know we’re all excited about the Apple Keynote today and of course IBC…. but in other news…. I just wanted to let you know I’m going to be hanging out with a bunch of really smart people on Wednesday September 10th, 2014 and we’re going to be talking FCPX workflow:

On the show are going to be the usual suspects Steve Martin, Mark Spencer, and Alex Lindsay as well as Mike Matzdorff and Bill Davis, who are both doing some awesome things with FCPX.

Show’s going to be starting at 1pm PDT, and if you tune in live, you can ask us all some questions that hopefully we’ll be able to answer.

The show has a really innovative format where all of the guests are sitting around a roundtable that has 6 screens all connected up automagically to the same footage and computer. I have no idea how they set it up this way, but it makes for a really collaborative, free flowing show that’s a lot different and I think more interesting than what you might see from a typical user group/workflow presentation.

If you missed the first two, they were kind of awesome and you should check them out here:


FCPXVUG #1 (Featuring FCPWORKS’ Sam Mestman)

FCPXVUG #2 (featuring FCPWORKS’ Noah Kadner)

Alternatives to Creative Cloud Apps

September 8, 2014 Tags: , , , ,
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Sam here…

So… just in case you hate being locked into a subscription/rental model, here’s a list of alternatives to Creative Cloud apps you can use to move away if you find that you want to.

For the record, from the list of the Apps in the chart below, the ones I use in my day to day are: FCPX ($299.99), Motion ($49.99), Compressor ($49.99), Davinci Resolve (free for lite/$1000 for paid), Pixelmator ($29.99), and Logic Pro X ($199.99). All are available on the Mac App Store.

A late addition to the list but still something we love for quick and awesome looking design is Canva.

For the high end jobs I do, when I send off an edit for sound design or VFX, the pros I’m collaborating with are typically using Nuke or Pro Tools… However, I’m not going to count those in the following price comparison, as I don’t use them in my day-to-day and have never needed to buy them.

  • Anyway, here’s the total cost to buy the Apps I use in my day to day as an editor/colorist (using the Lite Version of Resolve):

    About $630

  • Number of computers I can install these Apps onto from the same Apple ID:


  • Total cost to rent the Cloud for 3 years, which is what I would consider the typical paid upgrade cycle for software to be:

    About $1800

  • Number of Computers I can install the Creative Cloud on before I have to start deactivating machines:


Not only that, but even if I count updating to the paid version of Resolve ($1000), things would still be cheaper than they would be with a paid license from the Cloud over that 3 year cycle.

Alternatives to Creative CloudIn my humble opinion, one system feels like it’s providing a lot more value and flexibility than the other. With the Apps I’m using (all of which are on the App Store), I’ve never had to pay for an upgrade since I bought them, and I’ve never had a problem with a download or had my access to an App I’ve already installed affected by a cloud service outage or for not making a payment (as many Creative Cloud users have experienced).

Also, I’m only paying for Apps I use, whereas with the Cloud model, I’m either locked into single App rental pricing (which at $9.99 for Photoshop or $19.99/month for other Apps is still going to be more expensive over three years than the most expensive App I’ve listed), or I’m going to have to get the whole suite of Apps, most of which aren’t going to be my first choice for the work that i do.

"For an editor/colorist like me, especially one who is not a After Effects/motion GFX centric user, I simply just don’t have a need for the cloud at all."Sam Mestman

In fact, out of the whole suite of what I consider to be the “creative apps”, I’d only really rate After Effects, Illustrator, and Photoshop/Lightroom as the industry leaders in their respective categories… and for most editors, Motion and Pixelmator are more than suitable replacements for the type of things they’re typically asked to do by clients. For an editor/colorist like me, especially one who is not a After Effects/motion GFX centric user, I simply just don’t have a need for the cloud at all.

I’m not writing this to get anyone upset or to attack the Adobe suite of products. I actually happen to like a lot of what they’re doing and would be a Premiere user if I wasn’t cutting with FCPX… but I’m not a fan of the Cloud model, and I don’t think it offers a lot of value for users, in general.

So… without further ado, please take a look at the chart below if you’ve been looking for alternatives to Creative Cloud Apps, and let me know in the comments if you think I’m missing anything or there are other apps you’d recommend over the ones I’ve listed:

Alternatives to Creative Cloud Apps

Creative Cloud App Alternative App Price Link Worth Looking At Comments
$24.99 (Mac App Store) Duke Review of iDraw as Illustrator Replacement. Most of the vector graphics on this site, including the FCPWORKS logo were created with iDraw. It’s a legit alternative and less complicated app than Illustrator.
$29.99 (Mac App Store) Review of Pixelmator at I love Pixelmator.  By nearly all accounts, it would seem that with the latest update, it’s now a pretty suitable replacement to Photoshop for what 95% of editors do.
After Effects

$3K-5K YouTube clip, migrating from After Effects to Nuke. If you’re doing High end visual effects work, Nuke is generally perceived as the best there is. It’s not cheap, though. I think After Effects would still win based on price vs. performance.
$49.99 (Mac App Store) Motion vs. After Effects Discussion on Creative Cow. I’m a Motion user and I love it.  For most motion graphics tasks that FCPX editors need, Motion is fantastic.  For more specialized tasks, After Effects is the way to go… until you graduate to something like Nuke.  But if you just need to make some nice looking Motion Graphics stuff quickly, Motion is the fastest, most intuitive thing out there because of how closely it integrates with FCPX.
$1470 ProVideo Coalition on Smoke. By everyone I’ve spoken to who has used it, Smoke is extremely powerful and is a full fledged editor/finishing station. It’s great for the graphics/effects centric editor, and lots of people love it. There’s a pretty steep learning curve with it though.
Premiere Pro

$299.99 (Mac App Store) Editors’ Preferences on FCPX/Avid/Premiere. You guys all know how I feel about this one… no reason for me to beat a dead horse.
$1299 Digital Films compares various editing platforms to Avid. Not a huge fan, mostly because it doesn’t play well with any other Apps outside the Avid ecosystem (something Adobe Apps do really well).  However, for high end studio/union editors, Avid is without a doubt the industry standard, even though the code/ interface/ workflow/ business model is archaic and outdated.

DaVinci Resolve
Free for lite or $1000 for full version Digital Films compares various finishing applications. Resolve is now pretty much the industry standard… that’s really all there is to say about it. Pretty soon, it could also be a legitimate NLE competitor to the big three (Apple, Adobe, Avid)… but right now, it just happens to be the best color correction software on the planet in terms of price/performance.
Pro Tools
Around $600 Pro Tools is the industry standard for Sound editing for movies. I really wish it had more competition because I think it would be good for the industry, but there really isn’t much. When it comes to doing heavy sound editing for picture, Pro Tools is currently the best there is and it’s not much of a debate.
Logic Pro X
$199.99 (Mac App Store) Personally, I don’t think Logic is great for film/video sound design/editing, but it is fantastic for scoring/ mixing/ music creation/ podcasts, which is typically how I’m using Logic… although i’ve got a long way to go before I really become competent with it.
Media Encoder

$49.99 (Mac App Store) Larry Jordan compares Media Encoder with Compressor. So… while that comparison article I listed is a deep dive… the bottom line is that both programs work just fine for what you’ll likely need to do with them.
$299.99 (Mac App Store) My presentation on metadata creation in FCPX at the FCPWORKS Los Angeles event. FCPX’s metadata workflow once you combine it with tools like Shot Notes X and Lumberjack, is light years better than anything you can do with Prelude. You can do metadata entry very easily in Resolve as well.

Why can’t we all just use ProRes?

September 5, 2014 Tags: , ,
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Sam here…

Maybe I’m missing something, but outside of RED RAW workflows where you can actually import that RAW footage natively into your NLE and work with it easily (and get real time playback), I literally don’t see any advantage to using a camera codec that isn’t ProRes in this day and age.

It made sense when the onboard processors and memory capacities were low enough to require codecs optimized for compression speed and image quality but not so much for playback and editorial. Nowadays, that’s just not the case. If something is a RAW format, I don’t want to mess with it if it takes up endless amounts of disk space and it won’t import natively/play back in my NLE.

The image flexibility that RAW provides on the finishing end becomes counterproductive if I’ve got to go through an elaborate conform/maintain a gigantic archive. It’s just not practical. Digging into the RAW is mostly for sending to VFX and to correct mistakes. It shouldn’t be necessary on a fundamental level. I’d rather have properly exposed, correctly lit ProRes XQ masters. Those are more than enough for color correction, VFX, or keying.

XDCAM, AVCHD, and all the other formats are certainly not better for editing than ProRes is, and it gets really annoying that you need a special plugin or application to unwrap video you’ve shot so you can watch it. At the very least, if you’re going to design a codec, don’t make playing it back a difficult thing for the average person. You should be able to just hit the space bar from the finder and watch your clip.

AJA Cion Camera with ProRes

AJA Cion Camera with ProRes

I realize I’m howling at the moon… but the truth is that when it comes to editing, there isn’t a better, more versatile codec than ProRes. It would be nice if I could just start with those files. ARRI, AJA, and BMD have the right idea with their cameras (all can record natively to ProRes)… would be nice to see the other camera manufacturers follow suit… or at least come up with a coherent explanation as to why they insist on their proprietary codecs that don’t in any way help the end user.

Reimport from Camera Archive

September 4, 2014 Tags: , ,
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Sam here…

Our man in Wisconsin, Dustin Hoye (FCPX Editor of The Next Bite), is back again making our lives a little easier with this video about the little understood, hidden away in a submenu, but really useful “reimport from camera archive” option:

Working with Interrupted Imports (via hidden Camera Archives) in FCPX 10.1.3 from Dustin Hoye on Vimeo.

Dustin HoyeDustin is really smart.

One small thing to add to this tip – basically, if you ever find you have something going wrong with media not linking back up properly from clips imported from cameras that require a plugin in order to import (usually Canon or Sony), hitting “reimport from camera archive” and then finding the original media (make sure it’s still in the original card structure), and letting the import process happen fully is usually going to solve the problem.

In general, best practice while things are importing (especially if FCPX if making wrappers of clips in the background) is to not do anything that might make your system angry while this process is happening. I realize this is vague… but if for even 1 second the question of whether something you’re about to do while things are importing/waveforms are generating might make FCPX angry… don’t do it. Wait for your import to finish and your progress bar to get back to 100%, and then do the thing you were thinking about.

And if you do make FCPX angry and you have to force quit for some reason and then find your foootage now needs to be relinked… you now know what the “reimport from camera archive” button does and your blood pressure can go back to its normal level.

Lumberjack is Awesome

September 3, 2014 Tags: , ,
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Lumberjack IconSam here…

Was fortunate enough to spend some time with Phillip Hodgetts from Intelligent Assistance last week and we had a longer discussion about Lumberjack, his amazing tool for real time logging and pre editing in FCPX.

I had watched him demo it, and had even taken it out on a test drive with our How We Make Movies Podcast a couple weeks ago… and I had some miconceptions/issues on the first go round with it.

Anyway, there were a few things I noticed as I talked with him…

First, for some reason it had taken me forever to finally work up the nerve to try it out on a real project… it was like I was afraid of it somehow. The concept had seemed easy enough to me… but there was something about it I couldn’t wrap my head around… and I realized that while talking with him I was actually just over complicating everything… I was making the app and the process harder than it needed to be.

Second, things that are obvious to Phillip Hodgetts are not obvious to the rest of us. After him answering two of my questions, literally everything else about the app made sense.

Third, I had some misconceptions about the app (for instance, I thought that wireless was required to do logging), that simply aren’t true.

Lumberjack from Intelligent Assistance_01

So, with that in mind, here’s a quick roundup of things you should know about Intelligent Assistance’s Lumberjack System that maybe you didn’t know before (I didn’t):

  1. The Content Creation Date Sync thing is ridiculously easy – Forget timecode and slates, etc. if you’re using lumberjack. Just tell your cam ops to set the clock on their camera to the same time as the Lumberjack App and you’re good to go. If you want a really good insurance policy, you should have all your camera ops make their first shot of the day be an image of the Lumberjack logger screen (where the exact time is listed). You should have nothing else to worry about after that.
  2. Sync your multicam clips in FCPX first and then send to Lumberjack – I asked him whether you could have the metadata applied to multicam clips… the answer is yes… and what you should do is bring your footage into FCPX first, make the multicam clip, and send out the XML containing the multicam clip into the Lumberyard App, and it will apply your logging info to the multicam clip.
  3. The Lumberjack Logger (Web) is different than the Lumberyard (OSX App) – While you’ll be doing all of your logging through the web/IOS App, you’re going to still need the OSX app to do the XML interchange.
  4. You can still log if something happens to your wireless – Basically, if you’re experiencing problems with slow wireless (like I did on my first shoot), if you create your event ahead of time, you can still log through the IOS App, get done what you need to get done, and hook up to the Lumberjack Server when your wireless situation improves. You are not a prisoner of your wireless network while using Lumberjack. Just use the IOS App. This was a big misconception for me.
  5. You can use Lumberjack after you’re done shooting or with old footage – The IA guys just but into beta their new Backlogger App where you can log footage you’ve already shot (or catalog video masters you’ve finished for things like Promo departments).

Lumberjack from Intelligent Assistance_02

Anyway, for all the info you need about getting going with Lumberjack, check out the newly published Quick Start Guide… and if you have any problems, Phillip and Greg are awesome with support.

If you haven’t checked out Lumberjack yet, and you’re doing a lot of Doc/reality/non-scripted work… it’s probably going to become your new best friend.

There’s no reason to be afraid of it. It’s easier to learn than you think.

iMovie Pro is not a criticism

September 2, 2014 Tags: , ,
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Sam here…

Imagine you’re a company that has two products in the same product category. One is the beginner product designed as an introductory tool that is also powerful enough to be used by most hobbyists and is perfectly fine for the average person. It’s easy to learn, simple to use, free, and widely used by millions.

Your other product is designed for professionals. It has a completely different methodology from your beginner tool and requires people graduating from your introductory tool to completely relearn everything they had learned from that tool in order to use this new, “professional” tool.

Most people would read the above and conclude this was a stupid business strategy. There’s no good reason that your two products in the same product category should be so different. Not only that, but In terms of the bigger picture, a smart company would design their long term plans around the product that has the most users, and build from the product that is accessible to the largest number of people.

In case you haven’t figured it out… I’m talking about what Apple did with iMovie and Final Cut Pro. iMovie has WAY more users that Final Cut Pro 7 ever did, and the potential for far more long term growth. It was the obvious platform to build on top of.

iMovie Pro Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro X: iMovie Pro?

And yet, a good subsection of the average “pro” editor type seems to think what Apple should have done with their video editing business is keep the worlds of their beginner and professional NLE software completely separate and inaccessible to each other. They seem to think Apple should have kept their “pro” product as something that lived in a completely different world from what their beginner users were learning. They seem to think that the idea that Apple might have wanted to make something accessible for their enormous base of iMovie users to graduate to was somehow not smart business.

Essentially, the “pro” editors wanted Apple to have their students spend grades K-12 learning everything in English, and then when those students went to “college”, all of their courses would be taught in French.

Most outsiders would think that was a really dumb idea. However, the professional editing community loves to throw around the iMovie Pro insult like it’s actually, you know, insulting. If you want to see how contentious it can get, check out some of the comments here and here.

Your introductory tool should be something that paves the way for users to graduate to the more advanced tool. They should not need to relearn everything they had already learned in order to become “professional”.

The truth is that some of these “ Pro” editors simply do not see the bigger picture. When they call FCPX iMovie Pro, what they don’t realize is that they’re actually complimenting Apple for having competent business strategy and common sense.

My guess is that most of these “Pro” editors will understand what Apple had in mind when all of the iMovie kids start showing up at post houses and start asking the “professionals” why they can’t do all the things on their “professional” software that they’re doing on their home computers.
FCPX iMovie Pro Editors
For many people who have been around for awhile, it will be eerily similar to what happened when the original Final Cut Pro became popular and an entire industry was caught off guard.

What’s really ironic is that the people who are complaining the loudest about FCPX are the Final Cut Pro 7 editors. I kind of feel like they should know better. They seem to not like the taste of their own medicine.

I find it all a bit hypocritical. Things change, and tools change… but in terms of the changing of the guard… the more things change, the more they stay the same.

BTTF: Linear vs. Non-Linear Editing

September 1, 2014 Tags: ,
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Over this labor day weekend break, Videomaker (via Creative Cow) serves up a true blast from the past, a preview of the at the time revolutionary new non-linear editing systems. These days with all the fervor over Final Cut Pro X and whether it’s professional enough compared to other NLEs it’s good to look back and recall what the world of non-linear editing was like just 20 years ago. Some choice quotes:

Video Tape Editing

After making your edit decisions, the computer transfers each scene from your original master tape to the record VCR. Hence the final product is never actually digitized. This system offers the speed and flexibility of non-linear editing and the uncompromised image quality of analog tape.

At this point, tape is the archival format you might pull up some stock footage from or an older camera someone is shooting. But really, have you actually seen a tape deck in years? DV or Analog?

When the register finally rings, the average price for a basic non-linear package comes in between $5,000 and $10,000. For stand-alone systems that approach broadcast quality, expect to spend twice that much or more.

Final Cut Pro X is $299 from the Mac App Store and you can get a pretty decked out Mac Pro starting at around $4-5K that’s capable of cutting 4K footage at feature film quality. “Broadcast quality” as a term is rarely even thrown around any more because it’s just an assumption made with most NLEs. You can still work ‘offline’ say if you’re cutting proxies for a feature film to be finished on 35mm film negative. But these days the workflow easily exists to cut 4K or 5K or 6K original media throughout your edit and print out to DCP.

What if your work will never end up on videotape, but instead on a computer hard drive or CD-ROM? Non-linear is certainly the best option. Find a system that records video and audio files supported by your distribution format. Many non-linear software packages can export either Microsoft’s Video for Windows or Apple’s QuickTime formats.

Wow, some terms in there we still use but just barely. Video for Windows was shuttered into several other APIs and initiatives for Windows over the years (ActiveMovie Anyone??) while the .AVI container somehow refuses to completely die off.

To read more about the history of the future of non-linear editing, please visit Videomaker’s original piece here.

And if you want to go even further back in the past check out this 1990 video from the Computer Chronicles show on the Video Toaster:

Cineflare Kinetic Badges from FX Factory

August 29, 2014 Tags: , , ,
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Sam here…

It’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that we’re entering a “do-it-all-in-one-app” world for most things.

Bouncing out to After Effects, Motion, or having a dedicated GFX person who “handles all that stuff” for many clients is becoming far less common when it comes to how Producers budget for jobs.

Turnaround times for videos are faster, and editor’s with “Jack of All Trades” skill sets are becoming almost mandatory (please don’t get upset with me about that… I’m just the messenger).

Clients asking “Can’t you just do it yourself?” is becoming the norm.

And even if they’re not asking that, being able to turn around GFX quickly and having them still look professional is a HUGE value add you can provide for your clients as an editor.

The main problem is that most people don’t have time to learn everything… and when it comes to things like Motion GFX, for the most part, especially for corporate/branded work where you’re expected to do everything yourself, having some great looking templates/design elements in your arsenal becomes the difference between a profitable vs. too-time-consuming-to-be-worth-it job.

For FCPX users, Plugins like XEffects Snapshots, Cineflare’s Kinetic Badges,and Ripple Callouts (recently updated) are part of the solution.

I’ve actually done a video about Ripple Callouts in its previous incarnation, but it just got a great new update (free), and the video on the link above will tell you more about what can be done with it than I can. In terms of creating quick, professional looking “callouts” for things going on within a frame, there simply isn’t a better plugin package on the market.

If you need something that’s going to add a bunch of style to your typical freeze frame, you’re going to want to look at Snapshots… which is a series of Freeze frame templates (transitions for these are included as well). These plugins are a great way to impress a client or create a package around their branding with minimal effort… or at least far less effort than everyone else is putting in.

And when you these in conjunction with something like Cineflare’s Kinetic Badges, which is a series of animated and highly customizable vector graphics, chart type things, and textures, corporate and branded work becomes are far simpler, less tedious, and considerably better looking.

Quick note about all of these packages, and really any package you work with in FX Factory… don’t watch the “demo videos” to learn how to use the plugins. Watch the “(plugin package) in Final Cut Pro X” video that is next to the “demo video” on the product’s info page to get a more in depth understanding of what to do with the plugins.

All of these packages are available through FxFactory and are only available for use in FCPX.

Review disclaimer – Yes, we do sometimes get free products and licenses. No, this does not affect our reviews. We only advocate and sell the products that we use in our own workflows. If we bother to review something, it’s because we use it in our day to day and like it. We also very much admit that we haven’t seen everything… if you think there’s a product out there that we should be talking about, please let us know at

Yanobox Nodes from FX Factory

August 28, 2014 Tags: , , ,
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Sam here…

So… if for no other reason than it’s the coolest plugin demo video ever created, go watch this one from FX Factory about the Yanobox Nodes 2 plugin:

To be perfectly honest, I was a bit scared of this one when I first got it. It took me awhile to open it up and really dig into it… and even longer before I figured out what I’d actually want to do with it.

Honestly, I’m literally not capable of building one of the standard templates in Nodes on my own… so it’s nice to be able to start from something you could never even begin to understand how to create and then quickly start building on top of it.

Like most things… once you make the decision you’re going to dive in with it no matter what, you start figuring things out, and once I decided I was going to take the time to figure out how Nodes worked, I actually picked it up pretty easily.

Also, the templates were surprisingly responsive on both my Macbook and Mac Pro. I was able to move sliders around and see things update extremely quickly, which I have to admit was a surprise. With the level of complexity in these plugins, I was expecting to see lots of beach balls when I messed with stuff. This has not been the case with Nodes, for the most part.

For me, Nodes is most useful as a place to begin your larger template or as a quick way to throw on a complicated design element on an existing comp you’re doing. Basically, you get a sense of something you want to do, and instead of reaching into the Motion Particle Emitters tab (another underutilized resource that is a bit hard to wrap your head around), grab a Nodes template and get going. You’ll likely end up with something cool a whole lot faster than you would building something from scratch.

Yanobox Nodes

Yanobox Nodes

They’re great also as just a ready made cool looking particles element you can easily throw a blend mode on (I typically soft light or Overlay for this) to give a texture some life. You can use them in a very similar way to how you’d use a Light Leak… and the two complement each other nicely if you need something like that.

So often, you get plugins that just replicate stuff you could probably do yourself…. or feel very “stock” or hard to customize. Not Yanobox Nodes.

Things are so ridiculously customizable, it’s hard to go into too much detail. I think Plugins like this are the future, I think, because they allow you to start from a place you’d have literally no idea how to get to on your own. Like Coremelt’s Slice-X, It allows advanced effects techniques to become a lot more approachable to the average editor… and I think that’s something all Plugin makers should aspire to doing.

I’ve never seen another plugin package like Nodes 2. It’s definitely not cheap ($299), but you get what you pay for… and then some.

For more information on how to get started with it, go here:

If you have a need to quickly step up your Motion Graphics game, this plugin should probably be at the top of your list.

Review disclaimer – Yes, we do sometimes get free products and licenses. No, this does not affect our reviews. We only advocate and sell the products that we use in our own workflows. If we bother to review something, it’s because we use it in our day to day and like it. We also very much admit that we haven’t seen everything… if you think there’s a product out there that we should be talking about, please let us know at

Tour De France Workflow

August 26, 2014 Tags: , ,
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Sam here… nothing I write here is going to compare to what Peter Wiggins did over on Go grab a cup of coffee and read this for the next 25 minutes:

What Peter had going over there is exactly the type of setup we’ve been advocating at FCPWORKS and not radically different than what we had going at our FCPWORKS launch event.

If his case study doesn’t blow the doors off the myth of FCPX being an unprofessional product, I really don’t know what it’s going to take.

Group Workflow (XSAN from Promise). Broadcast Workflow (Softron). Video IO (AJA). High Profile project (Tour De France). What are we missing here exactly?

I have a feeling we’re going to see a ton more stories like this coming. I’m looking forward to the day where this sort of thing isn’t raising eyebrows anymore. I feel like it shouldn’t be.

Congrats Peter!