Up to 20% of market, according to informal survey

Since 2004, Harry B. Miller III has conducted an informal annual survey of his colleagues in the American Cinema Editors to determine what equipment and technology they use in the editing room, the camera original and delivery format of editors’ projects and how they’re finished.

While the results of 2009-10’s 130-respondent survey are not yet complete, they presently show Apple’s Final Cut growing steadily from around 12% use in 2004 to about 20%, and Avid Technology platforms holding steady, with the Avid DX Mojo now dominant in concert with 24P HD origination.

“The trend is that Avid has 80% of the offline editor market,” commented Miller, a member of the ACE board of directors. “That has held with some fluctuation.” Miller added that Final Cut’s growing market share is not all at the expense of Avid. “Other systems have disappeared, such as Lightworks. There was a year when only Thelma Schoonmaker was using it.”

Perhaps because of Avid’s saturated installed base, however, Final Cut is leading Avid in new-seat sales, 49.8% to 19.3%, according to SCRI’s April survey of broadcast and post houses.

“Avid had a solid product line in the 1990s and early 2000s. Then they introduced the hardware called Adrenaline,” Miller recalled. “That took market share from older systems, but it was a technology disaster. It was unstable, and it did not provide substantial benefits in video quality or performance.”

By 2007, however, several editors, such as Jabez Olson (“King Kong”), Bill DeRonde (“American Idol”) and Paul Crowder (“Riding Giants”), were giving Adrenaline high marks.

Miller argued that Avid’s acceptance can be attributed not only to Avid’s Final Cut-pressured price drop but also to “a substantial management and technology change where the management is more responsive to editors.” Plus, he added, Avid put out a software-only version and a much better HD system.

Final Cut has risen, Miller contended, because of its use by prestigious editors such as Walter Murch; companies such as Universal Studios “developing their own workflow where they can online edit in Final Cut Pro”; and an endless search for cheaper post, though he pointed out that the price difference is now negligible. Significantly, the survey shows editors making the call on editing platforms less often, with producers, directors, studios and others calling the shots more.

As a working editor (recently on “Caprica”), Miller is firmly in the pro-Avid camp. “Final Cut has shown no improvement in years. I’m reaching the conclusion that (Apple) is a company that wants to make iPhones and iPads.”

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