Shake product designer explains Apple and Final Cut Pro X

“I’ve had a couple of people ask for my thoughts on the new FCPX release given my history with Apple and in particular my experience with how they dealt with another product that was focused (in our case almost exclusively) on professionals – the compositing software ‘Shake,'” Ron Brinkmann writes for Digital Compositing. “After Apple acquired us there was a lot of concern that Cupertino wouldn’t be willing to continue to cater to that market and, although it took a few years, that concern did indeed come to pass. The development team was gradually transitioned to working on other tools and Shake as a product was eventually end-of-life’d.”

“Let’s talk economics first. There’s what, maybe 10,000 ‘high-end’ editors in the world? That’s probably being generous. But the number of people who would buy a powerful editing package that’s more cost-effective and easier to learn/use than anything else that’s out there? More. Lots more,” Brinkmann writes. “So, a $1000 high-end product vs. a $300 product for a market that’s at least an order of magnitude larger. Clearly makes sense, even though I’d claim that the dollars involved are really just a drop in the bucket either way for Apple.”

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“So what else? I mean what’s the real value of a package that’s sold only to high-end guys? Prestige? Does Apple really need more of that? …And really, from a company perspective high-end customers are a pain in the ass. Before Apple bought Shake, customer feedback drove about 90% of the features we’d put into the product,” Brinkmann writes. “But that’s not how Apple rolls – for them a high end customers are high-bandwidth in terms of the attention they require relative to the revenue they return.”

Brinkmann writes, “After the acquisition I remember sitting in a roomful of Hollywood VFX pros where Steve told everybody point-blank that we/Apple were going to focus on giving them powerful tools that were far more cost-effective than what they were accustomed to, but that the relationship between them and Apple wasn’t going to be something where they’d be driving product direction anymore. Didn’t go over particularly well, incidentally, but I don’t think that concerned Steve overmuch… :-)”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple answers Final Cut Pro X questions; promises multicam editing and more – June 29, 2011
Change.org petition demands that Apple not change Final Cut Pro – June 27, 2011
Final Cut Pro X ‘backlash’ coming from competitors scared to death over Apple’s $299 price tag? – June 24, 2011
Conan blasts Apple’s new Final Cut Pro X (with video) – June 24, 2011
Answers to the unanswered questions about Apple’s new Final Cut Pro X – June 23, 2011
‘Professional’ video editors freak out over Final Cut Pro X – June 23, 2011
Apple revolutionizes video editing with Final Cut Pro X – June 21, 2011

33 Comments

  1. Sigh. I absolutely loved Shake. What a great product. I still use it for a number of projects but it’s getting long in the tooth now. I really wish Apple had left that product alone: they never had a use for it, or did anything with it but kill it, which is a real shame.

  2. wow. I think he lays it out clearly and covers the bases.

    Not exactly what I’d call a flattery review of relying on Apple for your lifeblood tools. I mean essentially what I took away was you as the customer serve apple, not the other way around! Or maybe more along the lines of apple supports the largest amount of customers who are OK with what is being offered.

    After reading this I think its a great opportunity for a small development house to create the next ‘Pro’ editing app. Hell you could even carbon copy FCP 7’s interface… you’d have enough happy customers to make millions, small change for apple but plenty enough for a small customer committed company.

    Def sad that like once a company gets big, they tend to kill off some of the most amazing products out there.. or morph them into something that drives the core fans away.

  3. I’m no expert on FCP X so for want of anything better to say here’s KC & the Sunshine Band:

    Aah Everybody, get on the floor, let’s dance!
    Don’t fight the feelin’, give yourself a chance!

    Shake shake shake, shake shake shake,
    Shake your booty! Shake your booty!
    Oh, shake shake shake, shake shake shake,
    Shake your booty! Shake your booty.

    Aah, You can, you can do it very well.
    You’re the best in the world, I can tell.

    Oh, Shake shake shake, shake shake shake,
    Shake your booty! Shake your booty!
    Oh, shake shake shake, shake shake shake,
    Shake your booty! Shake your booty.
    (WoWohoo,Yeah!)
    Shake shake, shake shake!

    Aah, Shake shake, shake shake!
    Aah, Shake shake shake, shake shake shake,
    Shake your booty! Shake your booty!
    Oh, shake shake shake, shake shake shake,
    Shake your booty! Shake your booty.

    Aah, Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty!
    Aah, don’t fight the feeling.
    Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty!
    Aah, give yourself a chane.
    Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty!
    You can do it! do it!
    Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty!
    (Come home with momma now!)
    Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty!
    WoooHOOOOHoooo!
    Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty!
    Aah, BROTHERS AND SISTERS.
    Shake shake(come on), shake shake(come on), on your booty!
    Aah! do your duty. Aah haa!
    [Fade out:] Shake shake(come on), shake shake(come on), on your booty!

  4. Exactly, Apple is an itoy company now, focusing in the masses of it’s consumer customer base. Time to look at Avid for all the pro editors out there. Sadly it looks like we will all be using big ipads soon for computers because thats what Apple says we should want, and we’d better want it. Still love Apple, just less and less every day. Flame away kool-aid drinking zealots.

    1. bobo,

      You really think Avid’s software is better then FCPX?

      Wow, are you still driving your 1973 Ford Pinto and using your original “brick” cell phone. I’m sure you see no reason to change, they still do the same thing right?

      Dude really, it’s 2011.

      1. Umm yes, Avid is way better the FCPX. Are you kidding? for the most part Final Cut users used it because it was a very capable program at a fraction of the price. Any movie or TV show you’ve seen in the last few decades more than likely was done in Avid.

          1. “Nine of last year’s 10 Oscar-nominated documentaries were edited on Final Cut Pro.”

            Golden Globe winners edited on Final Cut Studio
            by Joel Mathis, Macworld.com   Jan 20, 2011 11:08 am

            Need to list more?

          2. You said, “any movie…..most likely”.
            Oh what the hell, here’s a few.

            The Rules of Attraction (2002)
            Full Frontal (2002)
            The Ring (2002)
            Cold Mountain (2003) (Academy Award nominee for Best Editing – Walter Murch)
            Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
            Open Water (2003)
            Red vs. Blue (2003)
            Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
            The Ladykillers (2004)
            Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
            Super Size Me (2004)
            Corpse Bride (2005)
            Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story (2005)
            Happy Endings (2005)
            Jarhead (2005)
            Little Manhattan (2005)
            Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)
            300 (2007) one of my favorites!!!
            Black Snake Moan (2006)
            Happy Feet (2006)
            Zodiac (2007)
            The Simpsons Movie (2007)
            No Country for Old Men (2007) (Academy Award nominee for Best Editing – Roderick Jaynes)
            Reign Over Me (2007)
            Youth Without Youth (2007)
            Balls of Fury (2007)
            Gabriel (2007)
            Enchanted (2007)
            Traitor (2008)
            Burn After Reading (2008)
            The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)
            The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) (Academy Award nominee for Best Editing- Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall)
            X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
            (500) Days of Summer (2009)
            Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
            A Serious Man (2009)
            Tetro (2009)
            Gamer (2009)
            Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
            True Grit (2010)
            The Social Network (2010)
            What Women Want (2011 film) (2011)

            1. Comments like this are stupid. You’ve practically just named all features cut on Final Cut in the last 10 years. There are between 500 and 650 feature films released in theaters annually…your list has 42 films since 2002. Your list is a marketing driven drop in the bucket. No film cut on Final Cut has ever won a academy award for best editing.

              Now I’m not saying that the old Final Cut wasn’t a good tool, but all of this lunacy from people claiming that no one uses AVID anymore, or that AVID is this old, useless tool is crazy….plain crazy. Truth is, a majority of TV shows and Films are cut on AVID….period. It’s easier to make a list of shows and films not cut on AVID than a list of films cut on AVID.

              All those invested in Final Cut always tout the handfull of films cut in FCP to make their investment seem justified. It’s not the tool, it’s the tool using it. Most high end stuff is cut on an “old crappy AVID.” So if it’s used by the highest end, most creative people, it must be awful (sarcasm).

              As someone who cuts on AVID daily, it’s not perfect. But it’s still the preferred tool of most high end editors. I’m getting sick of all these people with their MacBook Pros, HDV Cams and copy of FCP Studio claiming that AVID is dead. Wake up. Now FCP is that one that’s dead. Time to get training on a new software package. But then again, it probably won’t matter to you….who outputs to tape anymore?

            2. Hedgehogfrenzy,

              You are might be correct but Avid lists accomplishments ain’t shit compared to deck editing so!? Academy Awards are for “editing” work, so your point is the award should go to Avid not the editor?!? I’m back to Wow!?

              The point was people are acting like Apple is killing video editing or forcing their hand. Is Avid “software” better then FCPX really or are we talking about power, rendering or additional software?

              From a business stand point there are hundreds of colleges, universities and trade school that teach video production and editing. How many of those can afford Avids or even have them anymore? Very, very few. Now lets add in there all the high schools, Jr. highs, even elementary schools and you’re talking millions of editors even if some are only YouTube editors.

              Like other “specialized” software out there, there will always be a niche but for people to hack on FCPX just because it’s different or maybe not as powerful as an Avid, Quantel or other system, (BTW, I’ve use it as well) or bitch at Apple for not catering to your every need is well, “stupid”.

              Yeah, change is hard but just because you or bobo don’t like the new FCPX, that’s no reason to hack the millions or so people that find it perfect for their needs. That’s “millions” not a few thousand and in business…well…..

              Yeah, I’m still pissed that Chevy won’t make me a 57 Belair still but hey………change is hard.

            3. We’ll see. Sure there’ll be plenty of FCP X editors coming out of trade schools, but then again, those always seem to be the ones that are unemployed…or getting excited about the next 48 hour film festival. Based on the toolset given in the first version of FCP X….films won’t be shot on it anymore. At least not any films that actually use film.

              Ultimately, this isn’t about change. We’ve all had to change….from Tape to Tape, film cutting, tape based non linear, digital acquisition….there’s been change and workflow differences all along the way. My ultimate issue here are all the people that don’t seem to understand the industry at all, pointing at seasoned pros calling them stupid. That’s like me critiquing accounting methods….I have no knowledge base for that.

              Ultimately, FCP X will have a market…and probably a large one. But this isn’t a case of Apple seeing that future and pro editors not. It’s an issue of Apple wanting to go in a different direction and not letting it’s user base know. Remember, these are iPads or iPhones. People who’s new iMac isn’t a cool as the new one. These are people who have invested their livelihood in this…100s of thousands of $$.

              If Apple is going to act like this, it’s good their out of the pro market. They’ve made a great product for wedding video, web video and single man editors. If you can afford to have a project live on one box, with one person working on it at a time…this might be the program for you. Of course, as long as you don’t need to look at two pieces of video at one time to make a match edit.

              As working with a team of people who were considering moving to FCP, I’m glad we didn’t. I don’t see how a post house or team would ever feel comfortable making an investment in FCP ever again. Apple has done this once, and they could do it again. There are a lot of people that are going to be in trouble where there’s a new format and their copy of FCP Studio 3 isn’t going to be upgraded.

            4. Hedgehogfrenzy,

              Good discussion! Valid points! We should have done this over a beer. You said, “we’ll see”?! Which part, the part where Chevy will make me a “57” or FCPX?

              Unemployeed editors? Agreed, see hundreds of them all the time just like designer and teachers unfortunately. Agreed, film/tape disappearing and all those out dated decks, equipment and hardware is pretty much worthless now day after investing, like you said 100’s of thousands.
              But change comes anyway no matter how much you spent on it in the past. Are CD’s better then LP’s? Is film better then digital? Probably to the real artist but that doesn’t stop the wave that came.
              I also agree, don’t make the investment in FCP. But, can you guarentee any software or hardware companies you choose will be around even 5 years from now. Isn’t that a risk all businesses take?

              Hell, with all this young talent coming out now days that can make amazing products with just their phone and willing to cut their teeth for next to nothing, its’ just a matter of time before the wave drowns even the pros.

              Points taken, good day.

    2. ” Still love Apple, just less and less every day.”
      I’m with you.

      This article is a real eye-opener. Someone surely must fulfill the needs of the high-end user regardless of how many or few there are. If it’s not going to be Apple, my view of the company takes a serious blow.

  5. Wait this is wrong , Apple does listen to it’s consumers !
    Look at IOS software , multitasking , notification system …..
    Wait those are popular products ..
    Time machine  never listened to consumers , only 3 Ethernet ports , no thunderbolt, no multi disk
    Mobile me …. Wait discontinued , thank god
    Apple TV … Great for those who loves streaming everything , for those from western nations that have content ! For the rest of us , useless

    So before any one flame me , I just want to say , I want to make Apple better.
    Steve jobs may be a visionary but maybe he looks took far In the future and not see what is desperately needed for a hood ecosystem now !!

  6. Microsoft is no better. I still vividly remember the horror of being abandoned with no upgrade path from MS Bob 1.0

    I really have not been right since.

  7. I have a hard time believing the FCPX decision was driven by doing math, per se. I think it’s more about striking a balance between making the most powerful creative tools and allowing the largest population of creatives to benefit from them. I think this is what Apple was also trying to do with the iMovie ’09 hiccup. Hopefully, FCPX will grow into something usable by both “pros” and “enthusiasts” – sort of like Aperture.

  8. “There’s what, maybe 10,000 ‘high-end’ editors in the world?…., but that the relationship between them and Apple wasn’t going to be something where they’d be driving product direction anymore.”

    The tail no longer wags the dog. Creatives saved Apple in its darkest hour, but they held Apple back as well.

    10,000 X $1,000 a profitable business model does make. It the need exists, then someone will step into the void. Apple’s resources are just to precious to focus on 10,000 users.

  9. If the last 5 years have proved anything, it is that Apple no longer lusts for high end customer. The updates to Mac Pros are fewer and more infrequent. A product like FCP was attractive to Apple a decade ago when selling high end Mac Pros was essential to their bottom line. This is no longer the case. Apple’s main revenue streams no longer include Mac Pro hardware. The killing of X Servers is part of the same picture. You can’t fault them from a business sense, but it is distressing to those of us who have built our business around those tools. It’s like when your girlfriend no longer looks at you as adoring as she once did. Best to simply face up to reality and be prepared for change.

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