Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Open letter to Steve Jobs

Dear Steve Jobs

I'm a big fan of Apple, have been for ages. I bought the iPhone 3, then the 3GS then the 4. I shelled out on a MacBook Pro and only recently invested in an iPad2. I love all that stuff, its life changing, without sounding ridiculous, for all the reasons that we know and love (could you do something about iTunes though please?).

As a VFX professional I have often looked at Apple for the alternative ways of doing things. I have designed and installed various depts that are based around your infrastructure, and have gone to great lengths to sing your praises when the bean counters were not so sure.

Well, I'm not sure I can anymore.

Everyone is aware of the problems or issues, that many professional editors and post production houses have with the FCPX release. I wont go into too many of the technical details, many better and more knowledgeable folk than I have picked it apart. But suffice to say, from my point of view, there's a few obvious glaring mishaps, such as no video out (my clients will love that), no audio export, and no backward compatibility. I'm not saying it wont be good, heck, it could be brilliant in a few releases, but that's not the point. Its not the software release as such that I have an issue with, its the attitude that comes with it.

How can you spend so many years, supporting the professional market, with testimonial films on your website, allowing start up companies and VFX studios to build whole departments, yet alone whole businesses that are based entirely on your software & hardware, then take it all away, with no more than a 'we don't do the pro market'. Its ignorant and arrogant and I would love to know what the thinking is behind it, and I don't want to hear the numbers excuse. I don't blame Apple for turning away from the professional market, if you can't be bothered to compete properly with the other guys, better leave them to it, but all I would ask is a little professional courtesy and a heads up that things are changing, so we could at least prepare ourselves.

And I'm not just talking about FCPX, that's just one example.

Last year I designed and built a brand new dept in a very successful, Oscar & BAFTA winning VFX company, of which I proudly still work. I convinced them to let me build it around your hardware (Mac Pros, Apple Server) all hooked up to an XSAN, with Final Cut software, working in tandem with Autodesk's Smoke on Mac. What makes it unique is the way in which we utilise the Final Cut Server software, developing and re-writing scripts to enable us to have a truly tapeless workflow. We celebrate our 1st birthday in 2 weeks.

About 6 months ago, we had a visit from your very own systems engineers, as they had heard we were using the FCS software in an interesting way and they wanted to see for themselves. They spent the afternoon, watching the work flow through the dept (over two physical sites, over a mile apart) and left, all in agreement that they we would have a film about our system put on the Apple website as a testimonial as soon as possible.

Your decisions have an impact on the industry as a whole, you should know that by now, but it's not always positive. By discontinuing Final Cut Server and no longer supporting FCP7, you have taken a workflow that you, Apple, were proud of and about to PR and ripped the heart out of it. What are the chances of you providing me with the code for the front/back end of FCS so I can develop it further as our business grows? What happens when I need a new codec supported for a tapeless camera, but you only provide it for FCPX? Why the hell did no one say 'we aren't releasing vsn 2.0 of FCS, in fact in 6 months, we're killing it, be prepared'.

There are many people out there that say 'stop moaning, its a new way of doing things, embrace it' which is all very well and good, and they can go and download the new FCPX, and be done with it. I like change, I love technology, but I've invested a lot of time and money and effort into my job, and I expect the same from the companies & suppliers that I rely on. Upgrade some software yes, adapt some hardware, of course, but don't just pull the plug on it all.

What will I do - adapt of course, but it wont be with Apple. I've been bitten by the prosumer supplier and I wont go that way again, not unless my clients want to sign off their edits via Facebook. In fact, I'll probably buy Premier 5.5, because you know what, even that's backward compatible with FCP7.



PS: Please, tell me it was the same team that worked on Mobile Me that did FCPX etc, it would explain a lot.

This letter is a personal opinion and in no way reflects the points of view of my employer