Media Production

When The Cost of The “Next Big Thing” is Too High

A number of years ago, Apple released Final Cut X, which has pretty much become a joke in the industry. I’m a huge Apple fan, but even Conan O’Brian’s post production team got in on the act.  Our post production team at Cooke Media Group just returned from a seminar on the system and are more frustrated than ever.  But this post isn’t really about Apple, it’s about that fact that this is actually a good example of something we need to think about when we’re trying to improve any product, organization, or event.

The pressure these days to release the “next big thing” can be so great, that it causes us to sometimes stretch a little too far. When that happens, it can result in disaster.  As a result, here’s a few of the biggest mistakes we make when trying to introduce the “next big thing” with products, programs, or events:

1.  Don’t forget that people have a past.  Strangely, the new FCP X doesn’t work with earlier FCP formats and video projects.  So anything you’ve worked on in the past can’t be imported into this version.  But any editor has to re-edit or tweak older projects on a regular basis.  So don’t forget that your new thing has to work with your customer’s old thing.

2.  The more radical the change, the longer the learning curve.  People get used to stuff, and the more you shake that up, the longer it takes to re-learn.  Which means the longer it takes for people to purchase and use.  In the meantime, some of your customers will get angry.  So be ready to deal with that frustration.

3.  Don’t lose your advocates.  We’ve actually heard some Apple representatives say, “If I was you, I’d wait for at least 3 upgrades before I’d buy.”  If your own advocates and reps don’t believe in the change, then you’ll have trouble convincing potential customers.  So make sure your most passionate people are onboard first.

4.  Finally, nothing is worse than losing your customer’s trust.  What if a major television project comes in our door next week?  Now, our editors don’t even trust the current FCP version, because they know it will eventually require an upgrade, and can’t know if these files will work next year or the next.  By contrast, on our Avid systems, we can still open files we edited 10 years ago.  There’s trust there that it will always work in the clutch.  Never risk losing your customer’s trust, because it’s almost impossible to get back again.

Creating the “next big thing” is wonderful, exciting, and can change your future.  But be careful.  The pressure can sometimes make you reach too far….  I’d love to know your thoughts.  And if you’ve experienced something like that, have I left anything out?

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14 Comments

  1. Apple seems to make 1 goof up in every 10 releases. Apple tends to believe they can reverse the world’s rotation because their stuff is that good…and frankly it is most of the time. I’m all for change, but not if it requires me to cut off my arm.  FCP is really FC Express, the price-point and marketing etc. I think Apple really did some kind of marketing mess up on this one. I dont know a single “broadcast editor” who is considering FCPX yet, the backwards compatibility is what killed it for me too. Im a certified Avid editor, and Avid reminds me of DOS, it’s solid, reliable and outdated. I’ve been on FCP7 for 3 years. I agree lets see how Apple response to the flack. Remember after Apple release a bomb called LISA, they responded by creating the Macintosh. 

  2. The other thing I feel apple is trying to do with all their professional products is make them more friendly for the “masses”.  Aperture basically became iphoto pro, and with FCP X it feels that its more iMovie Pro rather than an improvement on FCP 7.  Apple seems to be forgetting that these products aren’t for the masses, they are for a niche of professionals that need certain tools.  

    It feels as if Apple is now chasing $$ signs instead of trying to improve on their customer base by trying to make their products friendly to everyone rather than the trained professionals that the product is really for.  So I would even say you could have 5 be “Know/Remember who you are making this for”.

  3. I’m not convinced I agree with your second point. Case in point: the iPad. This is a huge break from the past, yet I knew how to use it the instant I picked it up. Compare that learning curve with learning any other hardware platform.

    1. Good point.  I think the difference with the iPad is that mobile devices had prepped us and we were ready for that drastic change.  Plus, with an entirely new DEVICE, we expect a new way to run it.   But with FCPX, people assumed it would be more like previous techniques.

  4. I think you have missed the mark here Phil and I could not disagree more.  While I believe Apple has made some bone headed moves in the release of FCPX, I still believe they are moving in the right direction.  Apple is a very secretive company and I think that specifically with this release it has been the death of them.  

    The truth is that sometimes you have to take a few steps back to move forward.  I see this as that for Apple.  They have spent all this time praising the fact that you can do all these new things, but somehow forgot to mention that, oh by the way, its a completely new way of editing.  When I purchased FCPX on the day of the release I opened it up and began trying to open older projects.  But wait, you can’t do that.  Ok.  Well when I get to the point where I start a new project, I’ll move over.  That day has yet to come as well.  What has come is all the news that FCPX is “not ready” as a broadcast editor.    I could ripe that line apart, but that’s not the point here.  When has any editor/producer/director ever encouraged a fellow editor to upgrade mid project?   And concerning the past, FCPX does not overwrite FCP7.  So I have kept on trucking along, delivering projects from my trusty FCP7.  Nothing is holding me back from continuing to use FCP7.  The Final Cut Police aren’t busting down my door demanding that I now use FCPX.  

    Now may not be the time to jump on board with FCPX.  It may need some time to mature.  Most people said that when Apple released version 1 back in 1999.  Most people didn’t jump on board to FCP until the mass exodus happened from AVID.  People tend to forget that AVID stopped listening to their costumers a few years back which created a good degree of anger in the Post community.  

    I guess I am just completely shocked by your blog post.  You are the “next big thing” guy.  But I think you understand when things might not be ready to push to the masses.  I thought Apple understood that as well.  No one would be complaining if the words BETA appeared at the end of the FCPX title.  That was Apple’s mistake.  But no one is pointing guns at FCP users and demanding that they use the new X version.  I know plenty of people that are true professionals that have already adopted FCPX and loving it.  I think you will look back in 3 years when Apple has caught up and everyone has adopted FCPX as the standard that you will look back at this post and realize that you didn’t get it.  

    1. Micah – I think in your heart you agree with me…  🙂  Actually, I am a huge Apple fan, and I’m big on “the next big thing” as well.  My post wasn’t meant to discourage people from creating new things, but understanding how to unveil them to maximize public acceptance.  My big maxim is – No matter how great your idea, if people won’t buy it, you’ve failed…

  5. I agree whole-heartedly about your points above and FCPX is an excellent case study in a product launched very poorly. I was present at NAB when Apple first unveiled it and I’ve been on the forefront of the entire editor-community response. From my perspective, it boils down pretty simply to Apple changing its target demographic for the entire line of FCP software. They aren’t aiming for the TV/Film community, they’re aiming for indie filmmakers and digital video enthusiasts. The biggest backlash has definitely come from that TV/Film community because the product was never meant for them, and it doesn’t look like it will be… 

    What’s sad is they have shunned the community that embraced them to begin with in order to increase their market share and raise revenue… I’ve been using FCP since version 4, and its not the lack of features or even the inability to open old projects that bothers me. Its the direction Apple is taking the product (and all their products for that matter) that concerns me most. Pro is not their priority–its the widest market share possible, which will always translate to consumer products. 

    For my team and I, the big question is Avid or Premiere? 🙂 

    1. Great points all, Dave. Premiere is an incredible workhorse with a relatively shallow learning curve. Bouncing between FCP 7 and Premiere has been an easy bridge to navigate, so far. Too bad Apple decided to leave the TV/ Film folks at the dock with FCP X. IMHO, access is key, but for both communities as opposed to one or the other.

  6. I suspect Apple is deliberately abandoning the professional market. It’s hard to draw any other conclusion – no backwards compatibility, no support for multiple screens, no EDLs, no OMFs and the elastic rubbery timeline thing that looks like a nine year old designed it. No, that’s probably an insult to nine year olds.

    1. Anthony – I think you ultimately nailed it.  Which is another blog issue entirely.  How do you shift your target audience successfully?  (Especially when you don’t tell the original audience…)

  7. More than likely they are getting out of the pro market here. However, they also maybe trying to reinvent the wheel. Apple has been known to do that. Case in point, remember the buttonless iPod Shuffle. Only one version of that. So when the next version came out it looks like the pre buttonless version. What get’s me about the new shuffle is that they made a point to emphasize “it has buttons.” They goofed and the knew it. Apple needs a good kick in the pants every once in awhile, and I think that this FCP X is one of those times.

  8. I basically agree with Phil’s take. The problem is not and never was the software (FCP X). The problem is how Apple introduced it. Imagine if Apple has made public several months ahead of the FCP X release that this would be something really new, and that while there would be no major features added to FCP 7, there would be continued bug fixes and small enhancements to 7 as people eased into X. Apple’s point would have been ,”we have a new paradigm, but we don’t want to shock your system. Come grow with this new software while at the same time managing your current projects on 7′.  I hate cliches (is that a cliche’?) but “Presentation is EVERYTHING.” Apple simply should have showed more respect and trust for the FCP user base by being more honest and caring about people’s needs and livelihoods.

    BTW, Premiere Pro and Avid are not the only “answers” to this question for Mac users. Media 100 Suite v2, is solid, stable, professional, user friendly and very capable.   http://www.media100.com

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