New video distribution models mean new video creation tools

The post tools that will do well in coming years are those that fit into the way media is changing.

Avid Media Composer, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Apple Final Cut Pro X are on a continuum of how well they will be able to create the new forms of video that will be needed by content creators.

REDEF has uploaded a presentation on the future of media. They predict there will be new models of video distribution:

- Dedicated SVOD

- Identity Feeds

- Scale Feeds

- Social Feed Navigators

- Social Feeds


The presentation explains the future of media is based on the removal of bottlenecks. The changes they predict are due to large increases in number of

  • Production companies/Producers working with creative people
  • Network programmers choosing what to show
  • Distributors getting TV to audiences
  • Devices accessible by each person

Another bottleneck removed by technology in recent years is that of single technical distribution standards.

No standards bottleneck

A place where distribution methods will be able to differentiate is the playback method. Up until now distribution of media was based on standards: If you wanted people to watch your celluloid film, it was distributed in 35mm stock. If you wanted people to hear your radio programme or watch your TV show, it had to be broadcast using very slowly evolving agreed-upon standards.

In order for each additional ability to be added to a feed, it used to be that national governments and international organisations had to spend months and years debating and negotiating. The internet has helped speed up this process. Compare the speed of introduction of

  • Sound film
  • Standard definition TV
  • Colour TV
  • HD TV
  • Digital film
  • 3D film
  • UHD TV

The difference now is that standards don’t have to be agreed by standards bodies any more. The speed of evolution of 360º video distribution hasn’t been because of SMPTE or IEEE.

Take directional audio as an example. VR video creators want audio to ‘line up with’ video elements: If a train comes into a station and I’ve turned so that the train will arrive behind me, they want the sound to seem like it comes from behind me.

In February there was no standard way of including directional audio in 360º video. In March Google defined the way they want audio to be encoded in VR video files uploaded to YouTube. Recently Facebook acquired a company that made expensive set of audio tools for directional audio post production. Around the same time as Google open-sourced the audio part of the spatial media standard, Facebook made the directional audio tools free for the use for post production.

Video, audio and interaction delivery standards have been defined by those that own the playback methods: Google’s YouTube and Facebook.

This is possible because the place where the programme is finally prepared for viewing is moving from the editing software to the playback device: the web browser, the mobile application and set-top device. In order to introduce new media features, the playback system can be updated via the internet.

Customised viewing

The bringing together of video and audio clips is currently done in the editing software. Edits are created by chaining together video and audio clips. Effects are created by layering graphic, video and audio clips on top of each other. These are combined into a single file for distribution.

Most playback devices have the power to do this combination at the playback point. The limits are bandwidth and defining a standard way to send all graphic, video and audio elements from the server.

New media services will deliver customised viewing. Most playback devices do this already: Programmes are are already able to modified at the point of playback to deal with different spoken languages through subtitles and alternate soundtracks. Soon video will change depending on

  • size of screen (graphics, titles and some shots scaled up for smaller screens, reduced for larger screens, including when audiences moves closer or further away from playback device)
  • audio needs (different audio mixes based on hearing ability, playback environment)
  • aspect ratio (the same video clips, titles and graphics, scaled and positioned differently depending on whether screen is being watched at 21:9, 16:9, 4:3, 1:1, 3:4, 9:16 and 9:21 — including for when viewers turn their device from landscape to portrait while watching)
  • feed integration (integrating relevant social/news feeds of text, pictures and video)

Future media tools

Post tools — be they high-end editing applications or free online services — will need to be able to create stories made of clouds of video, audio, graphics, effects, pictures and transitions.

Each of the main video and audio post-production tools are at different points on the path towards being able to do this. They are limited by history, user interface metaphor and ability to deliver:

  • Avid Media Composer for video and Avid ProTools for audio: Furthest behind, least likely to be able to evolve for modern media. The software model, UI and funding model are most suited to 20th century media environment. The number of buyers of Media Composer as it is now cannot fund the required development for the application to keep up with other video editing applications as new people enter media production. Although ProTools is the audio post production standard application, it will be constrained by ancient code and user interface metaphors. Current audio post professionals will resist all attempts to modernise the UI to make it able to deliever 21st century media.
  • Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve for video: The youngest of the the four major video applications has a ‘to do list’ that is currently too long for developers to yet consider the UI model changes required for future media. However, as their code is the newest, once they implement 90% of Media Composer features and 60% of Adobe Premiere features — enough to acquire the majority of the high-end users of both applications — they will be able to pass Adobe.
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CC for video: Although the code and user interface metaphor is almost as old as Media Composer, Adobe are better positioned to deliver the stories in future. I’m sure the marketing and future media parts of Adobe know enough about what is needed. The question is whether the Premiere track-based user interface is flexible enough for editors and post people to specify the kind of clip connections needed. I imagine there is a future media editing tool being developed behind closed doors at Adobe, unfettered by Premiere’s code and UI metaphor — much more likely to be delivered to millions instead of thousands, to be streamed instead of being packaged into a monolithic 20th century-style application.
  • Apple Final Cut Pro: This video application’s primary market was never high-end TV and feature films. When the radically different version 10.0 was launched in 2011 and the previous version was discontinued, professionals felt abandoned. It seems that Apple moving the focus of what features to implement to a new mass-market was the right move — given the democratisation of video production. Final Cut’s timeline metaphor is best suited to delivering future media. It will still be hard for a modern playback device to reproduce a track-based timeline for a few years. Final Cut timelines are based on how video and audio clips are connected to each other — in time as well as space. This form is easier for customised playback in browsers, mobile apps and on set-top devices.

The real post competition is likely to come from tools being developed today to respond to the needs of modern distribution. That means online services from Google, Facebook and other social media platforms. It is also worth keeping up with new services that might grow into something big, or be the platform acquired by a modern distributor. Smaller companies have a chance in a world where where is no need for a sales team or a big marketing push. Network effects and word of mouth mean new users can sign up for free in minutes.

This kind of competition for creative people’s attention is good news.

Prepare to start learning new media editing tools so you can be one of those that define the way we tell stories from now on.