News Production & Post

Apple chases Avid into asset management

19 April 2007

At NAB Apple has introduced a new, low-cost media asset management and workflow automation system for post production and broadcasting, that ties into its newly updated Final Cut Studio. Final Cut Server is essentially Proximity Corporation’s Artbox system, but with a new user interface and a vastly reduced price, writes David Fox.

Apple bought Proximity late last year, and will be selling Final Cut Server for just $999 for up to 10 users, or $1,999 for unlimited users, compared to about $50,000 for Artbox. The server works on both Windows and Mac OS X, and is aimed at managing large collections of media files, searching for and cataloguing files, monitoring media changes, tracking job status, managing reviews and approvals, and automating complex sequences of tasks (such as delivery, transfers, and archiving). It also facilitates collaboration over a LAN or WAN, or using Apple’s Xsan to share media across multiple workstations. Apple claims that “Final Cut Server makes it easy to work at any scale,” from a two person start up to a multinational broadcaster.

It extracts and reports various standard metadata, including IPTC, XMP, and XML data types, plus any custom metadata. For ease of use, it comes with a variety of easily modifiable workflow templates for different types of users. Assets can be dragged and dropped from the server to any Final Cut Studio application (itself hitting v2.0 at the show), with finished edits updated automatically. The server can be used to organise productions, including any combination of Final Cut Pro projects, rough-cut sequences, media assets, and production documents.

The system has been beta tested by CBS affiliate KCAL9, Los Angeles, for HD news, particularly for managing promo production, with content coming from many different sources, in a variety of formats. “We chose Final Cut Server because it’s an excellent communication tool. Everything’s at your fingertips now, with searching by keyword, date, or by the person who created the asset,” said Otto Petersen, KCAL9’s design director.

“It provides a really great sense of control on a project,” added writer/producer Janeen Vogelaar. “I can mark any notes I want to on there, as well as communicate to my editor or designer, and say ‘this is exactly the shot I want to use’. Now I can see the big picture and say ‘this is my vision, right here’.”

“It’s a great screening tool, where the editor can export a small QuickTime movie and pretty much anyone can be involved in the approval process,” said Petersen.

“When you’re working in a realtime news world, being able to play realtime streams of HD video is absolutely a must, and the ability of the Apple products to push HD video in quantity is an advantage that we had to have and I think any broadcaster needs,” commented Marshall Hites, KCAL9’s VP for creative services.

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