That Post-PC video editor dream may not be a dream

Apple may call it the ‘Post PC’ age, but when it comes to video production we’re not convinced we’ve totally arrived at that moment yet, though we were interested to see Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens and Elf video editor, Dan Lebental’s iPad app, TouchEdit, which offers a glimpse at how mobile devices continue to evolve.

Cowboys or aliens?

Lebental already reckons his frame-based editing solution for the iPad is going to be good enough to cut director, Jon Favreau’s next film, which shows a certain conviction. (You can read its features here).

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Lebental explained:

“We are at the dawn of the professional program coming to the iPad and other mobile technology.”

TouchEdit hints at a future in which mobile devices pick up on some of the work presently done by PCs. While it doesn’t completely address the format support and file-size challenges of working with video assets, it successfully makes video editing a little more like the scissors and paste techniques used by film’s early pioneers.

The app lets you see the source material (ingested from iTunes or Dropbox, among other sources) along with two film windows, one of which features source material and the other the edited sequence.

You scroll through the movie using touch, and, in a nod to Apple’s iMovie app, drag and drop clips into the edited sequence. The creator claims nearly all of the tools he uses when working on films are included within TouchEdit.

Losing the PC

What’s also interesting about the app is Lebental’s vision that cloud-based services could make it much easier to work with huge video files.

Hollywood Reporter observed that with cloud-based services to back such solutions up: “It’s not hard to see how this app could become a part of a collaborative, mobile production model that could include dailies to editing to review and approval.”

It’s important to clarify what we think we are seeing in this app: it is not a replacement for professional video editing tools, but works in conjunction with them (or will eventually). In other words, you can use the tool within the composition process to make a rough cut of available clips and then export it to your preferred compositing system to relink the clips to the original media.

In other words, you get to figure out a rough cut of the project you are working on using your iPad while sat in a coffee shop.

This is clearly the vision of the app. In a Twitter post, the team developing it revealed that they are “working on a Media Composer workflow”, which is due to be included within a future update.

Roundtripping…

There’s a particular focus on Avid. ProvideCoaltion notes:

“We know that the creators were Avid Media Composer people, not just because Dan is a feature film editor but because much of TouchEdit looks to be Media Composer inspired.”

What’s also interesting is the one-month delay that took place between when the app was submitted and when it was eventually made available via the App Store.

This suggests Apple had to think about the app, which itself suggests Final Cut may get some form of app treatment somewhere down the line. That’s in itself an interesting echo of some of the complaints made about the last edition of the app, which many professionals rejected due to missing features and its obvious move toward a touch-based interface.

Might this mean at some point Apple will introduce an app enabling Final Cut Pro video editors to use their iPad as a control interface for some of the tasks they currently engage in on their Mac?

That post-PC thing…

If that’s the case, then we could be closer to a PostPC era than we originally thought. Even TouchEdit already supports use of FCPXML as an export function — and won some good praise from the ProvideVideo Coalition.

We suspect that the app’s support for Avid and FCP makes this a solution to watch, though we’re not entirely convinced by the skeumorphic design of the retro user interface: Sure, it might be reminiscent of an old flatbed film editor, but the tool used is an iPad, that you can achieve these results on the device is, we feel, sufficient.

It’s also worth reflecting on the future of data-intensive applications, such as video-editing software. It seems clear that the direction of current innovation will lead to a divorce between the data we are working with and the interface we use with which to access it.

In other words, you might be working with full-strength editing software on your tablet, but the data itself will be hosted on (and also worked on) by a system that is elsewhere, with which your tablet communicates. That raises some really interesting possibilities for collaboration within video editing. Which has to be worth thinking about.

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