Closing NAB 2013 Thoughts: Why Adobe Anywhere is the Only Tool That Will Actually Make You a Better Filmmaker

I have a confession.

This is not so much a post about the Adobe Anywhere product as it is about my own recent  revelation after going through a rather major and important change in my life and career. I recently expanded out of the comfort of my home office and into an industrial space with studio. The move has been a massive one – putting a lot of stress on my plate. But it has also taught me a lot about myself – perhaps a bit of “growing up” that I’m desperately trying to put into words here.

But let’s start by talking about this new product, Adobe Anywhere and why it has struck a deep chord in how I’m approaching video and film.

Forgive me if I skip a few of the details as I really want to try to lay the case as to why this is such a big deal. I will try to present what you need to know but you can always check out Adobe’s Anywhere site and their Press Release for more information.

Simply explained- Adobe Anywhere is a private editing cloud that enables film/video businesses to collaborate on the same project, accessing same assets and media, from anywhere that has a robust internet connection. All files are ingested into a central enterprise level server which handles the heavy duty processing. Editors at their own computers are essentially sending in commands from their own computers and playing back the processed video from the central server over the network. In this way, even lesser powered machines with limited RAM can edit heavy video formats without breaking a sweat. Ultimately this can mean you can have more editors with smaller personal machines all accessing high quality files as long as the central media server is powerful enough to handle the connections.

But the key to the Adobe Anywhere concept is how Adobe approaches the idea of collaboration. I spent an hour at NAB 2013 chatting with Michael Coleman, Senior Product Manager overseeing Adobe Anywhere, throwing all sorts of workflow questions at him to see where the gotcha was. But it became clear that this wasn’t a tagged on service – Adobe Anywhere is the opening salvo in a new way of thinking about collaboration and editing.

First of all, Adobe Anywhere is deep collaboration. This isn’t a sort of “Drop Box” style collaboration where you upload a file with a new version number. You’re actually collaborating inside the software itself.

Let’s back up and talk about the workflow a bit. You first start by creating a “Production” and selecting the team members you want to be involved on the project. Each Team Member can log in and ingest footage (which sends it from their own computer to the central server) and make changes to the Production file (which is just like working in Premiere Pro). When they are ready to share their work, instead of hitting “Save” (which they’ve disabled when working in Adobe Anywhere) they will hit the “Collaborate” icon which sends whatever changes they made to the Collaboration Hub on the central server. Each revision is stored as a snapshot so even if two people are working on the same production at the same time, nothing is lost or destroyed. Instead conflicts can be “merged” if the user so desires.

In this first release of Adobe Anywhere, the media company is squarely targeting the broadcast companies. Editors will need a 30 megabit connection in order to work with the footage – so editing remotely from an ice field in Antarctica is not a viable solution yet, but editing from a different floor of a broadcast facility that has a network connection is.

Now I need to make good on my sensationalist headline.

First of all, I know that many of my readers here are not in the position of a CNN with massive enterprise level servers. Neither am I. But this is the germ of a big idea here – an idea that won’t take long to sprout into something that we can all take advantage of. In all of history of film, editing has be a very individual task – you may have a few people working on different parts of a movie – but it’s usually been one editor working on one section of a film. With Adobe Anywhere – that concept is gone. Footage is free to flow between editors and different artists. Collaboration isn’t just sharing the latest revision, but now fully fluid – conversations can now be made in post production regardless of location.

This. Changes. Everything.

Collaboration is the heart of filmmaking. The auteur theory is far too simplistic. Even visionary directors require the collaboration of brilliant craftspeople at all levels of production – no film happens without many many people coming together and contributing their own unique perspectives.

This is statement so easy to type here and yet so profoundly difficult to understand especially for this overachiever.

As I stated in my opening paragraph, I moved into an office space a few months ago. It’s far easy to throw stones at the establishment sitting in the comfort of a home office – but once you’re in the real world of a rented space, a studio and office, you start to see the importance of those things that don’t get marketing hype. From the start, I’ve been doing everything – the one man band. But the office means I’ve scaled up. I’m still doing everything, but let me tell you it’s no fun. It’s more fun when people have input. And that is a difficult course correction for me to make and only possible because I am a different man today than I was 6 months ago – and totally unrecognizable to the me that shared my DNA just 5 years ago.

The person that has spurred me along to get better and better is my best friend and partner in crime here at Filmmaker IQ, Dennis. Yes, he’s knocked me down and dragged me through the mud, but I can’t say that I’d be anywhere close to where I am now without him pushing me on.  There’s no question about it – he has forced me to question myself – and consistently try to find new answers in myself and my work. He has taught me that you can never accept less than your absolute best and to never let anyone be your excuse for not reaching for the stars.

Talent if there is such a thing will get you so far. Talent plus collaboration and dedication will make you unstoppable.

So as I dragged my tired feet through the halls of NAB 2013, being bombarded with the marketing hype and the latest big boy toys that I wanted but knew I could not afford, this constant reminder kept flooding my head. It’s the people. Sure, I’m not going to get that message at a show for selling gear – and writing about getting good people is not going to get you more hits than a hot new camera (not saying I don’t like hot new cameras). But it’s all about the collaboration.

While every product being marketed out there was about making the image better and more beautiful, or the workflow easier and more automated, Adobe Anywhere was the only thing I saw that enables better collaboration and communication on a fundamental and crucial part of the filmmaking process. Although I’ve been a die-hard Adobe fan since I started editing, I’m trying to say this as best I can without bias – this idea of collaborative editing is one who’s time has come. Even though the current Adobe Anywhere may require be a little too much for small shops to implement right now, I have no doubt Adobe or whoever will find a way to bring this idea to everybody. It’s only a matter of time for this paradigm shift.

Collaboration with the right individuals with the right mindset – that my friends, THAT will make you a better filmmaker more than anything piece of gear out there.

I’m living proof and I can’t wait to collaborate with more people.