Exclusive interview: Adobe's Al Mooney on Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro, and the future of video editing

We asked Adobe's Al Mooney, product manager for Premiere Pro to answer some uncomfortable questions about Apple's moves.

About a month ago, the professional digital video editing world was shocked, when it became apparent that Apple had decided to abandon its venerable Final Cut Pro file format and, although there was a new Final Cut Pro X product, there'd be no upgrade path between the two products.

Apple had, apparently, decided to strand its loyal users. All those old videos, films, and movies would not be able to move forward into new versions.

Now, quite obviously, this isn't a government-related topic, but I've been doing a lot of work with video recently. As editor of Connected Photographer (part of my day job), I've also had a long relationship with Adobe, makers of my favorite Photoshop and one of Final Cut Pro's chief competitors: Premiere Pro.

I asked Adobe's Al Mooney, product manager for Premiere Pro, if he'd be willing to answer some uncomfortable questions about Apple's moves. Al has a unique perspective, having also formerly been at both Apple and Avid, which means he's pretty much seen the video software market from all angles.

Al agreed, and here are my questions and his answers.

Thanks for speaking with us. Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background.

I'm Al Mooney product manager for Adobe Premiere Pro software, responsible for defining, delivering, and supporting the overall feature set and functionality. Earlier, I was the UK senior business development manager for video and broadcast at Adobe, providing technical workflow consultation for top broadcast accounts in the U.K.

I joined Adobe in 2009, after spending two years at Apple as the U.K. Pro Video business development manager, where I was responsible for the communication and go-to-market strategy of video solutions for the U.K. market, working with resellers and customers.

Before Apple, I was European sales specialist at Digidesign, a division of Avid Technology and also held earlier positions at Digidesign, including post-production product specialist, EMEA product specialist and marketing representative.

A lot of Final Cut Pro users are now obviously left orphaned, with large projects that can't be read into Final Cut Pro X. Is Adobe doing anything to help these Final Cut Pro users import their files in Premiere Pro?

Absolutely.

For some time, Premiere Pro has offered native XML import, allowing users of FCP7 and earlier to export their projects as XML files, import them into Premiere Pro, and be given the same media, folder structures, and sequences as they had in Premiere.

Sequences are as close to identical as we can make them, and where there are any possible issues (like certain filters not being mappable), Premiere Pro generates a report for the editor to see exactly where tweaks may need to be made.

What do you think about other complaints about the new Final Cut Pro X, ranging from an inability to use edit decision lists to the elimination of multi-camera support?

I think it's clear from the response of the professional editing community that there is a lot of disappointment that certain features they've come to rely on are not part of Final Cut Pro X.

While I can't comment on Apple's go-to-market strategy with FCPX, I can say that editors who need those kind of features will find them in Premiere Pro, and that is no doubt part of the reason why so many more people are giving our NLE [non-linear editing system] a try.

It must be an interesting challenge. Adobe is the only company on Apple's Web Mac software store site with its own category. And yet, you're competing with Apple in a variety of ways. How do you balance competing and yet working together?

We are committed to releasing professional quality video creation tools on both the Windows and Mac platform. We work closely with Apple to ensure that our products run smoothly on the Mac platform.

Plus, many of our customers use a combination of applications, from Adobe, Apple and others. We compete by working hard to create the best NLE on the market.

It's now possible to do moderate video editing on smartphones and tablets. Where do these devices fit in as editing and production tools?

Currently, we see these devices of interest in the way that they can embellish and improve a creative workflow. I think the days when people will be able to complete a full post-production process using just these devices are some way off, but using them to give more expression to a piece of work will happen faster.

The Photoshop Touch applications are a good example of this. We also have our metadata-orientated script writing tool, Adobe Story, available for these devices, and this is proving to be popular.

I can imagine in the future we'll see more interactivity, perhaps allowing editors to use tablets and smartphones as input devices for things like color correction and audio mixing, and also increased use for workflow elements like shot selection, tagging, and rough cutting.

Video editing has changed a lot since the YouTube era. We now have the ability to create pro-quality videos with software as inexpensive as Elements, and do full studio-quality work with Premiere Pro. What do you see for the future of video production?

As with most industries, what we're seeing with video production is commoditization of the tools, as you point out.

The barrier to entry has dropped and will continue to -- it's amazing to think how much it would cost to buy an NLE just 10 years ago compared to now, especially considering today's less expensive tools are of higher performance.

But, I do believe that there will always be a requirement for talented creative individuals, irrespective of the cost of the tools, and that just because tools are available at lower cost does not make everyone a talented video creator.

But, there can be little doubt that the fact that more people can access the tools means there is more freedom for people to just focus on being creative, with less concern about the cost of entry.

Further, as above, I think we will see increased usage of smart devices become a more crucial part of a modern workflow.

What about the professional? Obviously, there's some hurt feelings and panic out there among professionals who have entire libraries they can't move forward. Do you think professional video editing is still a strong market for software?

I think in the context of the answer above, 'professional' video editing will continue to change as the tools become more easily available. However, I think there will always be the need for high-end production, for broadcast and film workflows, and that whilst increasingly powerful tools will become available to more people, there will be 'professional' editing at the high-end for a long time.

Online video has become, perhaps, the single most important media type of any we use. Where do you see video going? What's the future of editing, video, and all these wonderful toys?

The biggest and most obvious change of recent times is seen at both ends of the spectrum -- from capture to consumption.

Most people now carry at least one device about their person which can capture video at reasonably high quality, and people consume video on an array of different devices in different places. The days of the family gathering on the couch at prime time are behind us.

I think this will continue -- we will see more and more content being made, and more and more ways to consume it. And if that's the case, the important thing is going to be understanding the content and consumption patterns to make it monetizable and trackable.

I think, because of this, we'll see more advanced 'content intelligence' technology being relied upon to find media (i.e., speech search, face detection, shot analysis, etc). I think this type of intelligence will be associated with the consumers of media such that we can use intelligence to suggest video to a certain person that matches their consumption habits.

More people will be making and viewing more media than ever before. As I said above, however, I don't think that removes the need for 'high-end' production at all, it just makes it fit into the market in a different way.

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I'd like to send a big thanks to Al. Please feel free to TalkBack below, and please be polite. We're always polite when we have guests over, aren't we?