NAB: Talking Tech With Avid's Gary GreenfieldThe company's CEO discusses the vendor's transformation and the new technologies they'll be bringing to NAB 4/15/2012 09:00:00 PM Eastern
Since landing at Avid in 2007, CEO Gary Greenfield has
worked relentlessly to reshape the longtime provider of broadcast and TV
technologies, refocusing its product line and operations with a renewed focus
on customer relations.
This transformation has taken time, but seems to be paying
off. Avid reported its first quarterly profit since 2007 under GAAP principles
in its last earnings report and will be offering offer two dozen new products
at this year's NAB, which Greenfield calls one of the "richest" offerings the
company has launched in Vegas since taking charge.
Those new products very prominently include a new multiplatform
distribution (MPD) solution; the cloud-based Avid Interplay Sphere solution to
streamline newsgathering and production processes; new solutions for integrated
digital asset management workflows; Avid Motion Graphics, the company's
next-generation graphics solution; and additions to its server and storage
Many of these products were developed in close collaboration
with clients. As part of the company's renewed customer focus, Greenfield
notes, they've set up customer advisory boards that made many suggestions that
were incorporated into this year's new products.
What follows is a shortened version of a lengthy
conversation Greenfield had with B&C's technology contributing editor,
George Winslow, shortly before NAB.
As we go into NAB, what are some of the biggest
challenges you think broadcasters are facing and how has Adobe responded to
that in terms of your new products?
I think this is actually one of the most exciting times for media enterprises
and for broadcasters. We are in a point of time where there are many different
ways to share news and entertainment.
One of the big things that is changing is that consumers are
driving everything. It used to be that a new way of distribution should show up
and people would have to go that direction. You'd get distribution in Boston on
cable provider and in Washington D.C. on another.
But today, it is very much about consumer choices, and how
our customer are able to respond to consumers by providing great entertainment
and also giving consumers a variety of choices of where they can view the
We've seen a big change, just since NAB 2011, when everyone
was starting to talk about multiplatform distribution, but were still thinking
about it as alternative viewing experience.
Today it is really about an integrated viewing experience.
Nielsen just released data about viewing experience showing how many people are
sitting there with at least once smart device, maybe two -- an iPad and a
phone, as they watch TV.
So we are trying to do is to enable our customer to be offer
that integrated viewing experience.
I think we have also moved beyond simple file-based
workflows to the point where it is all about asset-based workflows, where you
create once and then deliver an integrated experience to many [platforms and
devices.] If you are creating a news story, that story may be shared between an
online viewing device as well as a traditional TV.
And that focus is reflected in the launch of your new multiplatform
distribution (MPD) solution at NAB?
That is correct. But that is just one part of it. Since I've joined the company
[in 2007], I don't think we have ever had a richer set of products. We will
have a dozen plus products being released.
For our MPD reference solution, the cloud is an important
part. With the introduction of our Interplace Sphere solution, our customer can
get closer to where the news is and to be able to deliver it in a timely
fashion from where it is happening as opposed to having to bring everything,
all the content, back to the central fortress.
One of things we've incorporated as we built our products is
a series of customer advisory boards -- not just with senior engineering leader
but also senior business leaders to make sure we are solving business problems.
I think that has translated into putting great capabilities into our products.
Vendors and broadcasters have been working for some
time to find ways to streamline workflows. What are some of areas where you
think more can be done?
In our messaging, we differentiate between file-based and asset-based
workflows. File-based workflow is really simply about capturing on digital
instead of capturing on tape.
I think most organizations are moving in that direction as
they move towards HD or as the early adopters of HD move to digital capture.
But when you think about workflow, you have to think about
more than how we capture. We have to think about creating the content and
So one of the reasons we refer to asset-based workflows is
that it is not just about the how we capture the material but how we reuse and
leverage it. When we create a story, it is not just about video, it is about
the story as an asset and all the things associated with the story and the
multiscreen viewing experience that is going on with it.
So managing those assets is critical. When we survey our
customers with a third party research firm, the two most important things that
came back from them are asset management and metadata. And when you hear
metadata, you are just hearing about a variant of asset management issues.
How will your new Interplay Sphere solution help streamline
workflows in news operations?
This is a solution that was very much been influenced by our customer advisory
boards. Two and a half years ago when we acquired some technology, we knew the cloud
was important and we were trying to figure out to make sure we could match it
to our customer workflow.
The first thing that customers told us was that rather than
having a dedicated client, which was the way the industry had grown up, they
would like to have an integrated view into the newsroom and have something that
was role-specific as opposed to product-specific.
So last year at NAB we introduced Interplay Central.
Interplay Central was designed to give folks a Web-based HTML 5 experience and
-- as the name implies -- a central view into the newsroom.
The second thing that the customers told us they wanted to
be able to build complete stories in the field without having to bring the
[So with Interplay Sphere,] you can capture media and edit
in the field and combine that local media with all the centralized media. Just
as you might stream a video from YouTube, we stream assets from the centralized
store, allowing the local editor to combine them into a story. We upload just
the components they need. It will load a proxy first so it can go immediately
to air, and it will replicate it with high quality media. It is really quite
exciting how seamless it is as a cloud solution.
When I talk to engineers I still hear a fair amount of
resistance to cloud solutions. They'll say they like the idea, but that they
are concerned about having their assets somewhere in case of catastrophic event
that would bring down their connectivity.
I'd say that in fact it is the other way around and that our cloud solution is
more secure. That perception is one of the reasons why working so closely with
customers has made a difference. As you said, that was their initial concern.
So we've been demonstrating to our customers that it actually helps them
improve their resiliency and improve flexibility.
Part of the reason for the reaction you're hearing is that
people think of the public Internet when they hear the word cloud. But what we
are talking about is a hybrid cloud solution that takes advantage of their existing
With that, I think we can help people become much
comfortable with the security of the cloud because they can use the public
Internet or they can use the proprietary links they already have on their
remotes or they can use cell phones and so forth.
Because we are only moving the media that needs to be part
of that package up the line, we actually create a more resilient infrastructure
for them that gives them a variety of communication paths. So we have actually
improved that environment.
This also came directly from working with our customers. One
of customers at a major network who is on a customer advisory board saw it last
week and he said never thought that we could be showing at NAB what they had
described during a customer advisory in October.
Of course we were working on it before. I wish I could do
everything in six months -- we can't. But we did fine tune based on feedback
from customer advisory board.
Adobe has already made quite a bit of progress into
the TV industry with their editing products and they will be making a big
splash with their CS6 in next few weeks. What sets you apart in terms of what
you can offer broadcasters?
First of all, we consider Adobe an important partner and hopefully they
consider us the same. We have validated support for CS5.5 and although we
haven't been able to do that for 6.0 at this stage of the game we will.
What we are really saying is that we are about integrated
workflow. We hope people will use Media Composer but just as we started supporting
[Apple's] Final Cut some years ago we are going to support other editing
platforms on top of our asset management system and on top of our storage
platform. And, we have Creative Suite for some time in our craft editing
solutions -- After Effects and Photoshop are frequently used in combination
with an Avid workflow.
In fact with Avid Motion Graphics, which we also
highlighting at NAB, one of ways you can create those graphics is through
So there is a mutual partnership there that is very good for
us and very good for our customers.
What differentiates an Avid solution versus an Adobe
solution is that we are about integrated workflow. What we say is that we are
Avid optimized in an open ecosystem, which means we can deliver a complete
Adobe is not able to do that. They need someone else's
storage. They need someone else's asset management system, someone else's
ingest servers, they need someone else's play-out servers, they need someone