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Pinnacle buys FAST

Fairlight buys Lightworks

Discreet purchases Media 100's
Cleaner and CineStream products

Edit Business Streamlined

by David Fox

Consolidation of the nonlinear editing market was one of the key themes of IBC 2001, with two takeovers of editing manufacturers agreed just the day before the show when Pinnacle bought FAST and Fairlight took over Lightworks. Discreet also bought a substantial part of Media 100, including its market-leading streaming software and its low-end editing products. Added to that there was also Leitch's earlier purchase of DPS (makers of the Velocity editing system) making its first appearance at the show, and a joint partnership between Editware and Lift which sees them collaborate on a combined editing system. There may be fewer stand-alone NLE manufacturers, but it does allow customers extra confidence that their systems are more likely to continue to be supported - while manufacturers like Discreet, Fairlight and Pinnacle will now be able to offer a wider, more integrated range of systems.

Pinnacle Buys Colour-FAST Solution

Pinnacle has bought the editing software business of FAST for about $15 million in cash and stock as a way in to the broadcast nonlinear editing market. The purchase was completed the night before IBC where FAST launched its latest colourful NLE system, blue; an "anything in, everything out" broadcast editor, to add to its existing purple, silver and ivory models.

"Pinnacle is consolidating its position in the market from the consumer segment to professional," explained Ajay Chopra, founder and chairman, Pinnacle Systems. It had lacked a professional editing system and looked at many options, but found "FAST absolutely the best in the industry," he said. "We want to retain the talent we are acquiring," he added. He hopes the acquisition will help it expand in the broadcast market. "We're building the entire spectrum of solutions for consumers, broadcasters and high-end professionals," said Chopra.

It has made several other software acquisitions in the last year: Commotion, Deko, and the DVD-authoring software, Impression. All of them fit together with FAST, he says, and he hopes will lead to more integrated solutions in its key markets. "That's why this acquisition makes sense, because there is such synergy," said Reiner Bielmeier, CEO, FAST Multimedia.

Pinnacle is strong in the US and Asia, but not in Europe, so Chopra wants it to work with FAST to grow in Europe, and to help it grow in the US and Asia. "We've truly become a global company," he said. Bielmeier believes that Pinnacle's marketing clout will "drastically" increase FAST's sales almost instantly.

Pinnacle previously bought another German video company, Miro, to help it become one of the leading suppliers of consumer editing products. The consumer business is increasingly software centred as PCs get faster. Pinnacle Studio is selling 150,000 units per quarter (which he claims makes it the best selling stand-alone system worldwide, as rivals like iMovie are bundled).

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FairLightworks: The Shark Gets Eaten

Digital audio workstation manufacturer Fairlight has bought NLE maker, Lightworks. Fairlight had been a minority shareholder in Lightworks for some time. The pioneering editing system, which had a shark as its logo, had only been prevented from disappearing two years ago, when Mark Pounds, president of O.L.E Canada, bought it from Tektronix.

"Fairlight has always been a keen supporter of Lightworks due to its console-based user interface. This approach follows our philosophy that dedicated hardware controls are faster and much less stressful for professionals who work long hours when compared to the zero-cost cursor/mouse regimen," said Kim Ryrie, Fairlight founder and executive director.

He believes that Lightworks can capitalise on its history as one of the first nonlinear editing systems, which has been used for many movies, such as the recent Moulin Rouge. "We see other benefits as well, especially the merging of our respective technologies to ultimately develop a truly integrated professional A/V editing, mixing and finishing tool," he added.

"There are common interests. It gives [Fairlight] a portfolio of products," says Dave McClune, Lightworks product manager.

Software will continue to be written in London and is now almost complete. The hardware is imminent. "With the takeover, we'll now be able to go forward and get the hardware developed pretty quickly," he says.

The system is now working on a standard dual-processor PC under Windows 2000 with some Lightworks boards and its console, but it will soon become a dedicated turnkey, rack-mounted system.

There is currently only one system, Vox, which it is aiming at long-form video and film use, where it hopes to rebuild its previously strong customer base. Multi-camera editing is not implemented in Vox, but it could be. At the moment, where Lightworks goes next has still to be decided.

The system is now a lot more stable and complete. It includes a real-time DVE, titling, colour correction, and luma/chroma keying. It can also accept third-party plug-ins.

It has a new 16-channel audio subsystem, with sample rate conversion, which can mix different sample rates on the same timeline. It also has improved networking, with a greater level of project sharing. Different users can work on the same material at the same time and can interchange shots without having to make a copy.

"In general, there has been an all round improvement of the interface to handle effects correctly," said Graham Henderson, Lightworks head of engineering.

It has just entered beta testing and Henderson believes the final product will be on sale early in the new year. Now that it is part of Fairlight, they will be looking at integrating with Fairlight's audio systems, especially as part of a network.

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Discreet Cleans Up

Discreet's purchase of Media 100's Cleaner and CineStream products may be just the first of a set of acquisitions, according to the company.

Discreet has had a strong year, is profitable and "on the acquisition trail," said its Europe, Middle East and Asia general manager, Eric Lemaréchal. "Discreet will be interested in looking at any companies that will expand our value in the digital creation food chain," added Dave Jones, vice president, product development, who hopes it will expand in to the authoring and distribution of content.

It is also developing its own new products as part of plans to extend its reach beyond the pure creation space. "We want to own more of the media value chain," said Lemaréchal. This will include more high-end technology (including digital film and HD) and desktop (Mac and PC) systems. He also wants to be able to make it easier for broadcasters to adopt dynamic content, and offer "enabling technology for more throughput and managing output," he said.

He claims that Discreet systems are now in 17 of 22 German broadcasters and more than half of UK broadcasters, including the BBC, Carlton and BSkyB. In France, users include TF1 and Centreville. "Companies like TF1 are looking to enrich their TV screens with more information," he said, because they need to expand and retain their audiences with more compelling graphics and promos.

There is also a demand for richer graphics to cover live and sports events. "This is a very demanding production environment," delivering multiple streams quickly and accurately, he added.

It's $16 million purchase of Media 100's new media products, leaves it in a prime position to dominate that market segment as Cleaner is the de facto standard for streaming, cleaning and encoding media, while CineStream gives it a low-cost product for DV editing and DVD authoring. "The Media 100 products truly help us get to the distribution part of the value chain, especially for the Web and DVD," said Lemaréchal. The Cleaner line includes: Cleaner 5, Cleaner EZ, Cleaner Live, Charger and SuperCharger; while CineStream is joined by the EventStream technology, and the EditDV and IntroDV low-end DV editing packages.

Although intent on expanding its market reach through further purchases, it won't be rushing into it. "Acquisition is a very important and delicate project," warned Lemaréchal. It took two years to integrate the Autodesk division with Discreet (after Autodesk bought Discreet), "so, clearly, acquisitions have to be conducted with a lot of planning and preparation." It intends to leave the software portion of the Media 100 products alone for a while and integrate them later.

NOV 2001

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David Fox