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Demystifying Avid Interplay

Only published comments... Mar 13 2013, 12:00 AM by Ian Krabacher
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The following is the first in a series of three blog posts from Ian Krabacher, Senior Principal Product Designer on Interplay, that will demystify the Avid Interplay Product Family, with a specific focus on Interplay Production. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @avidiank.


My name is Ian Krabacher and I work as a Senior Principal Product Designer on Interplay, Avid’s asset management product family. I often find that for many folks who’ve banged away on Media Composer, Pro Tools and even Avid shared storage for many years, Interplay is shrouded in utter mystery. “Avid makes Inter-what?!” While this isn’t a total surprise for some reasons I’ll mention in later blog posts, as an editor of more than 15 years and as someone who’s had a hand in building a few successful post environments, I do think we at Avid have done a disservice to the post community by not making it more clear how Interplay can help in an era where tape is rapidly disappearing and where many shops struggle to manage massive sets of in-coming and out-going files. A number of advantages exist within the Interplay line-up that can transform many post workflows by exchanging tedium in favor of creativity and profitability.


For those of you who may have more familiarity with Interplay or were alongside me as a customer at NAB 2006 when Avid introduced Interplay, I know what you are saying: “It does some good things, but it’s too complicated, too expensive, too big and it doesn’t work the way we work.” Understandably, many post professionals never made it past those first impressions and have never looked back—thinking Interplay Production was expressly built for or only useful in news environments.


Avid introduced Interplay, its asset management product family, at NAB 2006.


The truth is that since its inception (and while much of our industry had been justifiably preoccupied with how well Media Composer and Pro Tools would fair feature-for-feature against competitors), Avid has quietly made huge strides with Interplay, succeeding in environments that range both in size and in genre: from news to sports, from drama to unscripted TV and more. It is now deployed in over 1,300 sites worldwide that run the hardest kicked, most aggressive workflows in our industry and furnish a good chunk of the highest rated content watched on a daily basis.


Is Interplay perfect? No. Will it do your taxes and take your kids to school? No, not likely. Like any toolset, it’s a solid fit in many workflows and so-so in others, but many of Interplay’s initial flaws have long been addressed and overall it’s met the challenges it was designed to solve.


That said, it’s high time that the Interplay Product Family took on even more. In what is emerging as a second era for Interplay, seven years after it came to market, our team has listened to the community and has intently studied where Interplay and generally Avid workflows break apart. To that end, we’ve launched a series of new development efforts that we believe will make Interplay more compelling to a much broader sample of modern post workflows, whether they are large, medium or small, and whether they are under-one-roof or dispersed over large distances. Because of these new efforts, my history in post and namely our team’s determination to push the product family to serve more post workflows, I wanted to write a blog series about the work we are doing to benefit many hard hit post shops and artists.


Interplay Production is now deployed in over 1,300 sites worldwide that range both in size and serve different genres.


Over the course of this blog series, I’ll try to pull the Interplay Product Family from relative obscurity and clear up the mysteries commonly associated with it. I will focus specifically on Interplay Production, the family’s first and flagship offering, optimized for deadline-driven environments where teams are hammering out new content. It includes workhorse options such as Interplay Transcode, Delivery, Archive, Restore and more that relegate non-creative, administrative tasks to the background and allow editors and producers to concentrate on story. Interplay Production also features newer, breakthrough options such as Interplay Central’s unified browser-based interface and Interplay Sphere’s distributed editing workflow. Both Interplay Central and Sphere have radically redefined workgroup connectivity by harnessing both web and mobile technologies.


I also look to share some details on the work currently being done to push Interplay Production to be even better. To give you an overview, we are working on scaling, making Interplay a better performer in smaller and more nimble environments on the one hand as well as breaking past our own standards for the world’s largest environments on the other. We are continuing to remove complexity in Interplay: mirroring and enhancing the way teams want to work; addressing the issue of expense by offering base configurations that make more street sense; and working with rental partners and 3rd party developers to extend Interplay Production’s accessibility.


In part two of this series, I will explain what Interplay is and does—chase that with some why, how—and ultimately try to relate why nearly all of this is relevant to anyone who is working in post and dared to ponder the ideal creative environment.


In part three, I’ll discuss tools tailored for post personas, web and mobile technologies and the concept of extended connectivity. We’ll gear down on Interplay Central and Sphere workflows and why both have the potential to help anyone pulling a paycheck in post-production, including independent editors and producers.


Beyond that, I will overview Interplay Production’s new features, and address top myths or frequently asked questions. One thing I can promise you is that I will give it to you straight. If you’re like me and have spent many years pushing to get the most out of Avid gear (as well as that of the competition), you’ve likely developed a sense of where content creation tools excel and where they don’t measure up. I’ll give you the rundown of where our team thinks Interplay is succeeding, where we think it simply isn’t good enough to meet current post needs, and what we are doing about it with new designs and development.


With any luck, when I blather on, I hope it will inform you as well as entertain. If I miss something or am not clear, I welcome the fact and trust you guys will call me out. Strap in, enjoy and thanks for reading.


- Ian


* For those of you keeping score, Interplay Production was formerly referred to as just Interplay before Avid acquired the Germany-based company Blue Order and introduced a second, highly configurable enterprise-class asset management offering called Interplay Media Asset Management (MAM). At that time, the product Interplay became Interplay Production or Interplay Production Asset Management (PAM) to distinguish it from Interplay MAM. This change-up has been known to confuse a few folks, not the least of whom are post professionals who haven’t seen the Interplay product family in a while or generally associate the phrase production with field production. I’ll explain the differences and uses in a future post.


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About Ian Krabacher

A relative newcomer to the Avid employee ranks, Ian Krabacher has been editing for over 15 years and has worked on projects for Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet, National Geographic, VH1, Sony, Travelocity, Rubbermaid and Samsung, among others. After long days spent editing, he has also worked as a freelance post consultant for many years providing budget, hardware, training, workflow and project consultation to post houses, advertising agencies, independent filmmakers and universities. Now spending his days talking to post professionals from around the world and designing for Avid, Ian finds time after hours to edit and collaborate on projects with artists he has met along the way. A confessed cinephile and media junkie, he considers Akira Kurosawa tops among his film heroes.

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