What's behind Apple's pro video spending spree?

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Apple has been in a buying mood of late, gobbling up Silicon Color, a high-end color correction software company, and Proximity, a company that specializes in broadcaster-level asset management. This bodes very well for creative professionals, especially when the software offerings of these two companies are folded into Apple’s pro applications.

In 2002, Apple went on a similar shopping spree, buying Nothing Real, developer of Shake; software assets from Prismo Graphics, developer of India Titler Pro; Silicon Grail, creator of the RAYZ and Chalice effects and color correction software; and audio developer eMagic, producer of Logic. These acquisitions quickly positioned Apple as a player in the pro video and audio space, particularly since Shake and Logic—which already had significant existing user bases—remained standalone applications. More importantly, the strengths of these products were integrated throughout Apple’s professional applications product line. India Titler, for example, spawned LiveType, the animated-title component of Final Cut Studio and Motion. The technology gained through the eMagic buy led to Soundtrack and Soundtrack Pro, and, on the consumer side, GarageBand.

Apple’s most-recent purchases, Silicon Color and Proximity, address two widely perceived shortcomings of Final Cut Studio: the lack of industrial-strength color correction and so-so management of media assets.

While Final Cut Pro has a three-way (black level, gamma, and luminance) color corrector, few would think of color correcting a studio-level feature film on it—and for good reason. Silicon Color’s Final Touch is a professional-level system that not only color corrects both standard-definition or high-definition video, but lets you work with film resolutions like 2K Cineon or DPX in real time. And, since Final Touch was built around Final Cut Pro and XML exporting, it is a natural addition for Apple to integrate into the Final Cut suite.

With Promixity, Apple gets Artbox—winner of a technology Emmy—and makes a pure play into the broadcast market with a product that competes solidly with Avid’s Unity and Interplay systems. Artbox is a cross-platform, Java-based, asset-management system aimed currently at television post-production facilities. This is media sharing and management on a huge scale that enables companies to have all their media ingested and catalogued in such a way that multiple users can then browse, edit, transcode or output simultaneously. Artbox greatly compliments Apple’s Xsan shared storage efforts and will no doubt drive Xserve and Xserve RAID sales for the company. Currently, the backbone for Artbox runs on Linux, but Apple will likely port this over to Mac OS X, as it did with Shake.

Apple’s purchases will certainly increase its presence in the broadcast arena—and improves the company’s competitive picture vis à vis Avid—but as history has shown us, what may be even more interesting for professionals and consumers alike will be the trickle down of Silicon Color and Proximity technology into the entire Pro Apps line-up down the road.

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