Saturday, September 4, 2010

Drumroll... Novacut chooses Ubuntu

As Ubuntu 10.10 Beta was released two days ago, it's a nice time to announce that Ubuntu will be the official platform for the Novacut video editor.

Why Ubuntu instead of Windows or OSX?  Many reasons, but here are the highlights:
  • Risk reduction - if needed, we can fix a bug or add a missing feature anywhere in the operating system. We're not going to put artists at the mercy of a proprietary OS.
  • Open-source runs the Internet - we're focusing first on pragmatic features other video editors lack: distributed workflow, distributed storage, distributed rendering.  By using open-source web technologies, we pretty much get drop-in solutions to these hard problems.
  • File systems - compared to modern Linux file systems like ext4 and Btrfs, the Windows NTFS and Mac HFS+ file systems are very weak sauce.
  • Software RAID - Linux software RAID is simply astounding.  There's a little something called "raid10 f2" that will make you wonder why you ever thought you needed a hardware RAID card.
  • Cheap hardware - we want to reduce costs for artists wherever possible, so we clearly aren't going to pick an OS that ties artists to over-priced hardware made by a single company.  To be fair, Apple's laptops are reasonably priced considering their build quality. However, the only Apple computer suitable for professional digital video (the Mac Pro) is profoundly over-priced, yet offers no particular advantage over cheaper commodity workstations.
  • Free - as long as we're reducing costs for artists, might as well have a free operating system to go along with their free video editor.  Especially when the free operating system is technically superior for the task at hand.

So why have an "official" platform at all when we can just support several?  HDSLR cameras have opened so much opportunity so quickly that to some extent the problem now is people don't know where to start. So with the help of the community, Novacut is going to make the opinionated decisions needed to quickly develop a proven end-to-end recipe for financially successful independent TV.  We want artists to win!

If the editor runs on Ubuntu, obviously it will run on any other GNU/Linux distribution, which is great, and we hope to see the editor packaged in many distributions.  But Novacut isn't going to officially support them, nor will we recommend artists use anything other than Ubuntu.  By using only Ubuntu, it drastically simplifies the education problem we face.  And currently Ubuntu has roughly ten-times as many users as the next most popular GNU/Linux distribution... that's a lot of existing users who can help artists get productive quickly.

We know this will be a contentious decision in the GNU/Linux community, but please understand that this is a pragmatic decision made purely to help more artists succeed.  HDSLR cameras have opened the door for artists to take control of their destinies, to take entertainment back from the entertainment industry.  But we shouldn't give the entertainment industry time to formulate a counter-attack.  We need to move quickly and focus on decisive battles... right now which distribution to use just isn't one of them.

As far as running the editor on Windows or OSX, the editor and its dependencies should all be fairly portable.  The community is welcome to do a port, but for the foreseeable future Novacut won't be investing in Windows or OSX.

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  1. Alfa/Beta/RC1 download to test please?

  2. Hairy,

    Thanks so much for the kind Tweets!

    There will be releases rolling your way soon! I'm totally obsessive about test-driven development and time-based releases, so we will be doing monthly releases and will always keep the trunk in a releasable state (we will work in feature branches, only merge to trunk if tests pass and we're otherwise happy with it).

    The first release will focus on the distributed media library. With first release you will be able to scan files into the library (from CF card or file system), browse and search through library, and play video/audio clips. Or that's the plan. We will do monthly releases no matter what... if a feature isn't ready, we just hold that feature back.

    Right now we're spending all our time promoting the Kickstarter project, so no coding at the moment. But soon!

    If you're interested, I have a rough implementation of the distributed media library, but no GUI yet: