Free versions of software help develop a stronger entry-level talent pool
By The Unknown Artist
One of the biggest buzzes at the NAB Show this year was the announcement of free versions of software from Avid and The Foundry: Avid First and Nuke Non-Commercial. This is a pretty big deal… for those companies and for the industry as a whole because I have seen how free versions, not just short-term trial versions of software, have a significant, positive impact.
Avid had a stranglehold on the professional market during the 1990s and the early 2000s. During this period, their range of products included a free version — Avid Free DV. This was discontinued in 2007, just as Final Cut Pro matured as a serious competitor in the professional market.
Suddenly, learning Avid independently wasn’t an option. But Apple didn’t make Final Cut Pro difficult to rip, so many young people did with FCP what they had previously, legitimately, done with Avid: they acquired free and accessible software to learn on and started making content. And as they stepped up the ladder and into the professional world, so did their preferred NLE. Emerging talent did what they had to do, and the NLE market changed as a result.
As the industry has moved away from on-the-job mentorship and training this has become the new way to break in. You don’t get to start out with nothing and learn on the job, you have to start out with basic skills and familiarity with specific software before you get in the door.
A by-product of people learning these tools at home was it created new entry-level talent for the industry. What happened when Avid discontinued DV was that the industry lost a lot of low-paid entry-level talent. There were stories of productions that literally couldn’t find anyone at entry-level who knew Avid. This likely had some influence on the shift away from Avid over the past few years: cash-strapped productions shifted to a platform that they could find freelancers to operate.
That’s why free versions are important for the overall strength of the brand, as well as for the industry in general. We live in a digital age where we are accustomed to being able to “try before we buy.” Not every working professional learned how to use the many tools of their trade by taking a training course.
A large portion learned, or at least honed their skills, by getting a free version, taking it for a spin over a few months and creating some personal projects at home. Film schools may teach the fundamentals of post, but it takes tinkering, exploration and months of practice to become comfortable enough to put in on your resume. Whether it’s aspiring editors familiarizing themselves with Avid, compositors with Nuke or colorists with Resolve Lite, free and accessible versions of professional software open up our industry for a more diverse, more skilled talent pool.