08 Jul 2005 » permalink

Tomorrow I'm starting to work on the user interface for Diva. libGdv is functional enough to provide me with the basic features needed for timeline compositing. I took a refreshing look at the most popular video editing tools — from the interface point of view:

iMovie and Studio 9 are targeted at the “home market”. FinalCut and Premiere claim to be “professional” products although only one of the two deserves that name (when I last checked audio clips in Premiere could be aligned only to a per-frame grid. Very cheap).

Now, I had a chance to work with all the apps listed above. Studio 9 is bundled by default with the otherwise good Pinnacle DV cards. It’s an example of a very bad user interface approach: “Jane users will use this software. So let’s make some shiny custom controls so that the Jane user will have something to stare at. Let’s make sure it stands out from the rest of the system so that Jane will feel that she’s actually doing something cool”.

This software is not really usable. Just take note how much screen estate the timeline control takes in comparison to the play window. It’s not adjustable. Notice, how the thumbnails are cut because there’s not enugh space to display them. It’s obviously misleading to the user (in contrast to this behaviour in mac products).

iMovie is the hero of the day anyhow. The interface is very clean and usable. I've seen people having problems using word processor, but I'm yet to see someone having problems with iMovie. Apart from the obvious aqua-prettiness it’s all about limited information. iMovie doesn’t overwhelm the user with all the possible tools you might need. I just presents the ones you’re most likely to use. And it presents them with a clear meaning (it’s evident what the controls do — zoom in/out, speed in/out…). On the other hand Studio 9’s timeline is surrounded by smallish icons without meaning. And the most desired tools (zoom in/out and timeline navigation) are not accessible enough. My particular fav is the undo/redo arrows in the upper right corner. What is this supposed to be? If they placed them on the left side it could (at least) have something to do with a web browser.

In Diva I'd like to follow the Gnome way of doing things — aesthetically. There is an important difference between “aesthetic” and “simple”. Aesthetic doesn’t mean “useless for the power user”. My all time Gnome HIG favs are Muine, Evince and Sound Juicer. These tools are easier to use then their Windows equivalents. Now, if we could only make DV editing that easy…

In other news: I've seen “Being There” with the amazing Peter Sellers last night. Highly recommended.

 [just before a live TV show]
 Morton Hull: Do you realize that more people will be watching you tonight,
 than all those who have seen theater plays in the last forty years?
 Chance the Gardener: Why?

The very last shot has blown me to pieces.

Being there