Apple’s Aperture: Another link in the creative value chain

Today Apple announced a professional photographer’s workflow dream application: Aperture. Though there are literally dozens and dozens of web sites and blogs where you can read all kinds of opinions on this new photography application (e.g., is it a Photoshop killer?), I’d rather take a different path and connect the dots I’m seeing with this app…and others Apple has released.

First off, delivering this app is *not* about Adobe and Photoshop. Photoshop is the killer app for photography and is not about to be casually replaced (investment made by prosumers and professionals to date is too high to throw away, too many plug-ins exist and have been purchased, a critical mass of knowledge exists in the heads of users requiring retraining) but even I — a casual prosumer user of Photoshop — find the workflow woefully inadequate in Photoshop which has left an opening.

With Aperture, Apple has an application that will meet that workflow need head-on as well as doing so elegantly (with meaningful — but only high level — image post processing built-in). Aperture will be another tool in the photographer’s bag and is simply one more application that is accelerating the momentum Apple has always been known for in prepress and publishing: the Mac is *the* creative’s machine.

But there’s another, more fundamental point…

More importantly than yet another creative applications is this fundamentally important point: Apple has figured out the creative value chain:

  • Video: They have iMovie and iDVD for consumers; Final Cut Express for prosumers; Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro for professionals (plus Motion and Shake to round out the pro offerings).
  • Audio: Garageband for consumers; Logic Express 7 for prosumers; Logic Pro for professionals.
  • Photography: iPhoto for consumers; now Aperture for professionals.
  • Creative/Media Infrastructure: CoreAudio, CoreImage, Quicktime (H.264);  QuartzExtreme, ColorSync all optimize the operating system on top of which all of these phenomenal apps can be built.

With the growth in digital media capture devices (digital camera’s, video camera’s, audio recorders, scanners, screen capture software) coupled with blogging, videoblogging and, of course, podcasting, our pals at Apple are providing the assembly line applications for user generated media.

Let me give you just one guy’s personal experience (a new one as of last night) that will give you a sense of the logital step-ups Apple has developed for the creative value chain:

I’ve been podcasting since May. First using Audacity (the free open source audio application) sucked. Next came the highly intuitive Garageband application which I’ve used since. Over these last few months, I’ve upgraded my microphone and my preamp (now about $800 invested) and have been looking at other options to give me an increasingly professional sound.

So last night I bought Logic Express 7 ($299). It allows me to open up my Garageband files so it was really simple to do an “A” “B” comparison between an optimized podcast using Garageband…and the post production I was able to do in Logic.

Holy S**t. It’s like night-and-day. The Compressor, Graphic EQ, and other built-in tools are *significantly* more robust and the resulting sound is roughly 5x better. Though the learning curve is a bit daunting for a guy with limited time to invest in learning a new semi-pro application, the capability is so dramatic that it’s worth it.

iPhoto is a lightweight for any meaningful photography workflow. My bride takes 700-900 shots per day when at trade shows domestically and internationally….and I have already seen (through the QuickTour on Apple’s site) that Aperture will be life changing for her digital photo manipulation/sorting and I am confident it will make her life better (though buying her flowers and giving her a foot massage is a better bet, heh?).

One question I still am pondering….

Where are Apple’s Web 2.0 services? Where is the prosumer/pro digital photography online service?  The podcasting storage and delivery service for those of us wanting to “go beyond the simple”? The video delivery service for people serious about delivering to the video iPod (and future devices and platforms from Apple) who need robust storage, delivery and affordable bandwidth? Though one could argue that the .Mac online service is exactly that, in every aspect of .Mac there are competitors with significantly more robust (and usually cheaper) offerings. All of .Mac is very consumer level and I’d be embarrassed to send a link to a business or professional client to consume stuff off of .Mac.

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  1. Jonathan Payne on December 4, 2005 at 9:52 pm

    I have been using Aperture for the past 5 days and it’s no Final Cut Express or Pro (I have both). I was blown away by how greate Final Cut is. It performed incredibly well on just my 1.2Ghz imac with 512 Mb RAM. Incredibly powerful, capable of so many things, just a superior program in my opinion.

    Now I have a dual 2.5Ghz power mac with 3Gb RAM and it’s not powerful enough for Aperture.

    I imagined iMovie is to Final Cut as iPhoto would be to Aperture, but in fact Aperture is unusable. If you were hoping to import your iPhoto library (mine is 10k pictures) into Aperture and then go to town, trimming, editing, re-organizing, etc., then please think again.

    Aperture is mind-numbingly slow. If you dare to look at your entire library at once (something you do in iPhoto all the time), you can expect minutes to go by between mouse clicks. And if you want to adjust a picture, the time between dragging the slider and seeing the first pixel change is likely to be on the order of a minute.

    If you want to search by keyword, you can wait 1 minute before the keyword popup even appears.

    If you want to unstack 30 stacks at once, you can expect 10 minutes to go by, easily.

    I thought maybe the problem was that it was bad to have all the pictures in lots of different projects, but Aperture imported all my iPhoto rolls into individual projects, so it chose that organization for me. In case that was the problem, I tried moving everything into a single project and the performance was just as bad.

    I did not make up these numbers. More than once I had to kill Aperture altogether because it was not responding for 30 minutes while pegging one of my CPUs (never both).

    So, Aperture looks good in all the demos but don’t be fooled. Let me put it this way: It’s a nice piece of software with the worst scalability issues I have ever seen. If you think you can replace iPhoto with this, to have a much better, faster and powerful workflow, you need to wait until these performance issues are fixed.

    This is the company that created spotlight. If you type some more spotlight reacts differently. In Aperture, if you have a typo in the Search/Find dialog, you have to wait a minute before you can correct it. It’s that slow.

    Good luck!


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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.