Today I have the great pleasure of posting Part I of a conversation I had with an incredibly accomplished person and a wonderful human being. engineer, entrepreneur and investor, Bill Warner., Founder of Avid Technology.
A graduate of MIT, Bill founded Avid Technology in 1987. With a small team of hardware and software engineers Mr. Warner created the tool that radically altered the way films, television and all dynamic media are created, the Avid Media Composer.
Avid had already started shaking up the editing world when I first met Bill back in 1992. The Media Composer was evolving rapidly, making strong inroads in the world of hi-end commercial post production. After seeing a demo, I had become obsessed with the idea of “editing on a computer” and not long after found myself assisting friend and fellow film editor Steve Cohen, working on one of the first long format Hollywood productions to be cut digitally on the Avid. The project meant a lot to the still young company, and Bill and several other key players from the original team flew in from the east coast to lend support, get feedback and generally observe how we were devising a new digital post workflow.
The rest as they say is history. In the next year the conversion to digital post was on. In 1993 Bill and And Avid were awarded an Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for the development of the Avid Media Composer. In 1999, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Avid with the Oscar® for its success in transforming the editing process in filmmaking. Bill accepted the award on the worldwide telecast.
But for Bill Warner this was just the beginning.
In 1992 he founded Wildfire Communications and designed the first speech-based electronic secretary, which he sold to Orange, PLC. in 2000. Since then he has shared his time between work with non-profits and a focus on helping entrepreneurs. Additionally, he has acted as an angel investor for thirteen startups, and three non-profits. The startups are in such diverse areas as 3D animation, email-based blogging, event networking, ad insertion for online videos, visual environments for nightclubs, shared calendars, and compensation design and management. The non-profits are involved with historic/current mapping of Boston for planning purposes; a film school, and an open-source mechanical design approach for new vehicles for people with disabilities. Recent angel investments include sparkcloud, marginize, posterous and zelfy.
He is also working on book about entrepreneurship called “Intention and Invention.” It explores how to optimize the connection between what drives an entrepreneur, and how they go about making inventions that spring from that drive.
Mr. Warner has been a long-time trustee of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, and has taught classes for entrepreneurs through that organization. In 2008, Warner created and co-chaired the MassTLC Innovation 2008 unConference. Now in its third year, the Innovation 2010 unConference will be held in Boston and has become the annual focal point of the Boston area innovation community. In 2009, MassTLC presented Warner with the Innovation Catalyst Award for his work with startups and the innovation community.
A true renaissance man, over the years Bill Warner has started these companies:
1975 – Bionic Control Corporation – Designed environmental control systems for people with disabilities. Turn lights on/off, change TV channels just using your own ability to whistle. 1980 – New England Handcycles – Manufactured hand-pedaled cycles from 1980 to 1990. 1987 – Avid Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq: AVID) – Makes video, audio and film editing systems. Public company. 1992 – Wildfire Communications, Inc. – Designed first speech-based electronic secretary – Sold to Orange in 2000 1999 – FutureBoston, Inc. – Non profit – designs high-resolution mapping systems that combine past/present/future maps as layers. City of Boston uses the technology. 2002 – Warner Research, LLC – Software development company and angel investing. Ran the Collaboration Space at Warner Research – shared space for entrepreneurs until 2008. 2006 – Move With Freedom, Inc. – Non-profit focued on open-source designs of mobility tools for those with disabilities. Move With Freedom soon to move the Morphing Handcycle into production. Anything Goes Investing – personal angel investing fund focused on new entrepreneurs, new technologies, and new markets 2010 – Anything Goes Lab – An accelerator lab focused on helping new entrepreneurs and new teams help each other and design products and companies that align the intentions of the founders with the needs of the marketplace.
Larry Jordan: So, where did you get the idea for the Avid?
Bill Warner: Well, I loved photography and I always loved photography. From the age of six I had a Brownie camera and then the Instamatic camera. And I remember that moment when I got a Nikon FTn. It was like graduating college and I was 15 or something. And it was just a great thing.
And then when video cameras got small enough that you could actually buy them and carry them around, something that would be enormous today but for $2,000, the thing that would go on the side, and the separate camera. I bought one of these things. And I started shooting video.
And then I realized, “You need to edit this stuff.” And the question then was, how do you edit?
And I; we always had family vacations at my parents’ place in Palm Springs. They were retired and lived in Palm Springs. The whole family came there. And I came with my video camera. Started shooting videos of my nieces and nephews.
And one time I decided that I would make this video called “Take the Money and Run.” And we scripted it out and made parts for all the kids and I directed it and shot it. And it was a big production: the whole family.
And then I went into post-production, in front of the fake fireplace in my parents’ Palm Springs house. And I sat there with the camera tape deck connected to their home tape deck, meaning they could not watch any television during this whole time. And it took hours and hours and hours and hours and hours, and of course I could not punch in at the right places and I couldn’t get it all to be right.
Larry Jordan: Clean edits?
Bill Warner: Oh, no. Forget that. And just being anywhere in the ballpark was a good thing, and you move on.
Larry Jordan: Pure frustration.
Bill Warner: Absolutely.
And so I made this video called, “Take the Money and Run.” And I’ve got to tell you, we just watched it just now and it still brings joy to my heart to see that. And it did to our whole family.
And it was that experience, that it was so hard to edit, that made me feel like something’s got to be better than what I have.
Larry Jordan: And how did you proceed from there? How did you get from that idea to, let’s say, prototype?
Bill Warner: OK, well, there was a long distance between “Take the Money and Run” and the Avid. So, I was doing these family videos, and that was wonderful but incredibly tough to do.
And then, at the company I was working at, Apollo Computer, they had a little editing system. So I thought, “Ah. So, now, this is going to be good.” So I went and started using their little editing system; Panasonic knob editor. And it was more accurate, but it was still the same pain of lineal editing. It was starting to come to me what this linear editing thing meant. What it really meant was, you change your mind, you lose it. I mean, it was really painful. Basically you had to keep building and building, and if you ever wanted to go back, forget it.
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