I’ve been trying out FInal Cut Pro X for several weeks now, and I have to say, I’ve come away impressed by the feature set. Before you egg my house, let me say that I’ve been using it to edit a promotional reel at home.
This kind of project involves gathering a ton of media from dozens of different digital sources, in different formats, and delivering edits via a client site on Vimeo. And since it’s not for air, I’m using pop music sources from the iTunes store. For this kind of project, Final Cur Pro X can’t be beat. Why? Because no other NLE works this well, natively, with media gathered from YouTube, DVDs and Blu Ray discs. I can just grab the clip I need, and no matter where it comes from, FCP X will work with it painlessly, without transcoding. Though it does make proxies in the background if I ask it to. And my iTunes library is literally built into FCPX. So I just download music from the store, and it’s always in any FCPX project I’m working in, no importing required.
Beyond that, the graphics templates for FInal Cut Pro X can’t be matched on any other platform. I was able to try out dozens of great looking effects using plugins from Pixel Films Studios:
And then uploading to a client page on Vimeo is a one-click operation. The whole experience was generally a breath of fresh air.
That is, until it wasn’t. The first big problem was that a cut got messed up and I needed to go back to an older cut to fix the issue. I was shocked to discover that in FCPX, there is no Attic, no backups. There is no way to go back to an old cut! It’s a stunning omission. Then there are the other well documented missing features like tape capture and layback, a flexible time code window, a real audio mixer, along with zero professional pipeline export options like EDL, OMF and AAF. There are plugins that will work around some of these missing features, but FCPX has no chance of being used in high end TV and film post in Hollywood without those features in the box.
I love Avid Media Composer and I use it everyday to edit television series and feature films. Avid really shines when you put it into a large networked environment, and you need a reliable workhorse to deliver complex productions on time for broadcast and theatrical distribution. However the AMA plugin in Avid has never worked well and although I hear it’s better in Media Composer 7, I’m going to wait for the first dot release to dive in and find out. I tried to do the above sizzle in MC 6.5 using AMA, and got the beach ball of death for 30 seconds every time I tried to access a clip. It just couldn’t handle it, even on a 2009 Mac Pro with 24 gigs of RAM, and transcoding the clips was going to take days. Despite all the great things it can do, Media Composer is simply not the best tool for the job when it comes to projects that require bringing in a LOT of media quickly, because everything has to transcode. Again, V7 is aiming to change all of this, but it’s too early to tell if it really lives up to the promise.
Then there’s Adobe Premiere, the bastard child of editing. I don’t know anybody who uses this as their primary NLE. Somebody must because Adobe keeps supporting it, but I haven’t met that person yet. That said, I have used Premiere on occasion and for graphics heavy jobs, where you’re creating lots of custom graphics that will need to go through many revisions in Adobe After Effects, and the back and forth with Premiere can’t be beat. From my limited time playing around with Premiere CC, I came away impressed, thinking that this is what we all had hoped Final Cut Pro 8 would have been. The problem with Premiere is that it’s not built for large workgroups on shared storage the way Media Composer is. In fact, no NLE can match Avid for scalability. That’s why Avid is the only software that’s widely used to make TV shows and movies in Hollywood.
Don’t be fooled when you read articles about big productions being editing with FInal Cut Pro and Premiere. I know the people who work on those few shows and the shows are paid and given incentives by Apple and Adobe to be testing grounds. And software engineers from those companies are there to make sure everything goes well, providing on site tech support and special private builds of the software to make everything works as smoothly as possible.
The problem then is that none of these NLE’s really do it all. So I think editors really need to learn all 3 to be truly about to handle anything.
Final Cut Pro X: It really is iMovie Pro. You can grab video from anywhere, throw it into timeline with a bunch of great templates, and quickly edit together something that looks great and is meant to be viewed online.
Avid Media Composer: Meant for large scale productions, where assistant editors deal with the laborious process of injesting the media, 14 editors need to be able to work in the same project, and producers need to be able to see the time code from the back of the room.
Adobe Premiere: For the graphics heavy project where most of the heavy lifting is being done in After Effects. Or for the editor who was using Final Cut pro 7 and wants the next best thing to Final Cut 8.