Starting From Scratch: Editing Software

Determining the right type of editing software for your program is pretty important. That’s why we’ve given it its own post. There are a lot of choices out there. A lot. For this post, we’re going to just narrow it down to the most common systems that schools (both high school and college) use. Arguably, those systems are:

  1. Final Cut Pro
  2. Adobe Premiere
  3. Avid

Regardless of what software you go with, there are a lot of things to consider before investing that kind of money. First off, are you a PC school or a Mac school? If you’re PC, I’d consider looking at Adobe or Windows Movie Maker. If your school is already invested in Adobe CS.5 and if you ask nicely, Adobe might cut you a deal on Premiere.

If you’re a Mac school, iMovie should be readily available for the students (and the adviser) on the iMacs, MacBooks, even iPads. If you want to jump up to the professional level, then start looking at Final Cut Pro X.

Most professional production shops and colleges/universities are either in the Avid camp or the Final Cut Pro camp although more and more are moving to Premiere. We have Final Cut Studio for a lot of reasons. First off, we’re a Mac school. Secondly, I want to ensure that my students are fully prepared for the next level. I’ve found that, even if they have to switch to Avid or Premiere, the learning curve for both is pretty flat.

Final Cut Studio – (education price: $299 for FCP X, $49.99 for Motion, ). Apple caused quite a stir with updating the venerable editing system this past summer. Pro editors were not happy and Apple is finally, albeit slowly, coming around to listening to them. I reviewed FCP X a few months ago and, for the most part, I still stand by my review. In short, here are the pros and cons:

Pros:

  1. Compatible with most digital formats. This is a big improvement from Final Cut Pro 6 or 7. Sometimes we shoot with DSLR cameras and converting them into FCP 6 is cumbersome. Same with iPhone video. FCP X solves that problem.
  2. It’s cheap. $299/copy is a really good price for a solid editing system. Historically, FCP 6 or 7 went for about $800-$900.
  3. If you’re familiar with iMovie, then FCP X is a good jump up and the learning curve isn’t as steep.

Cons:

  1. If you’re NOT familiar with iMovie, then finding out where Apple put the bells and whistles is kind of a challenge.
  2. You can’t output your video to tape. Although, there are rumblings that Apple may fix that.
  3. The backlash for the software continues and, if Apple gets out of professional video, then you’re not teaching what the pros use. Quite a conundrum in my classroom right now. Hopefully, Apple will make this right.

Adobe Premiere – ($399 per copy)

*Note – I’ve only played around with the trial version of Premiere.

Pros:

  1. It’s compatible on either Mac or PC. Nice to have that option.
  2. It’s a fairly decent price for what you get.
  3. It’s very similar to the old Final Cut Pro interface. Even some of the keyboard shortcuts are the same.
  4. It’s compatible with most video formats.
  5. Adobe updates their software pretty frequently, which, in this case, is a good thing.

Cons:

  1. Not many production houses or colleges use Premiere….yet. It all depends on whether Apple comes around. Adobe is already trying to appeal to FCP editors.
  2. I’ve heard from others that Premiere gets a little buggy and can lag a little bit.

The only reason I bring Avid into the discussion is because Avid and Final Cut are the industry standards. I don’t know of many high schools that use Avid because the initial costs are pretty high. With Avid, you have to buy the hardware and the software, although now Avid just made an editing app for the iPad. Something to consider.

Is Avid worth it? A friend of mine who is a Hollywood producer put it this way: “Final Cut is like the cool uncle who brings cool gifts to your birthday party…if he shows up. Avid is the reliable uncle who is there for every family event and never flakes out on you. He’s not flashy, but he’s reliable.”

Years ago, I used to edit on Avid. It’s a powerful editing system, but it’s extremely expensive. In this case, though, you get what you pay for.

The best advice I can give you about editing software is do your own research! Whatever you choose, start by looking at the specs on both the cameras that you shoot on as well as the editing software.. What format does your camera shoot on (e.g. – AVCHD, MPEG2) and what does your software accomodate? Do you need to edit to tape? Do you have cameras with firewire, SD card or USB? You do not want to invest that much money into editing and find out that your format isn’t compatible. Unfortunately, I speak from experience.

4 thoughts on “Starting From Scratch: Editing Software

  • February 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm
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    I almost asked about this a few weeks ago. I have a video producer on staff, and we’re using iMovie right now because that’s what I know how to use, but my desktop computers have a version of Final Cut on them (6? will have to check tomorrow.) I’ve been debating whether it’s worth the time to learn something a little better. Right now we’re doing video photo polls (video polls?) that are pretty short.

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  • November 26, 2015 at 5:13 am
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    I have the MackBook pro core i7 13 inch from early 2011 and i also bought Final Cut exresps 4 HD with it. FCP X does look very good and promising, but what im interested is Motion. Im really hoping apple will also sell the Motion app as a stand alone at a price range of 200 to 300 dollars.

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