Thursday, March 7, 2013

Life after the FCPocolypse

After working tape to tape for a few years the release of non-linear consumer digital editing software was a dream come true, and when it became acceptable as the cheap alternative for high-end production everything seemed possible. Then Final Cut X happened, and the story of betrayal and heartbreak commenced.

When I started working with BPOC I had the awesome opportunity to start a video services department from scratch post-FCPocolypse (coined by Ben Cohen in this very blog, hi-five on that one). Fortunately we had a copy of Adobe Premiere Pro 5 and Avid Media Composer 6 so I spent a lot of time working with both to determine what made the most sense for our workflow (that I still needed to establish).

My findings:

Avid MC6 is fast as hell to edit in, I mean obviously there is a reason it is the industry standard. However, it is VERY different from the other options. However, if you went to film school and cut with film then it should come more easily, it reminds me of editing on Steinbeck in some ways.

The biggest difference is it functions modally, there is a trim mode, a color correct mode, etc. and within each mode your screen layout changes as does the way you interact with the timeline. The most important thing is to NOT treat it like FCP, the timeline isn’t all loosey goosey with the mouse and dragging and dropping, piling on and on, you can be messy in FCP and Premiere (which is fun).

If you are going to go Avid check out the tutorials Avid has created to help win over the disappointed FCP editors of the world and this is a must have that I used to learn the basics and get to work using the software with the help of this training DVD The training DVD is great for feeling your way into Avid, I also recommend these two books: Editing with Avid Media Composer 5: Avid Official Curriculum (they haven't come out for one for 6 yet) and Avid Agility by Steve Cohen. 

One thing that helps to make Avid so fast to edit in is the customizable buttons and keyboard. You can re-map the whole thing to play like FCP for the most part, as well as anything else you find yourself using a lot. This feature allows you to really customize the way you interact with the software to maximize your speed, which is super cool. Also since Avid owns Pro Tools if you use that for sound design it can be relatively seamless, but I generally mix sound design at the end anyway if Pro Tools is needed.

Now about Adobe Premiere, it is very similar to Final Cut and more commonly used because of affordability and education pricing, so whenever I get annoyed and forget the keystroke for something or how to do something I can google it and instantly get an answer which is a treat, Avid is a bit more leg work so the learning curve is a pain with it.

I generally advise people to go with Premiere if they have no time for the learning curve. Although definitely get yourself the current version of Premiere Pro, the older version 5 handles audio in a very stupid way, you need to break all 2 channel audio tracks out to mono, but this is fixed in 5.5. Also if you do graphics in Adobe After Effects the seamlessness between Premiere and After Effects is super cool, just need to make sure you have a lot cores working on your side, working in a 64-bit platform, and upgrading your graphics card to the max if you haven't already.

And finally the deciding factors for me:

1. Workflow
I was used to FCP’s ability to keep all assets contained in project folder. AVID works with MXF files generated by the software that are all sent to a media scratch. As we work with many different clients and therefore have several different RAIDs we work off of (to separate out our clients) it makes more sense to work with Premiere, which behaves just like final cut keeping all of the files inside of the project folder.

2. No Transcoding
Both softwares eliminate the need to transcode or “import” the files. Premiere automatically links to the native formats and does so seamlessly, it is very impressive in playback with AVCHD and DLSR footage. Avid has AMA linking which chokes on AVCHD files a little bit. You will also save an enormous amount of file space by working natively instead of transcoding to ridiculously huge ProRes files in your raw footage.

3. Web integration
Premiere is great for web production and that is all we do, no broadcast anything happening here. It works seamlessly with After Effects, Photoshop, and has an awesome titling interface. Additionally, Adobe Media Encoder is fabulous, it is unquestionably superior to compressor. As it works seamlessly with Premiere if file size is an issue it is your dream come true. Archive to high quality H264 and MP4 for web if you are literally unfunded and have no space, write a grant to get a raid so you can export out some high quality DNXHDs when you have the space. You can also pop out FLVs of virtually any size for software interactives. In short, it gives you a lot of control over format codec and bitrate which has made my life incredibly easy.

Premiere won in my battle, but maybe someone else has a story of life after the FCPocolypse?

Happy to answer any specific questions about my experience, and hopefully this helps some of you still on FCP 7 sort out what the next step is.


  1. SOLD! We just upgraded all our systems to the latest Premiere and I do a lot of After Effects work, so very exciting to prepare to dive into Premiere.

    I loved this post. I think I've searched high and low for someone willing to make this claim and glad you did.

    Now... about that FCPocalypse (thanks for the shout out!)... I'm about to begin re-testing FCX after ditching it a year ago. I've heard they've made another round of huge improvements. The main thing that still seems missing from FCX (even before I test it) is that it is not very useful in a shared environment (multiple editors or multiple machines). Time will tell. Things still seem in flux.

    1. So glad this helps, I feel like I could have gone on a lot longer about the details, so I'll throw some more out here. I would definitely recommend watching all the adobe TV stuff to learn the details of dealing with it.

      As mentioned the audio handling can be a little frustrating, you will still have to tell the software how to handle stereo tracks to ensure when you bring clips into the timeline the 2 channels are on separate tracks so that if you use an on-camera mic as a back up you can ditch that track.

      plural eyes has editions for both platforms so either direction you go at least you will still be able to do that easy sync stuff.

      The other thing I am trying to figure out is the relationship of timecode in the source to the timeline, it doesn't quite work the way fcp does, and I am working on figuring this one out. It can sometimes mean a scratch pad for writing down timecode numbers if you have an edit sequence you are matching up.

      Fortunately keyframing is a breeze for effects there is a separate effects window that is playhead synced to the timeline so keyframing is awesome (makes sense since they made after effects). The other thing I love is being able to write click on graphics media and open in photoshop to make adjustments.

      There are definitely a lot quirks in the switchover (learning the new quick keys) but now that I have been using it a while I get annoyed when I use fcp that I still run on my home system for my old freelance projects pre switchover.

      I also haven't done any multicam editing in premiere so I don't know what quirks would come with that feature, I would definitely test out and would love to hear your experience with it.

      fun geek out session!

  2. Great post, Anna. I'm going to have to embrace FCP X in the near future as the Skidmore campus upgrades its software. I have a few colleagues in the film industry who were sorely disappointed with it until the latest round of upgrades. Now they are singing a different tune, so I have hope. Glad Premiere is working for you.

  3. Would love to hear about how you find using FCP X!


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