A lot has developed in the NLE (non-liner editing) world since FCPX’s release last fall. The program has a number of significant updates inching it closer and closer to being a tool that advanced editors can use.
Some of the new features which were frustratingly missing last fall include:
- Multicam editing
- XML Export
- Broadcast monitoring (in beta)
- The ability to open FCP7 projects (via the 3rd party app 7toX)
But are these changes enough? Do they show a dedication on Apple’s part to support the advanced professional filmmakers? It would seem like Apple wants you to at least give it a try. For the first time I can remember, they are offering a free 30 day trial of the software.
On top of that, you have more and more educational content being created by companies like Ripple Training and renowned Mac trainers like Larry Jordan (who had gotten some grief for apparently flip-flopping on his thoughts about FCPX). These add more credibility to the tool.
I know many of you have already jumped the Final Cut ship for other NLEs, most notably to Adobe’s Premiere Pro CS5. Some of you (like me) are still patiently waiting to see how it all plays out.
One thing hasn’t changed though since FCPX’s release—the passion with which filmmakers laud or lampoon the product and Apple. So with these new features, all the training materials, the plethora of passionate debates about who’s still using FCP7, who’s taken the FCPX plunge, and who’s jumped ship, what I would like to do is offer some objective strategies for making a decision that’s right for you and you BUSINESS. That is optimum word here: business.
Make a Decision Like an Executive
When I was Director of Finance and Operations (and later VP of Ops) for Screenplay Systems Inc. (now called The Write Brothers), I was usually the guy responsible for leading up the research and purchase of any major software application for the company. Actually, not just software, but any major company purchase was under my purview. There’s a lot a learned in the process that I think is equally applicable to those of you making a decision whether or not to upgrade to FCPX, or jump ship. And make no mistake, just because FCPX now only costs $299, if you make a living editing, whether or not to adopt FCPX (or any NLE for that matter) is indeed a MAJOR purchase.
- Don’t Make It Personal. As I wrote about earlier, creatives tend to be very passionate and often make quick decisions based on that passion. Whether it’s a new camera, a new computer, or a new software program doesn’t matter. Don’t abandon FCP just because you’re pissed at Apple. Likewise, don’t upgrade just because you feel some sort of emotional connection to Final Cut.
- Consider the Landscape. Will you be working with other editors? What programs are they using? This is one of the most important factors you need to consider. If you work with a lot of indie contractors who use NLEs that aren’t compatible with whichever NLE you use, that will pose problems. Also, what other tools in your production workflow are you using that need to work with your NLE (e.g. scriptwriting software, VFX, plugin, etc.)
- Plot Your Future. Where do you see your business going in the next few years? What kind of role will the NLE you choose play in that future? How confident are you in the developer’s plan to continue support. If you plan to do more work with 4K file, or more narrative work, how will your NLE handle the workflow?
- Determine Any Hidden Costs. What are the hidden costs of an NLE purchase? Third party applications you may have to buy? Extra time in training you and/or your staff?
- Come Up with 3 or More Options. Consider at least three options seriously. Don’t just jump to any one program because that’s what most people may be doing. Remember, you’re making the choice that’s right for you. Based on your business plans, you may find another program is a much better fit for your business. But you won’t know that unless you look into them.
- Test Drive Your Options. Once you have the options to consider, test drive them. If they have a free trial, try it. If they don’t, see if you can find a colleague in your area who’ll show it to you.
- Listen to Trusted, Relevant Sources. Lastly, listen to the advice of professionals IN YOUR AREA OF BUSINESS who have made a change. If you’re a wedding and event filmmaker, don’t jump ship just because Vincent Laforet (who primarily shoots commercial films, features, and narrative films) has made the switch. What are the leading wedding and event filmmakers doing and why?
I’d love to hear about your experiences in making a change to your NLE, particularly if you left FCP for another program, or if you made the leap of faith to FCPX. Answer in the comments. And if you haven’t already done so, take this quick poll: