FCPX and Making the Right NLE Decision for YOUR Business

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:

9 thoughts on “FCPX and Making the Right NLE Decision for YOUR Business

  1. Thanks of this article. I can’t say I’ve totally made the jump to FCP X, but I am using it more and more. FC 7 never stopped working the day X was released. I do think competition is healthy so kudos to Avid and Adobe, however I’ve to looked at FCP X as an island despite not being happy with the rollout.

    I’ve perceived FCP X in the scope of everything Apple has been doing over the years such as OS X core technologies, AV foundation, moving towards pixel resolution being a non issue, tackling moving away from EDLs as media and data converge, the move toward AV foundation, leveraging GPUs more, and iOS based devices. Along with seeing how developers have responded to FCP X, revealing some hidden gems in the code, the interface flexibility for both desktop and mobile (potentially), the color management, Apple’s hardware-software integration and rethinking of the process of editing tools -these various elements have affected how I think of FCP X and it’s direction and I am excited about it’s future.

    I look forward to using it more, am certain that many features will be copied in some way by the competition, and really believe that we’re just now seeing the fruits of various Apple technologies over the years shine. Albeit, it’s a rough ride and I don’t agree with the way it was handled, this is not a shareholder discussion. It’s always better to know other software anyhow. Everyones’ workflows and needs are different. FCP7 fills in where FCP X doesn’t for now. I’ll grow with X and keep dabbling in the competition as needed, but for now I think I’ll stay on this path as it suits me well of broth projects large and small.

    If there’s one thing I can say, my productivity with X a few weeks after it’s release was light years ahead of anything I’ve done in FCP 7 – go figure.

  2. In the test drives that I have taken of FCP X I have been very impressed with the power and simplicity of the NLE. The missing peaces aside, I think that this could eventually be a very useful tool for an organization such as mine. We create a massive amount of video for educational purposes. My small department is over-run with requests. As was the case with PowerPoint, I imagine that soon non-professionals will start making their own videos. Since they are not filmmakers or editors their work will undoubtedly be riddled with errors. If I can get them to start in iMovie then I can “finish” their projects with FCP X.

    That is a point of collaboration that can not be ignored as video becomes more and more a standard part of people’s lexicon.

  3. I doubt I am alone. I purchased FCPX and Motion 5 a couple of the days after the launch. There were so many features missing in X, I thought Apple will be most unhappy with their ‘ProApp’ as I have been with their arrogance, so I Continued with 7. I upgraded my X when I heard about the first update 3.01, EXCEPT, I then learned I needed CL for FCPX. My chagrin increased upon learning my 60 days were up for a refund.

    Months on, Apple has not upgraded my MacPro, or MacBookPro, and NVidia cannot produce a coherent passage to supply me with a CL Video card under $700k.

    Roger Draper

    1. I am using an ATI Radeon HD 5770 in my Mac Pro. Costs less than $700. I used to run a 4870. Both apps worked with that too. Sorry neither are Nvidia.

  4. Which of the NLEs (Adobe, FCPX, Avid) handles best 4K workflows? Ron Dawson did not give an answer, he just raised the question (see Plot your future). Opinions anyone?

  5. Nice “even-tempered” article. I must confess a WIDE zealous streak when it comes to all things Apple. Steve’s passing hit me hard, although I’ve never worked for Apple, and certainly did not know “The Man”.

    Having said all of that, my PRIMARY reason for not going to FCP last June, was my Mac Mini, which simply couldn’t pedal FCPX. I jumped at the chance to move from FCP 6 to X once Santa bestowed upon me a shiny new 27″ iMac, and I’ve not looked back!

    I STILL have to do some DVCAM captures once in awhile at the office, and it’s truly a painful process, waiting to capture, waiting for renders, etc.

    I love how easy and intuitive it is to work in FCPX and how it frees me to concentrate on telling my story, creating, seeing my vision become reality!

  6. FCPX is just plain silly. Apple has always been out of context with the real world, but at this time in history, it is no longer cute or amusing. There are people out there who are just keeping their noses above the water. Universities are freezing their budgets. College students are more serious than ever. For those of you who have the economic comfort to diddle around with Apple’s new paradigm, to those of you who dabble at education, and think it is cute to decide to teach a new student this paradigm, which may or may not stick. To universities with money to burn, in order to retrofit the classroom, I say good for you. I also say it’s good that Paris Hilton has a chihuahua as a fashion accessory. If you came up poor, as I did, Apple’s hardware & software offerings are insulting. I object to Apple and FCPX on behalf of the starving artists. I have many questions. Who decided on this paradigm? Can we interview them and ask what they were thinking? Can we ask them why they thought this was a good time in history to trash the existing paradigm. Can we ask them if they “get out” much? All rhetorical questions. Of course, we can’t ask them. We’re not cool enough. Therefore, I say Occupy Apple, and the horse they rode in on.

  7. I have worked with Apple products for video for 10 years and not much else. Apple’s story was always about revolution from the beginning. Yes, I do find it difficult when Apple moves forward with a new product. They cross the bridge and westward ho if you will. The don’t look back and if you want to come along terrific. I have seen their products and applications pile up around the castle. My humble background makes me wonder what’s up, but the new stuff is always so sweet.

    I have jumped to a knew 27″ iMac, wireless keyboard and mouse and FCPX. I see that Apple has moved on again. The hardware is well cool. FCPX is also different than anything before. Yes, there are many growing pains, but you can see Apple is pressing on with another revolution. What I see is not only a jump in quality but in productivity. You can work many times faster with most of the tools at your fingertips. Change is tough. Just cross the bridge and move on. That is what the adventure is all about.

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