Avid V. Final Cut Pro

I’ll start with this caveat: This is not PC V. Apple.  I’d love to go into that, but some other time.  This is specifically relevant to the editing systems Avid Media Composer and Final Cut Pro.

As many of you know, I’m a “tool guy.”  I look at gadgets and software as tools, nothing more.  Well, except for 16mm cameras.  Those I love for no good reason, but computers really are just tools.  Avid and Final Cut Pro are the dominant tools for video editing and I have some pet peeves about both of them.  First, I’ll talk about Final Cut Pro, as it is becoming more widely used.

Final Cut Pro has some great little features.  I like how the “travel matte” function is right up in the menu, not buried in a pile of effects, as it is in the Avid.  I also like how in Final Cut Pro you can look at your clips by only viewing the sound wave, which is great if you’re editing a documentary or something else with voiceover as you can make your in and out points right where you need them.  Avid lacks this as well.  Sometimes I find the way you can drop a sequence into another sequence as “a clip” useful because you can set up titles or a transitional effect sequence and drop it in in many places, then change the original and the whole new sequence is changed.  Great idea.

On the other hand, Final Cut Pro’s media management sucks, and on many occasions I’ve had the whole system go down because of a bad phase or a dropped frame.  Considering how expensive Apple products are, this is unacceptable.  It’s like having a Porsche that breaks down when it hits a little bump.  Awful.  Also, Final Cut Pro doesn’t (at least on the versions I’ve used) allow the operator to customize commands, so if you want the hotkeys on the Apple to be active, using fit to fill will kill Final Cut and bring up the desktop.  That’s just pathetic.

Avid on the other hand has its own foibles.   I sometimes like being about to clip something from a sequence into another sequence and actually get the original footage, not some clip that refers to something I may delete or change.  I also prefer the media encoding.  It’s cleaner, and better and I never have trouble with media files.  Also, Avid works on Mac and PC, so you aren’t tied down to one manufacturer for parts.  Avid has brilliant media management software and the basic stuff works well too.  On the other hand, the folks who make the media management software are geeks and think everyone else is too, so some of the metadata actually makes it harder to find and or delete stuff you aren’t using.  Not so great.  Still, you can always improve that.

One thing I really dig the idea of though, is Curator: http://www.ipv.com/pdfs/Curator.pdf I’ve little interest in going back into news but I think this could be very useful for movie production.  If you have a studio that shoots lots of stuff on location, you could use this to give the director the ability to do some editing work on site, so he or she will know on the spot if the work they just did is good or not, and the crew will have time to reshoot.  Assuming you have a director with an iron will who can work all day then edit for an hour or so with an assistant editor on site, you have a system that will increase flexibility in a filmy way not a videoy way, meaning the crew can know what they need and go after it with precision, not “shoot everything that moves” or “shoot first and ask questions later” which often leaves the editor to shift a hopeless pile of poorly white balanced crap.  Most of the high end media management systems like this don’t exist for Apple as a result of Apple’s corporate culture and aversion to anyone else making money from their OS, so I think over the next ten years, as Avid has restructured itself and made more competitive offers to students who want to buy their stuff, Final Cut Pro will be relegated to quick and dirty stuff, like in news.

Both tools have their advantages and disadvantages.  Sadly, in the end it seems the biggest disadvantage of them all is Apple.


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