To my friends and esteemed colleagues who are still working on Final Cut Pro 7:

Stop being babies.

I get that you feel betrayed. Apple took a product that you’d come to know and love and turned it into iMovie Pro. I’m sure you never expected to lose product features that you’d come to rely on for your profession. But hey, I guess this a nice lesson: your tools are only as good as the company behind them.

“But FCP 7 still works!”

So does a VCR. Shut up.

And I’m not talking about personal projects here. If all you edit is your own stuff, I couldn’t care less what you use. But if you’re in the business of serving clients, your bar is higher: you need to accept a wide variety of formats, work with ever-changing parameters, and coordinate with other production people. Using a product that’s almost two years outdated is a hindrance to all of that. My latest example of this is AVCHD: lots of cameras shoot it, clients hand it over, and FCP 7 does not handle it natively. So have fun transcoding. Are you billing your client for the time you’re wasting? Better hope they don’t notice.

There’s always this feeling, especially among younger users, that your editing platform is some kind of moral choice that must be defended viciously against any and all attacks. Software is a tool. That’s it. You pick the right tool for the job, regardless of what name it says on the handle.

I think some Final Cut users are a little bitter that the tables have turned. Saying “I edit in Final Cut Pro” used to indicate someone with a flexible workflow and competitive costs. Now that mantle has moved over to Adobe (and maybe a bit Avid). Sorry, that’s the way the cookie crumbles: into your lap, onto your favorite pants.

Also, I’ve (probably) been using Final Cut longer than you have. I started with Version 1 in 1999, cut professionally on it for 10 years, built shared storage systems for it, and generally loved it as a creative platform. Believe me when I say I feel your pain.

But FCP X!

I’m not talking aout FCP X. I’m talking about the holdouts who are still on 7. If after careful determination FCP X is the tool for you, that’s great. My point is that to be a successful editor, you have to stay current with the tools and with client expectations. Sticking with outdated software is doing you no favors.

It’s time to move on.

Moral of this story: you’re purposely using a tool that has known limitations, then using those limitations as excuses. I can understand using FCP 7 in the interim while you plan out your workflow change; that time is over.

Now it’s evolve or die.

Larry Jordan @ 12/5/2012 14:20

I can appreciate your sentiments, but I think your advice is a bit misguided, because it assumes that, as editors, we are always working with the latest technology.

If this is true, then the best advice is to upgrade. I totally agree with that.

However, this is rarely the case. As we look at the large market of video editing, meeting deadlines and budgets using existing technology is far more prevalent than the latest toys.

I have many clients happily editing broadcast television using Final Cut Pro 5. Avid Media Composer 3 is still used daily in Hollywood. Why? Because they work.

I am not counseling to stay with old technology out of love, or for political reasons. Rather, for purely pragmatic ones. Our old Stanley hammer still works for pounding nails, even though newer hammers are coming off the production line.

If you are working with tape, either shot new or working with legacy recordings, FCP 5, 6,or 7 is far better than FCP X.  If you are shooting HDV, Premiere Pro CS5 and 5.5 is as good as Premiere Pro CS6.

As editors, our goal is to use moving images and sound to tell stories. Many local access cable programs are still broadcasting in 4:3 NTSC DV. The latest technology isn't necessary to meet the demands of these channels.

Both established filmmakers and new independents are still shooting film.  Yes, 4k digital images are the latest technology, but film still works.

Yes, the latest software has cool features. Yes, at some point we need upgrade - especially when we want to work with the latest imaging technology.

But not all editors live at the bleeding edge. At the end of the day, we tell stories to pay the bills. If you current software works for your current projects - then by all means, keep on keeping on.


My response @ 12/6/2012 12:36


First, I want to say I'm honored that you took the time to comment. I've been reading your stuff for as long as I can remember. For those readers who don't know Larry, he's one of THE Final Cut Pro experts. Check out his stuff by clicking on his name above.

OK, back to the topic at hand.

I agree completely. The choice of tool should always be dictated by the need - not politics, emotions, or even crotchety blog posts. My specific gripe here is with editors who are sticking with 7, then shoehorning their projects into its constraints. It's true, I wasn't very clear on that - but if you've got a well thought out reason for staying with FCP 7, then you know enough to ignore this post.

That said, I do think our industry is too slow with software upgrades. Often I see the "it works" justification used with too narrow a scope. We're talking about computers here; the editing software is just one fairly small piece of the puzzle. But delaying that one piece usually impacts the rest - tying you to outdated drivers, helper software, operating systems, and sometimes the computers themselves. This can cascade into the inability to run other software, talk to other parts of the production pipeline, or even connect to the Internet.

This scope problem also applies to time. Your current software should meet your current needs, but it should also be part of a path to your future needs. Jumping up one version is usually fairly trivial; jumping four tends to be a massive undertaking with ripples far beyond individual edit stations, to say nothing of the increased learning curve for the editors. Sometimes these massive overhauls are necessary - like in the jump from SD to HD - but many shops/people would be better served by an ongoing and gradual process. This also has the added benefit (for businesses) of usually moving the purchasing off the capital expenditure sheet and into the operational expenditures, which in my experience is a much easier buy.

Again, I'm not making the argument that everyone needs to upgrade all the time. If you've got solutions or rationale to counter my issues, that's great - you've thought it out. It's this thought process, coupled with a wider scope than the here and now, that I'm extolling.

There's only one one-size-fits-all piece of advice when it comes to workflows: choose the tools that fit the need.

On this, we can agree.