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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California

Avid to FCP


By Kathy Anderson
No one can help but notice a major trend among film and TV editors: many are switching from tried-and-true Avid systems to Apple’s Final Cut Pro. And unlike the earlier transition from the flatbed Kems and Steenbecks to the digital Avid back in the early nineties, the switch from Avid to Final Cut Pro has not been as daunting for editors.
Daniel Fort, who edits on FCP, believes the FCP “learning curve is as steep as that of Avid or even Photoshop. However, it takes just a few days to master simple editing.” Diana Weynand, a Below the Line contributor and author of Final Cut Pro for Avid Editors: A Guide for Editors Making the Switch, has found “editors with a background in the Adobe set of Photoshop, After Effects and Premier won’t find it as difficult to learn.”
FCP4’s customizable keyboard commands allow Avid editors a familiar work tool along with similarities in capture and trim mode. Ramy Katrib of Digital Film Tree has found Avid editors feel comfortable with FCP after a 7-to-10 day training period.
Why switch? According to Weynand, “FCP is revolutionizing the industry. Its cost is so low that it becomes a no-brainer. For under $1,000, you get five programs: FCP 4, Cinema Tools to use for film or 24p HD programs, Soundtrack for creating royalty-free music tracks, the LiveType 32-bit titling animation program, and Compressor for output to MPEG 2, 4 or whatever you need. More and more serious editors are taking the step to learn FCP. And more and more producers are asking their editors to work with FCP.” This puts the Avid editor with his or her own system and a mortgage at an extreme disadvantage and creates strong financial pressure to switch.
FCP is being used to edit television shows (for example, the comedy series Scrubs), independent films, documentaries and features (like Miramax’s upcoming Cold Mountain, which was edited by Oscar winner Walter Murch).
“FCP’s proliferation as a professional tool has been built on the backs of the independent filmmakers worldwide,” says Katrib. “Today it has advanced to the most scalable digital nonlinear editing system that has a resolution-independent architecture for mainstream filmmakers.” With the ability to work in virtually any format, at any resolution, at any frame rate, and the availability of third-party hardware like Aurora Igniter and AJA Kona capture cards, and storage and networking capabilities using Xserve Raid or Rorke Data, FCP4 hits the mark as an economic and practical editing tool.
One impact of the spread of FCP has been the rapid growth of the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro Users Group (LAFCPUG). Michael Horton, who heads the organization, has seen it grow from 36 people three years ago to over 2,700. “It is the single largest FCP users group in the world and one of the largest groups dedicated to digital video in the world. It is growing by about 100 members per month and our monthly meetings attract between 200 and 300 people. Each year we send to Apple a list from our more than 50 most requested features—and [version 4] of FCP [incorporates] two-thirds of the top 10 we published.”
FCP’s impact on the digital film community has been astounding. With its multiplicity of editing tools, it allows countless people who learn the program to become “filmmakers” in the comfort of their own homes. Will this influx of “computer mavens turned editors” glut the marketplace and threaten the livelihood of the Avid editors switching? Not likely, according to Katrib. “Talent is king. I’ve seen many technically skilled young editors deliver bad content. About 5 percent of these new kids have the ability to craft a story.”
Editing is not a craft mastered by pushing buttons or dragging and dropping, but by the ability to tell a story. As in all fields, the truly gifted will still rise to the top of the talent pool and command rates commensurate with their abilities. What FCP4 does provide is “empowerment,” the ability to have an affordable and professional tool to tell a story.

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