FINAL CUT PRO
in a feature film cutting room
My thoughts on this debate
saying that the most important factor in any argument about
editing kit is that your movie will only be as good as the
editor cutting it, no matter what platform they work on.
for my money, FCP is simply not ready for the big time. It's
fine for anything up to 30 minutes long, but when cutting a
feature film I find I'm up against a daily
grind of frustrations which slow me down. Avid Media Composer is
totally my editing platform of choice.
there will be many different opinions out there but, after using
FCP to cut two features, these are my collected thoughts (in no particular
All these apply to FCP 7, although please email
me if you feel I'm wrong about anything.
with Final Cut Pro X, Apple has really changed things around so
some of this may not apply any more. Apparently FCP X can't even
open projects from previous versions of FCP. Need I say more?
AVID WINS OVER FINAL CUT PRO
- The single biggest problem with FCP is that it saves all project bins and sequences in one file.
This means the file gets huge (especially when archiving cuts of an entire movie), autosaving takes ages, and if the file gets corrupted... you lose everything. Some
people will say create another project and save your old sequences in here, but then you lose the links to
the subclips in your rushes bins which is unacceptable. If you press Find Bin, you want
the bin with the subclip to open.
One side effect of this is that if two of you are working on
two separate FCP systems, with duplicate media on local hard
disks, there is no easy way to send a single bin from one
project to another, except via a whole other project (but
then you also lose the any links to subclips in your rushes
Avid saves each bin as a seperate file, and archives all
bins in an Attic folder during every save. That way when you
AutoSave, you only save the bins that have changed, MUCH
quicker than saving the whole project. If a bin gets
corrupted, you've only lost a tiny chink of your overall
project, and you can retrieve the last working version from
the Attic. So your Avid project can grow without slowing the
- When you import media into Avid, you are given the option to convert the file to the current project resolution and sample rate, then the file is copied to the OMFI MediaFiles folder. If it's in your project, it's on your external drive. If you move to another computer, all your media will come with you.
On FCP, if you import media, the files stay where they are (on your desktop, in a subdirectory of your main internal hard disk,
wherever) and there is no option to automatically convert everything to 48kHz for example. You have to convert the files before you import, or after they've imported but before you cut them into your timeline, to avoid rendering. What a hassle, and especially confusing for a novice.
Media management on Final Cut Pro is universally
acknowledged to be a major failing. When I've been brought
in to take over from another editor and re-cut a movie, I
often have to spend a week sorting out the mess of the media
before I can start work.
on FCP is very odd. If you move a rendered clip or effect up,
down, left or right on the timeline, you lose your render -
terrible. On Avid you can copy or cut and paste a rendered
clip anywhere (as long as you copy all video tracks), and if you move
a V2 clip back over a V1 clip where it was rendered, the
Avid remembers and re-discovers the render file
- Monitoring video
tracks on FCP is hell. If you want to see what's on V1 by switching off V2, all render files on V2 are lost. A nightmare when comparing a new VFX shot with a previous version, for example, or comparing different coverage options.
In fact, FCP has a habit of losing render files for no
apparent reason, very frustrating. Avid doesn't have this problem.
title tool in FCP is
poor, and I'm not interesting in outsourcing a clip to another piece of software that takes up more memory. I want to keep everything on the timeline.
Avid's title tool is enormously flexible.
default keyboard layout on FCP is
designed for an amateur, not a professional. You don't want to press modifier keys when editing unless you really have
to (it takes extra time). For editing speed, I try and keep all
major keys on left hand side of keyboard. I have completely reconfigured
the FCP keyboard to be far more efficient.
you edit a
new clip to end or start at a transition, Avid keeps the
transition, but annoyingly FCP removes it, and you need to
apply the transition again (again a waste of time).
- Trim mode on FCP can take ages to open, especially on HD projects. I like to digitize each camera roll as a seperate master
clip (approx 10 mins), then create subclips from there. These
large source QTs appear to slow FCPs trim mode to a crawl as
it waits to load then.
video mixdowns and audio mixdowns are very useful indeed,
but on FCP they're not that easy to achieve, usually
involving exporting a QT of some kind and re-importing to
FCP there is no way of coloring
selected clips on the timeline. For example, making all temp
ADR yellow, or all source music green. Avid has a complete
array of clip colour options which I use constantly.
way of adjusting the timeline clip name font size exactly. On Avid you have total
control over how the timeline is displayed.
does not have a configurable timecode display window. You
can toggle the timecodes on and off the edit monitor, but
that obscures the picture. The Avid timecode window is
completely customiseable and sits happily in the corner of
your desktop displaying all the info you need. I know you
can download a timecode display plug-in from Apple, but it's
still not as flexible at the Avid version.
Apple OS X spinning wheel of death is
a occurs far too regularly while FCP is running, and quite
often doesn't recover.
- If Avid says it can play
a sequence, it will play it. Sometimes FCP will change it's
mind and grind to a halt. On HD projects I often find myself
praying that FCP will actually play the sequence properly
when I press the space bar.
does Final Cut Pro store its freeze-frames? Avid clearly
creates a new freeze-frame clip you can keep in a bin.
is very easy to accidentally delete a clip on the Final Cut
Pro timeline. If you have a clip selected, then move to work
on another part of the timeline and press delete, the clip
is deleted, but because you're looking at another part of
the sequence you don't realise that's happened, sometimes
until a while later, then you wonder where the clip
- Edit to tape
on Final Cut Pro seems troublesome. You can't start the tape
playout automatically at the sequence timecode. You can't play the timeline on to a tape,
you have to drag into viewer window first. And on HD
projects I struggled to get FCP to create edits on a D5 deck
has far too many presets, which are completely daunting for
most mortals. Avid's project settings make much more sense.
keeps track of actions and lists them in the Undo menu so
you can see how far to backtrack if you make a mistake. FCP
just says "Undo". Mmmm. Helpful.
FINAL CUT PRO WINS OVER AVID
- FCP has the edge on audio work.
The real time waveforms are great, sub-frame keyframing is fantastic, dragging audio levels between keyframes is awesome, just like Pro Tools.
Avids waveforms are dead slow, not in the same class as FCP. I love the FCP hot keys for +1, -1, +3 and -3 dB. Very
handy, I wish Avid had those shortcuts. There are more FCP
audio plug-ins as standard, although I prefer the graphical representation of EQ on Avid.
- FCP has a useful clip disable / enable feature
(again like Pro Tools) that is useful for having different versions of music on the
timeline (without adjusting the clip gain).
Bars & Tone on tap is useful in FCP. On Avid you have to
import the bars and create tone media, which is slightly
less convenient. Although I believe they've lost the Bars
& Tone in FCP X.
BOTH SYSTEMS NEED WORK
is no way on either system of grabbing a bunch of
audio keyframes and moving them wholesale along the timeline.
I would find this very useful. Same goes for locators.