in a feature film cutting room

My thoughts on this debate

It goes without 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.

However, 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.  

I'm sure there will be many different opinions out there but, after using FCP to cut two features, these are my collected thoughts (in no particular order). All these apply to FCP 7, although please email me if you feel I'm wrong about anything.

Obviously 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?


  • 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 bins).
    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 system down.
  • 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.
  • Rendering 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 automatically.
  • 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.
  • The 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.
  • The 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.
  • If 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.
  • Avid 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 the project.
  • On 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.
  • FCP has no way of adjusting the timeline clip name font size exactly. On Avid you have total control over how the timeline is displayed.
  • FCP 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.
  • The 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.
  • Where does Final Cut Pro store its freeze-frames? Avid clearly creates a new freeze-frame clip you can keep in a bin.
  • It 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 disappeared to.
  • 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 frame-accurately.
  • FCP has far too many presets, which are completely daunting for most mortals. Avid's project settings make much more sense.
  • Avid 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.



  • 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).
  • Having 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.


  • There 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.