Thursday, March 16, 2006

Avid versus Final Cut

The following is a response to the recommended review of Avid vs FCP (see

Re: FCP v Avid

by Stuart Bass A.C.E.

Frank Capria's comparison was not a fair. Mr. Capria was clearly trying to sell Final Cut as a Final Cut Pro advocate. It is one thing to compare Final Cut to Avid Xpress DV. But it is not really balanced to compare Avid's entire line of editing systems to a desktop DV/HD system.

For example, he gives FCP's multi-cam functionality footing with Avids. It doesn't. Though he does admit he has no real experience in this. In multi-cam very often storage is an issue. A 1/2 hour multi-cam comedy may have 20 or more hours of footage to store. Multiply that by 22 episodes, and one can understand why most multi-cam shows use older Avids digitizing at lower resolutions to deal with storage. DV or HD storage would be out of the question. In the future huge storage devices won't be a great burden. But at this date it still is more efficient to work at Avid's lower multicam res.

Mr. Capria calls Avid's timeline "regimented". The way FCP rests in "segment mode" makes for a very frustrating interface. For those of us cutting scripted drama or comedy we prefer not to default in "segment mode". Most of our work requires trims. This oversight by Apple adds several keystrokes to every step of editing. In FCP an editor is constantly dipping into the tool bar to change modes much like Photoshop. Although there are keyboard commands to circumvent this mouse intensive work, it still stalls the process.

A great strength of Avid is the very important scripting feature. This feature was bought from the Ediflex system. This allows the editor to use the lined script to organize dailies. I live by the scripting feature. On a show like "Arrested Development" where the directors would roll endlessly takes and pickups without slates it is the only way to sift through the 4 hours of dailies per day. It is the reason I can be an editor and spend time with my family.The script feature reduces
20% of time off my first cut. It cuts the director's and producers time by
at least 50% (If they're the types that like to compare takes).

Final Cut Pro and Avid Xpress remain excellent reduced cost tools for low budget projects. This is especially true for shows finishing on the system itself. However, the Avid line of professional equipment remains the tool of choice for scripted projects that may finish in a variety of finishing formats. When one has to take into account the costs of peripheral equipment such as HD decks, HD monitors, test scopes, routers, mixers, and the like, the added cost of a top notch computer controller is a small percentage of the total cost of an editing system these days. Why limit ourselves by moving towards desktop editing systems?


Anonymous Edgar Burcksen said...

Avid versus FCP

FCP has made huge inroads in the prosumer editing world and seemed also to take the "low end" professional editing world by storm and especially the documentary side of it. A lot of my colleagues bought systems and started working on them enthusiastically. Most of them however have since ditched their system and went back to Avid. Why?

Apart from all kinds of list nightmares assistants had to deal with FCP has one major flaw that many of us have begged Apple to deal with: when you create a select reel in your record monitor and you put it in your source monitor to start editing from (in the old film days this would be called a Kem reel) all your select clips lose their connection with the original clips. There are work arounds or you can saddle up your assistant with reconnecting but it puts a big damper on the work and creative flow. Apple's latest version FCP 5 still hasn't fixed this flaw either.

Having to cut on FCP is a deal breaker for me. A lot of documentaries these days are shot digitally on a plethora of cheaper formats and filmmakers who have dabbled with editing at home think that FCP is pretty awesome and hence assume that we as editors have the same notion. FCP might work okay when you deliver your final product from the machine itself but when you have to go throught the multiple levels of post in the prodfessional world it doesn't deliver.

The project I'm currently working on a mockumentary provisionally called American Shopper was completely digitized and ready to go on FCP when I was approached to do the editing. I liked the director and producer and I loved the project even though the money was not plentiful. However when I heard that they had planned to do the editing on FCP I told them plainly that they would have to find someone else to do the editing. Luckily they had set their mind on getting me and we came to a compromise. I edit on the Avid and I use the FCP system for viewing the dailies (180 hours!) and make select reels. My assistant digitizes my selects in the Avid and I can do my work as I'm used to.

The one positive thing FCP has done that made a big difference in postproduction is that it finally put some competition in the marketplace. Avids have come down dramatically in price and Avid also has finally come down to the prosumer market with its Avid Express line of products. For my money I would choose an Avid Express over FCP anytime.

Edgar Burcksen, A.C.E.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous M. Parker said...

I am fascinated by these comments about FCP. Having been editing on FCP for 4 years now, I have just started a project on Avid. I thought it would come back to me right away but it is like working in slow motion. The amount of extra key strokes and/or clicks one has to do to accomplish the smallest of tasks is truly frustrating. I can't believe there is anything in FCP that would actually cause more keystrokes as Mr. Bass has indicated.

To me Avid is clunky, slow, and time consuming. FCP is quick, and efficent. This is why I can spend time with my family.

After delivering two featured on FCP we found no problems with "multiple levels of post in the professional world". I had the most amazing assistant team that knew how to really use the system. Friends have had very difficult experiences with FCP but I have found this is mostly due to the department not really knowing how to fully use the system.

I'm also glad there is competition in the industry now. Maybe Avid will start improving their software instead of leaving as is because "everyone" uses it.

As for me, after this show, having to use Avid will be a deal breaker for me. It's not worth the pain of the inefficient system.

9:42 PM  

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