Menu

Battle of the NLE’s: Which Editing Software Will Prevail? FCP X vs. Avid vs. Premiere Pro

The future of the three major video editing platforms – Avid, FCP X, and Premiere Pro is a topic that has been coming up a lot lately. Since FCP X was released and shook up the post-production world over two years ago, a lot has changed. Premiere Pro has developed really nicely and gained some ground with indie filmmakers and small companies, Avid has stayed on course and brought back former users despite financial trouble within the company, and FCP X has slowly and silently matured, while being given a second look by many users that had previously abandoned it.

Right now many editors are still in limbo and the debate as to which NLE will dominate the market (if any) seems to have heated up again lately – likely due to the upcoming release of both FCP X 10.1 and the new Mac Pro. This is also probably why I’ve had lots of editors asking me which of the major NLE’s are worth learning in order to stay relevant and employed as an editor today. Throughout this article I’ll touch on the current state of each of the various NLE’s and not only speculate on their future, but also give insight into whether or not they are worth taking the time to learn based on what your needs are.

I’d like to preface the post below with this – I use all of the the major NLE’s (FCP 7/X, Avid, Premiere Pro), but can’t say one is better than the other, and that’s not what this article is about. Picking the right NLE is simply a personal decision that should be made by experimenting and finding the software best suits your needs.

So let’s jump right into it and look at our options:

Avid Media Composer 7

avid interface

While the latest version of Media Composer isn’t radically different from previous iterations of the software, it is undoubtably a solid and extremely reliable piece of software in today’s post-production world. To this day, the vast majority of studio level feature films are cut on Avid MC, and it’s used on a massive amount of television series and other broadcast content. Although in many ways the program feels clunky, older, and generally less intuitive to use than some of the other NLE’s out there today – it does what it’s supposed to do, and it does it really well. In fact, for collaborative editing (as most post-houses are set up for, especially those handling TV series), it is still unmatched by Premiere Pro and FCP X. Neither of them really come close. Not to mention the software has been around long enough and matured long enough to trust it unquestionably with large scale, media intensive projects.

The issue with Media Composer right now is that even though so much high end content is being cut on it, the larger markets (low budget/independent/commercial, etc.) have largely stayed away from it. I don’t have any colleagues or friends that switched from FCP 7 to Avid, other than one that had to because the post-house he works for switched over. The lack of users switching over is likely due to the steep-ish learning curve of MC, but nonetheless the point is that Avid is having a lot of trouble right now. Every quarter they have been losing money, and there’s only so much longer they can function as a company given their financial losses. For this reason, I think Avid may have a really rocky future ahead. Just because they are still industry standard in some circles, doesn’t mean it will last forever. Who knows though, they may be able to pull themselves out of this slump with a drastic move aimed at the larger market, but in my opinion if you’re just learning an NLE for the first time – this probably isn’t the one to choose. That might sound pessimistic, but unless you live in NY or LA and want to work immediately at a large post-house (which are a dying breed as well), then you are better off putting your focus elsewhere.

FCP X

fcp x

I’ve been using FCP X since it’s first release (10.0.0), and have been very happy with what Apple has done with it. While many editors still won’t give it a chance, more and more have decided to give it a go, and lately I’ve even found myself being less embarrassed when telling people I use it! The radical new design and functionality is definitely not for everyone, but there’s no denying that Apple is committed to making the software extremely powerful and very competitive. In my opinion, FCP X is the most evolved, efficient, and forward thinking system out there. And with the upcoming 10.1 release in December, things are going to get really interesting. I’m sure there will be a load of new features integrated, many of which will take advantage of the power of the new Mac Pro that will be released around the same time. To put it in perspective, the new Mac Pro is said to be able to edit up to 16 streams of multi-cam 4K video simultaneously. That’s pretty amazing.

So while I do see FCP X having a very optimistic future given the developments over the last year, there are still some large issues to be addressed, and major roadblocks that may prevent it from ever taking the place of Media Composer. The biggest issue is of course the difficulty of working with it in a collaborative environment. Until this is addressed, FCP X will never be able to penetrate the broadcast/high end feature market, or at least not as a primary NLE. That said, I don’t see FCP X’s controversial features like the magnetic timeline (which I really like), being an issue long term. Some new FCP X features take some getting used to, but eventually they seem to grow on most editors and convert even the most cynical users of the product. The upcoming release of FCP X 10.1 may very well address the issue of working in a collaborative environment, but until that happens I would advise that anyone learning the software should do so to work on their own projects, or at least on projects where they can choose the software they’re cutting on. In other words, if you’re learning a new piece of software just to get hired at a big post house, this isn’t for you. Avid is what you want. But if you want a really powerful and affordable tool for your own work, then FCP X is hard to beat.

Premiere Pro CC

Premiere Interface

I have to give Adobe a lot of credit for taking the bull by the horns and putting a lot of manpower behind the last couple of versions of Premiere Pro. Since FCP 7 was EOL’d, the Premiere Pro team seem to have made a conscious effort to not only improve the software dramatically, but cater it in many ways to former FCP 7 users, making the transition easy. In a lot of ways Premiere Pro feels like a hybrid of FCP X and Avid to me, both in terms of the design characteristics and general functionality. Adobe is very aware of what it’s users want and take the best features and ideas from other NLE’s and integrate them into Premiere Pro. It is one of the most flexible editing systems out there, taking just about any video format you can throw at it, and integrating beautifully with third party apps as well as seamlessly integrating with other Adobe applications like After Effects and Speedgrade.

Generally I think Premiere Pro has a real chance of sustaining itself as a growing, evolving, mature NLE. That said, there are a number of issues that are also plaguing Premiere Pro right now that may well prevent it from developing to the level that FCP 7 had reached. The biggest issue and setback for Adobe so far, has been their forced Creative Cloud model. A lot of Premiere Pro users were of course upset by this and have since taken a second look at FCP X or Media Composer. And the ones that have stayed, aren’t necessarily the most dedicated users. Out of all of the editors I know that use Premiere Pro, very few of them are married to it as they once were with FCP 7. I do have one or two colleagues that are big supporters of it (and I myself think it’s great and has it’s place), but a lot of users that I know seem to approach it almost as a temporary solution – waiting to see how it will develop compared to the other NLE’s out there. So generally, I think Premiere Pro has a fighting chance, but has been playing catch up with FCP 7 for too long and hasn’t yet made as big of a splash as it has the potential to.

S0 where does that leave us?

It’s a confusing time right now, especially for new editors or those just now finally switching from FCP 7 to another NLE. Is Avid the way to go given it is still industry standard? Or is a waste of time given the state of their company. FCP X has promising new features, but is largely rejected by many large scale productions, so why bother converting when it may never be fully accepted? And then we have Premiere Pro which is another feature rich, modern piece of software, but it requires that you rent it and also hasn’t been adopted by most large scale post-companies and productions.

The answer to these questions really just lies in the type of user you are. If you see yourself editing episodic TV in a major city and know you’ll work in a collaborative environment, than Avid is unquestionably the way to go. Alternatively, you might be an independent filmmaker or producer, looking for a modern, low cost editing solution that will get the job done really efficiently, in which case you can either look at FCP X or Premiere. Choosing between these two in my opinion is simply a matter of taste. Maybe you thrive on change and enjoy the creative freedom that FCP X allows, or maybe Premiere’s approach of integrating great components from other NLE’s makes it the most well rounded for your type of work.

The good news is that it doesn’t hurt (or even cost anything) to try out any of the three major NLE’s. If you haven’t already done so, I would actually suggest you do just that – learn all three. At least on a basic level and see which one clicks with you. Even if you never think you’ll use all three systems, knowing them all will only make you a better editor and a more valuable asset to any team. If I had to put money on it, I would say that the next 6 months will give us a much clearer idea of what the future holds for all the major NLE’s. The release of the new Mac Pro will be the final test of whether or not FCP X will be given another shot on a large scale, and depending on how the release plays out, the ripple effect will surely change the course of both Avid MC and Premiere Pro.

Regardless of which software you choose, remember that they are all just tools. None of them will make your film better, they will only help you achieve your vision.

For those of you who are jack of all trades, not just in post-production but also on set, be sure to check out one of my most popular recent articles: How To Make Video Look Like Film. 

 

 

About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

29 Comments

  • Preston Wilson
    May 27, 2015 at 2:45 am

    Hi Noam, I have a GH4 with which I am planning to shoot a full length film of about one hour. Can I use a prosumer NLE like Cyberlink’s Power Director 12 to edit and render if I don’t employ the 4K options? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 27, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      Hi Preston… I’ve never used Power Director, so I can’t speak for it myself, but I would recommend looking into FCP X or Premiere Pro for your feature just to be safe. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  • aviduser
    March 9, 2014 at 5:08 am

    jus I hav only one question, how is the stability and speed of premier pro compared to avid. when u work on a shared storage..

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      March 22, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      Hey There – I haven’t done any tests on this specifically, but I would guess that avid would come out on top as one of their biggest strengths is dealing with shared storage.

      Reply
  • Big Al
    January 7, 2014 at 10:06 am

    “Regardless of which software you choose, remember that they are all just tools. None of them will make your film better, they will only help you achieve your vision.”

    Best words of advice ever given. I own an Avid system the company gave me as a gift/editing award and I’m beyond proficient with it but I can do achieve an equally good edit on Magix Video which I use on my laptop since it isn’t a CPU hog.

    As long as FCPX is Mac only (I own and adore a Mac) I refuse to use it since such partisanship kills art and Tim Cooke is as much of a crackhead figuratively as Steve Jobs may have been literally.

    And no one worthwhile uses Macs in the pro world anymore. I’ve never seen one at Paramount, Universal, MGM, Dreamworks, ILM, or WETA

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 14, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      Thanks Big Al. I have to concur that you can get pretty much the same result on any system out there!

      Reply
  • Wandile
    December 25, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    I’ve used all three. I chose Premiere Pro purely because of the speed. My facility is currently running three television shows and we used FCPX on one of the projects. Never ever again. Getting audio to mix was a nightmare, waiting 65years for the software to launch (cause it loads every single file on the mounted drives). Media Composer was good but still found it the same old clunky slow software with a few more tweaks. Premiere Pro CC to me, makes all the sense, AE,AU,PS,IL and PR for $49 a month? plus that licences is up to 2 machines which is a detail most people aren’t putting in their blogs. Its the closest thing to what FCP was suppose to be. I understand innovation and so on. But if you have a wingless aeroplane and its still got teething problems, forgive me if I revert to the older ‘winged’ aeroplanes that I know for sure, work. Until they absolutely perfect FCP X, I will not be Apples Guinea Pig.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      December 30, 2013 at 12:46 am

      Premiere Pro is great – just used it this weekend on a job and I really love what Adobe has done with the software. It’s all about what you’re most comfortable with, and I tend to try to be as comfortable with all NLE’s as possible as they all have their advantages. In terms of loading up projects, the new media management system would definitely solve the issue you just described!

      Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
  • William Beckett
    November 30, 2013 at 4:31 am

    Brilliant post! Noam, I love it reading of this excellent post. It’s not enough to have good tools . We have to know how to operate them effectively and efficiently.It’s necessary to know how to use them to create your artwork! Thanks you for your effort.

    How to edit my photos

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      December 3, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      Thanks William! Glad you enjoyed it. Looking forward to posting on the topic again later this month when the new FCP X is released.

      Reply
  • Strypes
    November 1, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Hi Noam,

    Great job on the article. It is rare to see such a balanced perspective.

    Reply
  • Simon Morice
    November 1, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    As with most things, I suspect that the future of editing, like all else, will be driven by money. The evidence is that budgets have been getting smaller and big, big productions fewer. They won’t go away but will budgets generally get big again? I think not. There are just too many channels, actors, directors and so on for that.

    When producers are faced with having to deliver more for less then they can cut masses of budget by using less expensive acquisition, cgi, effects etc – but more story and acting. These is the cheapest bit of production. You could shoot and edit many early films on an iPhone. 4k does not solve any current limitations, it’s just a bit pretty.

    The cutting room of a low budget future? As Noam says, X can now do pretty much anything that any other NLE can but less expensively. If we can make great story productions on an iPhone then we don’t need a continuous flood of ‘improvements’. I think that X signals the relegation of the NLE to serving a literacy in the way that MS Word, Pages or even Google Docs does. And remember that word processing did not spawn a glut of great authors.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 6, 2013 at 7:04 pm

      Thanks for chiming in Simon, appreciate your insight on this. And I have to agree that at the end of the day the cost effectiveness of cutting on FCP X is going to be hard to pass up for many producers/editors.

      Reply
  • Mark
    November 1, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Collaborative working in FCPX is not that hard. It’s as simple as adding and removing SAN locations.
    And if you “must” work simultaneously in a project duplicate the event and projects folder referencing the original media.

    Never understood the drama.

    Reply
    • Noam
      November 1, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      I do agree with you and have used this exact setup myself on numerous occasions without issue. That said, it isn’t functionality that is built into the software itself, which is something I see being addressed on future versions given the feedback.

      Reply
  • Mark Pirtle
    November 1, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I don’t understand what your claim that “Avid has a steep learning curve” is based on.

    I love everything about it except for one thing. It has difficulty importing long AVCHD files.

    Aside from that it is a fantastic program.

    I started on it in 2001 after working in film and linear videotape. The software copied the exact same logic as film. It was instantly obvious to me, and I was functioning well after about 45 minutes.

    The trim tool won emmys and academy awards.

    Motion Stabilize is fantastic,
    Effect integration is fantastic.
    Color Correction is fantastic.
    Audio mixing, and Audio processing is fantastic. ProTools plug ins work right on the timeline.

    Media Management is fantastic. I have one minor quibble with cloning entire programs. It is easy to clone and copy a sequence ( a version of your edit ) but an entire program is not a one click “idiot proof ” operation.

    I dearly hope Avid will extend and improve full support to the prosumer AVCHD set of codecs.

    It is well integrated with Sorenson Squeeze for almost anything to almost anything transcoding and publishing, and AVID DVD for DVD and Blu-Ray authoring.

    Reply
    • Noam
      November 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      It’s not that it’s difficult to learn objectively, it’s just that if you are coming from let’s say FCP 7, the learning curve is definitely larger than if you were to switch to Premiere Pro for example. The software works in a different way and the functionality of it is more rigid in my opinion. Not suggesting that is a bad thing, but just pointing out that is the response I’ve heard from nearly all FCP 7 editors that have attempted to make the switch.

      Reply
    • Editman
      January 9, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      “The trim tool won emmys and academy awards.”

      LoL! Who else was nominated? Apple’s ripple tool and Premiere’s Dynamic Link?

      I can hear his acceptance speech now:

      “I’d like to thank the all the superbins who’ve supported me throughout my early career in B-movies and infomercials”….

      Reply
  • James Bennett
    November 1, 2013 at 1:30 am

    You truly seem to be in the FCPX camp. If I recall, the reason FCP and Premiere, each became better was because if their competition to one up each other…

    I thank whatever powers that be that Premiere DID NOT take a page from FCPX, I truly can’t figure out what elements you think they integrated.

    FCPX’s single biggest F you to producers was to not allow timeline migration from previous versions. It was at this EXACT point where they told the professional world to sod off. So, no, nobody in the business is going to invest in a platform that just gave them the middle finger. To do so would be foolhardy.

    Reply
    • Noam
      November 1, 2013 at 6:19 am

      I agree that the competition between the apps is actually a good thing and can drive each of them forward, even in their current versions. While FCP X had some major issues initially, I don’t think that there is a permanent black mark on it and as I said in the article I seem to be seeing more acceptance of it on various levels. With that said it definitely has a long way to go, and Premiere Pro was able to take the lead in some markets over the last couple of years.

      Reply
    • Andie Moepse
      September 4, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      “FCPX’s single biggest F you to producers was to not allow timeline migration from previous versions.”

      Oh WOW… someone STILL weaving around that stinky old fish?? REALLY?? LOL!!

      Maybe try moving into *at least* the year 2012 and grasp that that condition held for a full THREE MONTHS, so get the fuck over it already and go find some REAL arguments. Touting that tired old nonsense only exposes your complete ignorance of FCP X. Don’t embarrass yourself.

      Reply
    • Jayson Moo-Young
      September 10, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      Skimming clips in bin
      Dynamic tagging features
      Show duplicate clip frames in timeline
      Show original file path for missing clips
      Automatic search and re-link
      the list is massively extensive

      I’m not absolutely sure used FCP 7 or FCP X. And now Adobe is taking quiet a bit of features from Avid’s side.
      I just want them to make a separate tab for the source audio wave forms and allow keyframes etc there. I’ve been requesting this feature since 2009…

      Reply
      • Jayson Moo-Young
        September 10, 2014 at 2:39 pm

        That feature has been about since FCP 5 days btw…. 😉

        Reply
      • Noam Kroll
        October 7, 2014 at 6:32 pm

        Good idea Jayson! Never thought of that feature, but it would certainly be helpful.

        Reply
  • Andrew
    October 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Hi Noam, I’m looking to upgrade from Sony Vegas in hopes of securing more editing jobs. Interestingly I have been seeing Premiere Pro popping up more and more in post production house job listings.

    Reply
    • Noam
      November 1, 2013 at 6:14 am

      Hi Andrew – Premiere Pro has definitely been getting some traction lately, especially with smaller post houses, and shops that are heavily based in After Effects. It’s definitely a great step up from Sony Vegas and would make for a natural transition.

      Reply
      • Cosmin Gurau
        September 22, 2016 at 4:49 am

        Why exactly is it a step up from VEGAS? Certainly not interface or feature wise. Do you even know what VEGAS is capable of? Certainly it has been very poorly treated by Sony in the last 5 years or so, but that will soon change, thanks to it being bought by a different company that actually intends to develop it. Don’s assume you know VEGAS just because you know its reputation.

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          September 28, 2016 at 10:07 pm

          Point noted Cosmin. From my limited experience with it, I found it to be less intuitive than FCP X, Premiere Pro and Avid, but I look forward to seeing where it’s taken in the future. Thanks for the note.

          Reply

Leave a Reply