In October I go into production for my second feature which is set to be shot over 11 days. By November I will be in post for the film and due to festival deadlines, a version of the film will need to be cut and delivered extremely quickly.
Currently, I use all three of the major NLE contenders regularly: FCP (7 & X), Premiere Pro and Avid. I have used them all for a variety of work ranging from commercial to feature film projects and they all have their place. And although many are fearful of using FCP X especially on long form projects, it is really the clear winner for me on this project and here is why.
On my first feature film “Footsteps”, we shot on the RED MX in 4.5K. The film was shot almost exactly a year ago today and at the time, although FCP X was out, it still was quite premature and had a lot of bugs to work out. I hadn’t tested it enough on smaller projects and didn’t even consider it as an option. I was then left with Avid, Premiere Pro or FCP 7. I have used Avid mostly in professional broadcast environments and for what it does, it does very well. It is a workhorse and will do what you need it to do exceptionally, but I never loved the feel of actually using the software. While it is extremely functional, the UI is not intuitive and when considering it as an option for editing my feature I quickly ruled it out as well. While many would not rule out AVID based on the UI alone, I did. The user interface that I work with is extremely important. One of the reasons I love FCP X and FCP 7 for that matter is the fact that the interface is so clean. Working in an environment you are comfortable in and that is inviting will only help your productivity and creativity, especially when you work in a visual medium. It’s like the difference between working in a dark cluttered cubicle and working in a corner office with floor to ceiling windows.
So I was left with Premiere Pro and FCP7. Â Initially I leaned towards FCP7, I like the UI much more and at the time I had far more experience on it than on Premiere Pro. But in the end Premiere Pro handled RED RAW footage natively and that was hard to pass up. Without having a RED Rocket card, I would have literally spent weeks just transcoding the footage on my Mac Pro. I needed to get into the edit right away and didn’t have any time to waste. In the end Premiere Pro was the only tool that I could use to get the job done on time.
My experience with Premiere Pro was hot and cold. Certain elements worked very well and others felt quite primitive. Overall, up until I was at the finishing stages it was working out reasonably well. It was when I got to the final delivery stage of my project that reality sunk in. All that RED footage I was editing natively came back to haunt me. It didn’t hit me until I was in deliverable mode that at some point that footage STILL needed to be transcoded. Of course I knew this all along, but I simply wasn’t thinking about it. I was working on the edit, the creative process. So in the end, yes Premiere Pro saved me some time by not transcoding it on the way in, but I still had an entire 90 minute feature film to conform from R3D to ProRes HQ. It literally took 2 weeks to export the film. Not because it actually took 2 weeks of processing time, but because the job was too intensive for my computer to handle and I was dealing with crash after crash after crash. I ended up having to export TIFF sequences of the film (as opposed to ProRes MOV’s) so that every time it crashed, at least I had a few minutes or a few scenes that were saved and I didn’t have to start from scratch. When it was all done, I compiled the TIFF sequences in Premiere Pro and exported the 2K Master in ProResHQ.
Ultimately, I learned my lesson: It is not worth editing native R3D on Premiere Pro, especially for long format. As much as I thought time was of the essence when I was eager to start editing, believe me it was a lot more important when I had an actual deadline that I almost couldn’t meet because the project wouldn’t export. I have edited several films on Premiere Pro since, all of which were shot on the EPIC and transcoded to ProResHQ before cutting.
So now a year later I am gearing up for my next feature. I’ll be working with RAW video again and for the reasons listed above no matter what NLE I would use, I would need to transcode first. Once the files are in ProRes, I am back to square one as far as NLE choices are concerned. Premiere Pro is no longer advantageous in regards to cutting the footage natively and my personal preference deters me from dealing with the Avid UI. I could always go back to trusty old FCP 7 and know it will work, but I don’t want to.
I’ve been using FCP X since it came out and it truly is an amazing piece of software. Granted it still needs to have some kinks worked out and features added, but I am confident in where it is going. For most broadcasters that are still tape based it is utterly useless, but for an independent film editor it is a dream come true. I have never in any software been able to plow through footage like I can in FCP X. In fact my overall speed of editing has dramatically increased since using FCP X. Even when I wasn’t as familiar with the software I still got projects done significantly more quickly than on FCP 7 which I have expert knowledge of. Once you get used to the design and layout, the software really allows you to do what you are in it to do – edit. It has a lot of powerful features buried under the hood, but you wouldn’t know it just looking at the program.
A year from now when people are hopefully watching my film, they will never know or care what it was edited on. All they will know is if they enjoy it and if it was well done in their eyes. As far as I’m concerned, there is no software that is more up to the task than FCP X. It will keep me interested, keep the process fun and engaging and get things done quickly.
I should also note that I would not have jumped into using a new piece of software on a feature unless I have tested it thoroughly. I’ve spent the last year working with FCP X and have cut many shorts, commercials and other broadcast/film content on it and am confident in it.
In the future I will do a more thorough review of FCP X. I am waiting until 10.0.6 is released so that I can review some of the new features that will apparently be included. The software is by no means perfect and definitely has some issues to work around, but once again – it is the best available tool for my project right now. UPDATE: FCP X is now on 10.0.8 and it is fantastic, having solved many of the issues I, and others had with it in the past. More on FCP X in future posts.
Also, if you’re looking to set up an edit suite, I’ve recently posted an article on how I set up my home based suite.
Below, find two video links. The first is a short shot on RED MX and cut on FCP X. The second is my first feature which was done on Premiere Pro.