5 THINGS: on The Truth About Video Editing Software in Hollywood (ep 213) Avid, Premiere, FCP + more


On this episode of 5 THINGS, I’ll tackle
the uber common question of “What video editing software should I learn?” by sharing the truth
about video editing software here in Hollywood. Who uses what? Why do they use it? And for how long? Buckle up! Hello and welcome to another episode of 5
things – a web series dedicated to answering the 5 burning tech questions you have about
technologies and workflows in the media creation space. Plus, tech stuff I dig, and how it’s used. I’m your host Michael Kammes. NLE – Non linear editing – has been around
for over 40 years, but it didn’t become common place in Hollywood – that is, being
used for feature film and broadcast television – until the early 90’s. And that’s where we’ll start. But before I start, I do need to set a disclaimer. I also work for Key Code Media, who sells
many of the tech solutions that I talk about on 5 THINGS. And wouldn’t ya know it, we sell a heck
of a lot of Avid and things that play with Avid…including Adobe, and Apple, for that
matter. I don’t want any of you think I’m a paid
shill, so I got clearance from this guy: Michael, we have known each other many years,
but this is the first time you’ve come to me for counsel or for help. I can’t remember the last time you invited
me to your house for a cup of coffee, even though I’ve employed you for 9 years. You may do this episode without any pressure
from me. Now kiss the ring. A large part of understanding one’s popularity is to examine WHY it’s popular. And that requires sharing the most brief of
history lessons. OK, do you remember a time before Internet
connected cell phones? Now, try and remember how our daily lives
changed when most everyone had one of these devices. It was a definite shift in how we consumed
media. Now, imagine that, only with the CREATION
side of media. This was Hollywood in the early 90’s. Digital video cameras were still very new,
and limited to standard definition. There were many companies toying with building
digital editing software, but none really took hold. That is, until Avid Media Composer came along
in the early 90’s. By building a digital editing platform, based
on the terminology and methodology the experienced film editors knew, Avid was able to make the
industry adoption of their technology much easier. Thus, we already have 2 reasons Media Composer
was popular: it appealed to the sensibilities of the user base, and it was one of the few
solutions out there. Avid also built around their ecosystem, including
not only their own shared storage, but having the top audio editing system in the industry;
Pro Tools, by then Digidesign, giving users a complete solution tech partner to work with. We call this the “one throat to choke”
paradigm. By the time other NLE’s were in a useable
state for film and TV projects, Avid had a massive head start. This meant a decent sized user base in the
Hollywood market, facility infrastructures (and thus lots of money already invested in
hardware and software) that were built around Media Composer, in addition to workflows that
incorporated both legacy film based material, tape acquisition, and newer digital formats. Avid also had project sharing by the early
00’s, something that only recently are other NLE’s getting right. For all of these reasons, Avid had the Hollywood
market cornered. And all of this played in to one of the greatest
untold truths about Hollywood technology. Hollywood is predominantly risk adverse. If something worked last season, why change
it for this season? Changing it messes with budgets and timelines
and generally upsets the natives. “How would you feel about making the change? We fear change!” And that’s why today, Avid is still used
on a vast majority of all feature films and broadcast television here in Hollywood. Existing customer investment in infrastructure,
experienced talent pool – both available and already on staff, documented workflows
with other departments, a complete ecosystem, and a risk adverse industry. If you plan on getting a job tomorrow out
in Hollywierd, working in broadcast television or feature film, Media Composer needs to be
your strongest software tool. Initially, I was going to share why Final
Cut Pro Classic was popular, but then I realized that it now holds little relevance, as the
software has been End of Life’d for 6 years now. Let that sink in. In the past 6 years, we’ve had: two presidential elections,
three Transformers Movies, eleven iPhone Models,
…and we could have gone to Mars and back three times Now there are, of course, some Final Cut Pro
Classic holdouts, but why don’t we cut through a little bit of Apple History, and look at
Final Cut Pro X. Final Cut Pro X got out of gates miserably. Its predecessor, Final Cut Pro, had gained
prominence in the industry, and many broadcast TV facilities in Hollywood had switched over
to or, had been started as a direct result of the low cost of entry for the software. That being said, although common, Classic
was still in the minority in Hollywood compared to Media Composer when Final Cut Pro X was
launched. Estimates vary, but to say 15-20% of TV post
was cut on Classic would not be a stretch. X lacked many features of Classic, and many
of its features went against the editing methodology that most professional film and TV editors
were accustomed to. It also meant many of the workflows, hardware,
and technology that made them efficient were now in question. Apple’s launch of Final Cut Pro X also meant
Final Cut Pro Classic was killed, and that caused many facilities to instantly see their
investment in infrastructure have a finite shelf life. Facilities now had 2 choices: throw caution
into the wind, and gamble on brand new software which lacked the things they knew, or, move
to another platform, which could be expensive in terms of hardware, software, and tech infrastructure,
as well as re-training the talent they had on staff. This, uhhh, was slightly upsetting for the
industry. “ARRRGGGGHHHHHH!” …and thus the awesome power that Final Cut
Pro X had (and still has) was eclipsed by the product launch. This stalled the adoption considerably. By 2017, the price point for powerful, standalone
NLE systems – both hardware and software – were around the same price; give or take. This was not the case 10-15 years prior, when
Media Composer was tens of thousands of dollars more expensive – and one of the main reasons
users flocked to Final Cut Pro Classic in the first place. Now, cost is not as much of an issue. It’s only been recently that Hollywood has
dipped its toe in the Final Cut Pro X water. Only a few feature films, including Focus
and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, have been cut on it. In stark contrast to Avid, Apple seems to
enjoy adoption success into markets outside of Hollywood. And from a purely financial perspective, this
makes sense. There are many more editors and hobbyists
outside the Hollywood market than professional editors in it. Thus, Final Cut Pro X, in Hollywood broadcast
television and feature film projects is in the extreme minority, with little upwards
momentum in the industry. Adobe Premiere has been around almost as long
as Avid Media Composer, but it wasn’t until a rewrite around 2003, that Adobe renamed
it “Premiere Pro”, and Adobe simultaneously expanded their reach from the consumer market
to a more professional one. And when I say “professional”, I mean
professional markets outside of Hollywood. It wasn’t until the next decade that Premiere
Pro finally made inroads into the Hollywood market. And what was that event? It’s what I call the “Final Cut Pro Fog”. Apple killed Final Cut Pro Classic. [gunshot] …and it left those facilities and users
entrenched in it lost and wondering what to do and where to go. Do they go back to Avid? Or, do they look at what is the most similar
to Final Cut Pro Classic, in terms of editing paradigm, hardware requirements, and talent
pool? Enter Premiere Pro. Adobe pushed hard during the early days of
Final Cut Pro X to grab the user base that felt abandoned by Apple. But it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors. Adobe added more and more features to the
product to further convey to the market that they were innovating. It also helped that After Effects and Photoshop
were already a staple in the Post community, and thus most facilities already owned – or
should I say rented – Premiere Pro software. The rental model Adobe adopted also gave Adobe
a way to push updates more often, without waiting for quarter’s end or tradeshows
like NAB. This kept Adobe relevant and industry news
worthy. Lastly, Premiere Pro could run on the same
systems that ran Final Cut Pro Classic, or even Media Composer. Which brings us up to present day, where Adobe
continues to add features like Team Projects and shared projects to make collaboration
seamless for those who have worked in Avid environments. Despite all of this momentum and development
on the part of Adobe, adoption for feature film and broadcast television has been slow. Only a few TV shows – mostly cable- and
a handful of feature films have been cut on Premiere Pro. Premiere has still has not reached a Hollywood
adoption rate of Final Cut Pro Classic, so we’re looking at somewhere around 10% – but
the gap is closing. By stark contrast, alternative professional
markets, and a massive chunk of indie films have moved to Premiere Pro. Premiere, while not nearly as relevant in
feature film and broadcast television as Media Composer, is the 2nd most utilized NLE in
Hollywood, and you’d be wise to learn it as it becomes more widely adopted. There are many other alternatives that can
edit a piece of video just fine. I’ll address them here briefly, but to expect
to get a job by concentrating on these is pretty foolish. First is Lightworks, which has been around
as long as Avid. In that time it’s cut several huge films,
including “Pulp Fiction”, “Moulin Rouge”, “28 Days Layer”, “The Kings Speech”
and the recent “Wolf of Wall Street”. It’s got a free version and a paid version. While fantastic for the price point, it’s
still not making many new waves in the Hollywood market, and I’m not aware of any current
broadcast TV shows utilizing it. Edius, which had a decent footprint in the
broadcast and TV news industry, has drastically lost marketshare over the past decade or so,
mainly due to a lackluster marketing, and the proliferation of other tools – like
Avid Media Composer – that are geared specifically towards that sector of the industry. As you can guess, it has virtually zero presence
in Hollywood. Other apps, which are more consumer in nature,
include Video Studio and Pinnacle Studio, and Hitfilm Express. Both are great for your kids t-ball game,
but won’t get you a job in Hollywood. Sony recently sold their consumer based Vegas
software, so now the trajectory of the software is in flux, in addition to not being used
for much in the professional Hollywood realm. The one unique tool that I get asked often
about is DaVinci Resolve, now owned by Blackmagic. Resolve has made massive strides in the TV
and film industry thanks to a tremendously powerful and very inexpensive grading tool. The price point of free or $1000, now down
to $300, is downright astonishing. Plus, unlike other professional NLE companies,
there is not a “rental” fee. Recently, Blackmagic incorporated traditional
creative editorial tools into Resolve, as well as a powerful audio engine via the acquisition
of Fairlight. The latest version also has the ability for
shared projects, considered by many to be the killer feature for professional film and
TV post production. However, as of now, the editorial side is
so new, that many folks are holding their breath to see what happens elsewhere…and
will the superior grading of Resolve be enough to force editorial’s hand to switch over…or,
will Resolve remain a grading tool, and only be used for editorial on smaller independent
projects. When you start with nothing, it’s easy to
make great strides, so it will be interesting to see how Blackmagic can innovate once the
Resolve editorial features reach parity with the industry leaders. Ahh yes, the question I get asked the most. First, Let’s look at Avid. A company in flux, who has had financial reporting
problems, has a stock price a tenth of what it was back in 2005, and has had significant
layoffs. As for Media Composer, Avid needs to walk
the line between overhauls and refreshes without alienating their current user base, who is
traditionally less accepting of change, given that their livelihood depends on it. This stalls newer, younger users who can’t
identify with the user interface or operation. Yes, they dominate the film and TV space in
Hollywood, but is that niche of the industry as a whole enough to sustain the company? Even if Avid as a company went away, it would
make zero sense for the new owner to kill Media Composer, and with how risk adverse
Hollywood is, there would be Media Composer systems running for many years to come. If your goal is to get a job in Hollywood
in the next few years, there is zero reason to not get your Avid chops in order. As for Apple, they seem to be content for
Final Cut Pro X to be used everywhere else but Hollywood. Ease of access via the App store, a relatively
low price point, and some really bad ass editing tools for the novice editor makes it a great
tool in your editing toolkit. Do I see it ascending to the level that Final
Cut Pro Classic had in Hollywood? No. The industry landscape is different from the
early 00’s – the cost of entry across the board has become commodity priced. It wouldn’t hurt to learn it, but it won’t
get you much work in feature film or broadcast television. Aside from bragging rights, I don’t think
Apple minds this – there is much more money to be had outside of Hollywood than in it…and
they’re already making money by selling most of Hollywood overpriced computers, anyway. Adobe Premiere Pro, however, seems to be trending
upward as an editorial tool more than anyone else in the industry. Updates are fast and furious, it runs on Mac
or PC, and follows the common and comfortable editing paradigms the industry was founded
on. Its entire suite of tools also adds added
functionality that you just don’t find with other editorial solutions, and it’s already
installed on most machines due to their complete suite of tools. Now, in the process of writing this episode,
I took the opportunity to consult some fine colleagues in the industry to ensure I was
on the right path. As Avid, Adobe, and Apple either don’t release
exact sales numbers, or don’t filter out by geography or industry, I’ve had to get
a little creative. Quick FYI for this next part to make sense:
A vast majority of broadcast TV and feature film production facilities in Hollywood get
their editing gear from one of two places: Resellers, who can sell all of the gear, integrate
it, and make it all work together, or, rental facilities who own the equipment, but rent
it out to productions and support it. I contacted several other resellers in the
Hollywood area, as well as several rental facilities, and asked them to give me some
insight as to what THEY were seeing. No surprise, across the board, Media Composer
was the dominant player in broadcast television and feature film, by a wide margin, encompassing
80-90% of the market. However, once you move out of this niche market,
Adobe became much more common, with Final Cut Pro X bringing up the rear. Also, out of the aforementioned Final Cut
Pro Classic Fog, Adobe seems to have won the switcher award, as more folks in Hollywood
moved from Final Cut Pro Classic to Adobe Premiere Pro, rather than to Media Composer
or Final Cut Pro X. This is this probably the most important thing
I came across: is that a vast majority of facilities who have Media Composer are not
adding new seats. They plug along with what they have, and only
buying updates when it’s absolutely necessary…and often they’ll sit on older versions because
upgrading doesn’t give them enough new tools to warrant the change. Now, these same facilities, while not buying
many new seats of Media Composer, are adding seats of Creative Cloud at a rate must faster
than that of Avid. Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough. Hollywood is NOT the only place to work, and
broadcast television or feature films are not the “end all, be all” of creative
visual storytelling. Hone your storytelling skills using whatever
you can get your hands on – and I mean everything – and then find what sector of the industry
satisfies you creatively. And then focus your technical chops on the
tools found in that area. But be open to learning more tools, because
the days of basing your editing career on one software solution are long gone. The video editing realm is only widening,
and learning more is the only way to remain employable. I’m sure you have some input on at least
some of these 5 THINGS. Let me know in the comments section. Also, please subscribe and share this tech
goodness with the rest of your techie friends. Check out more episode of 5 THINGS and all
of the other great learning content at Moviola.com. Until the next episode: learn more, do more
– thanks for watching.

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