Final Bow for Final Cut?

Final Cut Pro 7 – an old mate

For many years, like many other independent filmmakers, Wild Dog has been using Final Cut Pro 7 from Apple.

A couple of year’s ago, Apple seemed to shift its focus away from the professional filmmaker, to focus more on the prosumer market when it released Final Cut Pro X. Since then debate has raged about whether or not the new software package is fit for purpose as a professional editing tool. There seem to be many more people defending the new software package of late and some of the best threads on this are to be found on Creative Cow.

Irrespective of the relative merits of FCPX, the main issue for us here at Wild Dog is the entire post-production workflow. Our parameters are fairly simple. For our own in house productions, the editing software needs to be good enough to do the job and to deliver a nicely graded film with good quality audio, ready to be out put to a suitable digital format. To this end, FCP 7 is still more than adequate. The main issues that we still wrestle with in FCP 7 are ingest times (the software has to convert all material to useable Quicktime files prior to editing) and compression/render times. Compression and rendering is now miles better, as we run a top of the range iMac, but still not as good as other applications that are able to make use of the 64bit architecture that the newer Apples machines have to offer (FCP7 is only 32bit). Nonetheless, neither of these issues is necessarily a deal breaker for FCP7, which is still a delight to use and edit films with, intuitive, functional and powerful.

Premiere Pro – The new tool of choice?


However, when we are working on projects for broadcast, such as our new film for BBC about paracyclist Tom Staniford, the software that we use is critical. To date, BBC Plymouth is still cutting on FCP7. Accordingly we can complete a cut on our FCP7 system and then take a complete project into the BBC studio for the final edit. But, with FCP7 now well out of date, I am told that the BBC have started to look at other options, including Adobe’s Premiere Pro. As far as we know BBC Plymouth do not even have an evaluation copy of FCPX and there seem to be no plans for them to be returning to Avid.
Premiere Pro Edit window

We have had an evaluation copy of Premiere Pro, as part of Adobe Creative Suite 6 form some time, but until this week, we had not used it ion a client project. Our colleague Mark Turner at Hellfire Pictures is a great champion of Premier Pro and has converted all his workflow to the Adobe platform, so this week, in an attempt to stay ahead of the game, we used Premiere Pro on a short charity project for Growing Devon Schools. Despite the initial uphill struggle to get to know the software package, our first impressions of this PP software are hugely positive. You can see the film here.

As a committed FCP7 editor it was nice to see a very familiar layout – Premiere Pro is really very similar to Final Cut Pro 7. The integration with Photoshop was predictably useful (as is the portability of flip flopping between Premiere Pro and After Effects) and the media browser, backed up by Premiere’s ability to work with pretty much any video codec meant that there was no time spent ingesting material. Here at WD we use P2 from our Panasonic HPX250 and the software had no trouble using the clips. Titling and graphics were a breeze. All of this was managed at blinding speed, thanks to Premiere’s use of the 64bit architecture. Effects and transitions were all managed in real-time and all the key tools such as colour grading and audio tools were there. I confess to having fumbled about with the voiceover tool, but eventually got it working. Premier Pro integrates well with our Scarlet 2i2 audio card interface.

We have heard that there can be issues when exporting audio for post-production (and we regularly use Dr Crackles for this in London at UBC Media), but there are options to export OMF files, so until this is tested, it is hard to say if this will be an issue.

Conclusion


If the BBC are indeed going to make the jump to Premier Pro, then for us, kissing goodbye to Final Cut Pro 7 is not going to be the trauma that we had once thought it might be. The only question for us then is, can we afford to ‘lease’ the software from Adobe and how will it all function with Creative Cloud. Here in rural Devon, high-speed broadband is a while away. They have just discovered fire down here and we getting the wheel next week…!



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