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Video Editing Apps: Premiere Pro vs Final Cut Pro X vs Media Composer

Deciding between Adobe Creative Cloud, Final Cut Pro X & Avid for pro video editing? Here are a few thoughts and opinions to help you make that call.

As a decade long loyal and faithful FCP editor the time seems to be coming (maybe I’m the last to realize!?) of the true death of FCP7. When you start to encounter workflow slow downs and workarounds that would not otherwise be needed when working in up to date applications, it feels like its time to start looking around at other options.

which editing software should I learn

The options are still basically what they were 5 years ago (the big three A’s – Apple, Avid, Adobe) so that hasn’t changed, but at the same time a lot has changed.

Apple dropped the FCPX launch so spectacularly it is still embedded in the popular consciousness (even though FCPX has come a long way since then). Adobe are freaking people out with their Cloud move.  And Media Composer is chugging along, possibly with company wide financial difficulties, but is seemingly still seen by many as the only choice for large ‘institution’ sized outfits.

There have been many discussions online and off in the last two years about the merits of Final Cut Pro X vs other video editing applications.  This post is not intended to prove which video editing system is the best, but rather look at a considerations of each and how it may effect your ultimately choosing a primary application.

So what is an editor to do?

Well my first thought would be to download the free trial of each app, cut something on it and see how you go. Googling articles like this one probably won’t supply you with the information you’re really after, which is – what’s it like to actually use the video editing program! However articles like this one can supply you with other useful information and resources – so do keep reading!

Adobe Creative Cloud:

Budget – Premiere Pro vs Final Cut Pro X vs Avid Media Composer

If you’re a cost conscious creative then what does the scenario look like?

Avid Media Composer is now available for a steady $999 and comes with Sorenson Squeeze thrown in. You pay once and you can keep it forever. Avid are still releasing point patches for old versions for free and upgrading between versions will cost you a small fee (the upgrade from Media Composer version 6.5 to 7 is $299).

The cost of Final Cut Pro X, purchased via the Mac App Store, is only $299.99. Motion 5 and Compressor 4 are both $49.99. Again you get to keep the software for as long as you like and so far all of the updates to FCPX have been free.

Adobe currently have two options available. Buy a suite of software like Production Premium CS6 for $1899 or move to the Creative Cloud versions for $49.99 a month. With Adobe CC you’ve got access to every single Adobe application plus 2GB of online storage. So, how does that shake out in the long run?

If you bought Production Premium CS 6 and kept it for 3 years it would cost you $1899. $49.99 a month for three years is $1,799.64.

If you only want one application like After Effects CS6 ($999), Photoshop CS6 ($699) or Premiere Pro CS6 ($799) as a single app CC rental ($19.99/month) after three years that would be $719.64.

What you get in the cloud

In product development terms even three years is a long time. So if Adobe does not increase their monthly prices, and this quote from VP of Professional Business in Adobe’s Digital Media Business Unit Mala Sharma seems to try to allay those fears, then moving to the Cloud could save you a few bucks and keep you up to date. But Adobe’s Creative Clous is still more expensive than either of the other two competing video editing options (though not a fair direct comparison when you consider the number of applications involved).

“My only rational response to that is that we can’t [push up prices]… It’s in our best interests to win our customers’ trust – as every month they’re going to be choosing whether they want to stay engaged with us or not. We have never been more vulnerable, in my opinion, than in [moving to a subscription model]. It’s a really big bet.” 

Common opinions

The Internet is awash with opinions on whether or not to move to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, just check out the number of comments each of these articles has generated. Oliver Peters, who’s usually right on the money, offer this cautious recommendation:

My suggestion for most users in similar shoes would be to buy one of the CS6 bundles now as a perpetual license.  This gives you a fallback position. Then if you want to move forward with the Cloud, run the numbers. If you are a power user of Photoshop, Premiere Pro or After Effects and want to have the latest version of that one application, simply buy a single-application subscription. If you use three or more applications on a regular basis and want those all to be current, then the full Creative Cloud subscription makes sense. You still have the CS6 versions if needed, as long as you’ve maintain backwards project compatibility. – Oliver Peters

Aharon Rabinowitz has written a couple of excellent blog posts that cover his opinions, interactions with Adobe and his readers thoughts in quite some detail. It’s worth reading through the blog posts (if not all the comments) as Aharon covers quite a few of the common concerns creatives are raising. Aharon on Creative Cloud Part 1 and Part 2. Jahron Schneider from Fstoppers also walks through the Adobe Creative Cloud maze and comes out in favor of it:

 If the software and delivery of that software makes your life easier, it’s a good thing right? That’s what you should focus on when contemplating the Creative Cloud, because it does make your life easier. I’m comfortable saying that the Creative Cloud is better for Adobe and better for the consumers. It’s a great service, and one I’ll continue to use.

For a short video tutorial of the major new features in Adobe CC and a few extra thoughts on the future of FCPX, check out this post NAB 2013 comparison between FCPX and Adobe CC. Also take a look at Strypes in Post’s great article explaining some of the similarities and differences between the three big NLE’s.

choosing your next NLE

What about the future of Final Cut Pro X?

A lot of pros still claim FCPX is unusable, and although the Coen Brothers might be moving to Premiere for their next feature, plenty of other folks are cutting 4K feature films in FCPX. Apple are working hard to frequently update FCPX, and with the growth of third party apps more and more ‘one man band’ operations are embracing the affordable app. One of the people who has shared their FCPX workflow in detail is Sam Mestman. If you want to see FCPX with fresh eyes, check out Sam’s presentation below.

Again, Oliver Peter’s has offers good considerations when choosing your next NLE, like what kind of hardware and OS would you be best advised to run it on, workflow considerations and how each app feels under your fingers.

As a quick nod to Avid Media Composer 7 you can check out the official MC7 site listing all the new features from Avid here and also this quick round up from NAB 2013.

new features in avid media composer 7

As the FCPX launch proved, things in this industry can change quickly and dramatically. So, as a freelance film editor like myself, knowing every system well has distinct advantages. If you’re a one man band, or small post house you’ll want to choose a video editing application and stick with it for a few years.

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  • robocop

    I wonder why you didn’t mention Sony Vegas Pro? http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/vegaspro

    Here’s an interesting article from Dave Dugdale about video editing NLE market share:
    http://www.learningdslrvideo.com/nle-market-share-breakdown/

    As you can see, many professionals use Vegas Pro ;)
    I think its a bit underestimated among pro video community :(

    I also use it and in conjunction with Vegasaur toolkit it is an unbeatable solution for “one man band” studios :)

    Thanks!

    • http://www.expnowhere.com/ Mr.B

      Because Sony Vegas is not compatible with Apple platform

    • Eric

      Also because Sony Vegas is primarily used in the classic videography market, i.e. wedding and corporate work and hasn’t made major inroads to television and feature film or long form doc production.

  • Another Substance

    Many “updates” don’t really add that much that you probably can’t figure out a way to do with a version or two before… but when “versions” change, then that’s usually a big deal. Adobe going to “CS” or Sonar going to “X1″ come to mind.

    Sonar X3 is light years ahead of their last “pre-X series” release.

  • zaplwo

    so at the end which one is better Premier or Final Cut Pro???????, Avid is out of my list as it errors way to often and is annoying (or at least the trial does that) i have a bundle of CS6 but it doesn’t include Premier and i have Final Cut Pro, i am trying to decide if i should get Premier or is not necessary as i already have FCP.

    • http://www.jonnyelwyn.co.uk/ Jonny Elwyn

      I would say if you’ve used FCP7 then Premiere Pro CC is a logical next step as they operate in a very similar fashion. FCPX is quite different compared to FCP7.
      That said, on a price comparison FCPX is cheaper. But with Premiere Pro you could pay the monthly fee for the FULL suite of Adobe applications. So it just depends what your needs are.

      BUT basically, Premiere will feel the most similar to FCP7.

  • Brandon

    What you’ve left out in this article is that whatever platform an editor is on or what software s/he is using to edit, you’ll probably still want (maybe need) Adobe Photoshop. Same with Adobe After Effects. Factor in Dynamic Link and how well the entire Adobe Suite works together, and it’s an obvious answer. Go with Adobe. Adobe Premiere Pro CC is very strong, and constant free updates and new features are certainly a nice touch. (Having Dreamweaver and InDesign and Illustrator and everything else they make just thrown in as part of the deal is nice, even if it will be a while before I get to learn them.)

    • lin2log

      Wow… the “Dynamic Link” argument is just SO stupid, since even though I have it, I near NEVER USE IT because it is SLOW and BUGGY, therefore *USELESS*. And rarely does anyone (with a clue) that I know use it for the exact same reasons.

      The integration of FCP X and Motion may not be as tight (in *theory*), but it certainly is exponentially FASTER. So thanks, at this point I think I’ll stick with that.

  • eric

    is this even a proffesstional software on editing video?

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