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Why I'm Scared of FCPX

Learning Tools

According to the California Department of Education, students should have learned basic word-processing by the 6th grade (P.34). The reason is "reading, writing, listening, and speaking are related processes." In other words, in order to learn how to speak, a student must learn to listen as well. Very humbly, I'd like to add one more skill to require students to learn: how to watch.

Childish Editing Tools

I think it's fair to say at this point that over the next ten years,  as early as middle school children will be expected to know how to edit video, at least in some simple form. It is similar to the way they are expected to know MS Word, Power Point, and Google Docs. We're a long way from my days of poster-board and scotch tape. By high school knowing how to use FTP file sharing, blogging, and basic web development will be as commonplace as knowing your way around a TI-83 calculator.

This seemingly vast democratization, encouraged by simpler user interfaces like FCP-X, has laid siege upon the post production industry.  But upon a closer look, one can see that this has been going on for a long time. Here are a couple did you know's:

YouTube Video Editor Picture

Did you know: YouTube introduced the "Video Editor" sometime in the summer of 2010 (best I could find for the date). It's free, simple, and cloud-based. In other words, all your footage is stored on Google's server and all your editing is done using the browser application. It could not be simpler to edit a video using this tool.

Did you know: At NAB another former competitor of Apple and Avid changed its niche; Editshare purchased Lightworks and open sourced its editing application.

 Lightworks Free Open Source

So why would a "democratized user interface" be significant to the post production industry? Because its scares us.  Because the film that took home Best Picture at the 2011 Oscars was The King's Speech, which was edited on a Lightworks.  At the price of free, Lightworks has no exclusivity. Here are a few other titles you might be familiar with which were also edited on Lightworks before it became free: Shutter Island, The Departed, Braveheart and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

What Is My Value As An Editor?

The point is that producers still need the story teller. The tools alone do not write the book, edit the movie, or present the presentation. However, and this is a big however, technology doesn’t feel emotional pain when it becomes obsolete, but people do. I've read a lot of blog posts on FCP-X telling people to suck it up and embrace the inevitable. But to be honest, I was terrified. Terrified that I had spent $30K on an education that lasted 5 years, terrified that my job had vanished in a blink, and terrified that a whole new crop of people would be competing with me.

I've embraced the inevitable. Saying you can stop the inevitable is like saying you can hold your arms out and stop the wind.  Of course I'll adapt and be fine. Still, this was the first time in my life that one of the industry's standard editing systems has switched. We probably all know editors to whom this has happened 5-10 times or more, and often with many less cross-platform skills (film editing to computer NLE for example). I know that many of my fears are overblown and that the competition for jobs I would actually want is still the same, and that I will gain some advantage over the new bunch by already being an expert on the previous platform. Mostly though, as a young man of 28, I have for the first time no immediate joy of getting a new toy, but rather the fear of a skill devalued and a new skill to learn.


  • Brian Klein

    I would suggest that your $30,000 education was spent learning about why and where to make cuts, not how. 10 years from now, Apple will come out with FCP-whatever, but storytelling will still be the same. What’s great about technological advancements is that you can create these stories better and faster than in the past. So learn the tools you need to learn, but emphasize learning to tell stories about all else. That’s what will differentiate you from the high school FCPX wiz. Knowing how to use a tool does not a master make.

  • Eric Wise

    Geez, ’King’s Speech’ was edited on Lightworks? AND Shutter Island? Doh! Am I gonna have to learn yet another NLE? Ugh. Well, I’ve met those guys – their a nice bunch of folks and they may be on to something if they can only get Lightworks onto the Mac platform. We’ll see…

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