OK, I will try NOT to make this a post comparing FCP to Avid…which is better…blah blah blah. They are tools…they get the job done…and I like both. I just wanted to point out a few things I like and dislike about both. The point? I dunno…do show the strengths and weaknesses of both I suppose. And also to tell people that I am NOT JUST A FCP EDITOR. Sure, I am on like five Final Cut Pro forums regularly…and NOT ONE Avid forum. That doesn’t mean…well, OK, it does. I like and prefer FCP now. So there….I said it. THPHTHPHTHPHTHPH!!

BUT STILL…I’d like to mention a few things I missed about cutting on an Avid.

I had a quick taste back in April. I was flown to Seattle to do the rough cut of a small project as a favor to my step-father, because the director passed away suddenly. The school (University of Washington) happened to teach and use Avids…Adrenalines. So I struggled my way thru a rough cut…not really having time to familiarize myself with the machine before I finished the rough cut and had to return to *cough* *hack* Los Angeles. But now I have landed a long term gig editing on an Avid…and I have been on an Avid for about a month. I am working on a Discovery Channel series on surgical doctors saving lives. My episode deals with a trauma center in Miami. ANYWAY…back to the point. After a two year hiatus editing on FCP…in my home…I am now back to editing on an Avid. NOW…I do need to mention that this Avid is…a tad old. It is an Avid Meridian v11…running on *cough* OS 9 *cough*. But I also need to mention that this is the version of Avid that I am most familiar. I started out on Avid Media Composter 5.5…assisted mainly with Avid 6.0 and 7. Then when I moved up to editor, I landed on a Meridian v11…utilizing UNITY.

And that is where I find myself now…in front of an Avid on Unity. The exact same system I edited on for 3 years before I moved to FCP.

But, why are they using such an OLD machine you ask? Well, I did at first, but then remembered something. One of my many many mantras. If it works, don’t fix it. This Avid not only works, but work as a part of a well oiled workflow that Hollywood is still firmly entrenched in. We offline at 20:1…then can either take the project file to a Symphony where it would be opened, recaptured and output to tape, where it is then color corrected on a DaVinci. An OMF is sent to the sound mixer where he sweetens the show then lays off to the color corrected master. That system has been in place for QUITE a while, and since it works for our given situation…for the type of footage we are editing…there is no need to change it.

And we are on a UNITY. Again, a system that works and works well. Sharing projects and media…nearly flawlessly. Every system has its quirks. And this one does appear to have more than its fair share of issues…more than usual. And the techs are switching it out for a newer model.

Since this older system works, the production has not needed to move to more expensive Avids. They are getting their money’s worth out of this system…as much as they can. And why not? They did invest about $65,000 per system (5 systems) and MORE on the Unity, and MORE on the per seat license…and tech support. So they are going to use it until it dies, or the workflow changes making it not a viable option.

Well gee Shane, if you like it so much, why don’t you MARRY IT? Huh?

One reason is that, well, it is cheaper than an Avid (And who doesn’t like a cheap date on occasion?). Every single Avid editor I know has FCP on their home system. Why? Well, we all edit side projects…short films, corporate videos, commercials, music videos….And most of us cannot afford an Avid. And the days of asking to use the company Avid for these projects, or sneaking in and using it at night (when you could…darn assistants trying to get work done)…are pretty much over. So I had a copy and used it on side projects.

But the main reason I switched to Final Cut Pro for a broadcast show was…well…HD. I was working on an HD show for National Geographic (a series of 9 shows on THE SCIENCE OF THE BIBLE)…shot with the Varicam, 720p. And we used the Avid Meridians and onlined on Avid Adrenalines…and…well. It wasn’t a smooth ride. Post went WAY over budget because of many factors…basically the system was having issues capturing DVCPRO HD and outputting an HDCAM master, and the people involved were inexperienced in what to do. So when a DVCPRO HD project came my way…I looked at FCP, which had been editing that format for a year or more at the time. And after some research, and testing…it worked great, so I made the leap.

WOW…and now this post is getting HUGE, and I haven’t gotten to my likes and dislikes yet. Better get there now. You can take a break and read more later. I’ll understand.

First thing I noticed…RIGHT OFF THE BAT. Moving clips around the timeline is clumsy at best. I am so use to dragging clips all over the place and rearranging things. Like index cards on a table. Flip flip flip swish swish, assemble assemble…done. And the “TTTT” combo was my friend. I get onto an Avid and this is TEDIOUS. First I have to click a button to ACCESS the arrow that allows me to move things, then I have to highlight my clips (or I can drag from the upper left down and draw a box around the clips I want) and then move. And I’d BETTER get the black space in between them, or there’ll be hell to pay. I needed to make space in the middle of a cut to place some clips. With FCP, I grab and move them, or hit TTTT and move everything down the timeline…well, not so with the Avid. I had to load FILLER and drop it in…ooop, cut my audio in half as it was under the video…ok, rejoin that, then up arrow to get back to my nearest clip…no..I just switched my multiclip shot from the A camera to the B camera. GAH!

I was very lost my first week on the thing. It was VERY clear that my FCP techniques weren’t gonna work. I had to shove FCP into the recesses of my mind, and root in the filing cabinet for my Avid skills. Ah, there they are. PHooo! Dusty. Cough cough.

OK…now…dynamic trimming…hey! I remember this. Cool. And subclipping. Wow, I missed that…rock solid, linked to the master clip that then opens the master bin the clip is in! SWEET! OK, two camera angles, GROUP clip those. playing in the timeline I just press DOWN ARROW and a cut point appears and the B camera is there. NICE. OK, I want to add a paint effect, LIGHTEN, to go from white to normal. I can drop this on the layer above…in the EMPTY space…and make that. OK, I need to animatte around this face to blur it. ANIMATTE! Man how I missed you. How ya doin’? And the kids? They healthy and having fun? Good….man, I missed you Matte…

Ahem…sorry. It is late.

My editing chops came back…and so did a lot of my favorite tools. Animatte, LOCATORS that work right (move with the timeline if I cut in a clip earlier in the timeline), a Viewer that REMAINS ACTIVE after I cut something into the timeline (yes yes, I found that workaround in FCP….go away kid, you bother me), putting effects in the layer above to affect everything below globally. Great media management…THE CLIPBOARD. Ahh…my trusty clipboard. Sigh.

OK…enough. Now to what I MISS on FCP. Things that made me go “what the?” when trying to cut on an Avid.

-AUDIO IN THE VIEWER (Preview Monitor, pardon me) IS BLACK. No waveform…no way to LOOK at your audio and see beats. Gah…that sucks.
-scrolling on the timeline is GLACIAL. Slower than slow. I had to basically zoom out, then find a spot, and zoom in. Not bad after you get used to it
-I have to OPEN THE BINS to see what is inside. And that is slow. I can’t just turn the triangle down for a quick glance. So this REALLY slows me down. It is due to the fact that each bin is a separate file in the Avid Project itself on the FINDER level. Smart in some ways, not in others. This is really slowing me down.
-MEDIA OFFLINE. Not the fact that it is offline, but THAT I CANNOT TELL it is offline until I look at the clip. Or in the case of audio, listen to it and hear nothing. FCP does a great thing by putting that RED SLASH thru the clip. And brings up the fact that FILES ARE MISSING when you launch the application. Avid doesn’t do this. Nope. It just isn’t there, and you open the clip and MEDIA OFFLINE. Or in the case of audio..you still see black, but it doesn’t play. Now, in the TIMELINE you can make it obvious what is offline…there is a setting to make offline clips RED. This is VERY helpful when onlining a show so you can see what is still missing and needs to be captured/imported. But I had audio and picture…a LOT of audio and video…go offline and I didn’t know until I looked for it. Then there was a call to the Avid tech (because hey, it has been a while, OK?) to fix it while I go play ping pong with my producer. And lose in GLORIOUS fashion.

Did I mention there is a ping pong table at work in the main bullpen? No? Well, there is, and I am the WORST player. to be fair I am the newest employee…but still…it hurts a little. Mainly because it appears I am getting WORSE. Ah well, to be around other people is nice for a change. Working at home has benefits, but to hang with people over the age of 9…and other GUYS (I am flush with daughters…and one wife)…that is nice.

OK…I have rambled enough. The point I wanted to make is that Avid is a tool. It does what I need…no matter how old it is. And FCP is a tool. They are both good tools for a freelancer in L.A. to have knowledge of. Avid is alive and kicking, and FCP is making lots of inroads. They both are good, and they both SUCK…depending on the situation. And it is very odd to edit with both in the same day (Avid by day, FCP side project at night). Lots of gears shifting.

Sorry for the long post. This is what happens when I don’t post for a while and save it all up (in a Word document) and spit it out at 2 in the A.M.