Avid is still king, and its users need to take a laxative

Recently, I saw an article posted on how a news station in Detroit is using Final Cut Pro X as its house editing system. A proponent commented about some of FCPX’s genuinely professional features that supported that shift, and a long-time Avid user commented underneath:

“Sounds like more bad FCP ideas like drag & drop mousey smart tool BS. Enough with the geeks reinventing the wheel. Editing is old school. Bins, Source Side, Record Side, in + out = Cut. Please stop trying to teach us old dogs new tricks. The kids can be happy with their advanced iMovie, leave us pros be.”

This photo is believed to be the very first Avid editor.
This photo is believed to be the very first Avid editor.

Yep, full-on Avid snobbery.

Cue the FCPX evangelists: See? What did we tell you?!? SEE HOW LAME AND STUPID AVID SNOBS ARE??? SEE??!??!?

Well, there’s a reason that the stereotype of the “Avid Snob” is so long lasting – because it’s so often completely true. Avid snobs are so often convinced of Avid being the only way… because they can’t stand the thought of learning new tools. And changing the way they do things, God forbid. (Full disclosure: while I do have an ancient version of FCP on my laptop, I cut on Avid for virtually anything I’m paid to edit.)

But I regularly see ill-informed comments online declaring that Avid is dead, it’s dying, etc. If you’re working on independent, self-contained projects, it’s certainly easy to feel that way.

People constantly ask me, “Jeff, which editing platform should I learn?” The answer: it depends on what you want. If you’re doing your own stuff or working with individual clients, use anything you want. Seriously, all the usual suspect platforms are equally capable. What’s “good” or “better” is totally subjective and up to you.

Now, speaking to a select segment of storytellers who aspire to make their living in broadcast tv or film that actually pays in real money, not IOUs and cold pizza (I’ve been there and it gets really old)… you are actively shooting yourself in the foot if you want to cut this stuff regularly for pay and refuse to learn Avid. Certainly if you have any desire to do so in LA or NYC. (Many Power Edit friends don’t live in the US, so I’ll stick to what I know first hand.)

Because from my direct career experience in Hollywood and continuing monitoring of industry chatter, the OVERWHELMING majority of anything you see on network or cable TV or in wide-release theaters in the US (again, I won’t speak to non-US markets) is cut on some sort of Avid system. I’d personally estimate 80%. This is changing (going down) and will continue to change as users of Final Cut and Premiere keep trailblazing. (In Los Angeles, Premiere currently comes in 2nd after Avid, mainly because LA freelance editors HATE Final Cut Pro X. Did I say “hate”? I meant “despise.”)

But for the moment, to those of you who are learning to edit and aspire to cut high profile projects for a living: I assure you, you are actively damaging your chances for success if you don’t know Avid. Period.

And don’t try to trot out all the features that the other platforms can do better than Avid. This is not about feature sets. This is not a logical thing, it’s about established precedent and wildly irrational emotions – the stubborn refusal of tv/film professionals to change their ways.

Even if a jaw-dropping number of them are in need of a personal box of Ex-Lax.

I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t point out that tools are far from the most important thing when it comes to editing projects that grabs your audience by the throat – you gotta know how to use the tools.

And even if you already knew how to use them, what if you had access to a way to use them more powerfully and effectively?

Here’s how to make that happen, whether you’re a “trailblazer” OR a “constipated sheep.”

11 thoughts on “Avid is still king, and its users need to take a laxative”

  1. I agree with everything Jeff said. I do a couple of high profile projects a year. The rest are “for hire” jobs for clients like Kaiser and Amgen. My clients don’t care what I edit on, as long as the job looks good. With respect to the broadcast jobs, I still edit in FCP. After my clients sign off on the final edit, I go to their “on line” facility with my little .mov file. In the old days, (5 years ago), they would go into a panic because their Avid systems could not read my file, but that’s a thing of the past. Now, they bring it in, we lay in the graphics, do some color correcting and voila, we’re done. They are now very comfortable with .mov files. I have looked over the shoulders of enough Avid editors to know that I could learn the software, if I had to, but as yet, I’ve not been required to do so. I’m known as a “preditor” producer/editor, so most of the time, i’m not working within an infrastructure. The reason I like FCP is that over the years, I have created a little bag of tricks, plugins, third party content, etc. that I feel very comfortable with. Some of my clients like cheesy flash, and I’m happy to give it to them, if that’s what they want.
    Bottom line, find your comfor zone. If you’re new to editing, it’s probably a good idea to learn Avid. However, if you don’t know Avid, don’t worry. If you can deliver the goods, there’s always a workaround.

    1. You raise a very good point, Quinn. Things usually boil down to what’s necessary and what the client/decision-makers want.

      Ironically, my having forced myself to learn FCP some years ago helped me land multiple gigs since – I was cutting at a production company with 25 edit bays, and I was the only editor at that company who knew Final Cut! I ended up cutting a pilot on FCP that got picked up for series by CMT.

      So knowing that extra editing platform has helped me – yet the main reason has been because SO MANY other editors in LA don’t know anything other than Avid. It’s a seriously entrenched tool here.

  2. I think the next generation of TV editors will use Premiere.

    Celluloid editors kept cutting film for years – and Avid editors have the advantage that they can keep cutting using Media Composer on computers that most will use Premiere on.

  3. A lot depends on who is supplying the tools. If you are editing on your own gear, pick your favorite program. If you are being hired to work at a facility on their tools, you need to be facile with those programs. If you want to make a living as a freelance editor, learn ‘me all!

  4. I’m so happy we’re having this discussion. It means there is competition in the field of editing technology. There is so much room for improvement. Apple was courageous enough to dump the old concept and take off in a new direction. That has created change at Adobe and Avid. I happen to like change and innovation. It keeps me interested.

  5. I use FCE and FCP in my day job. I have never touched FCX, but only because I’ve never had the opportunity.

    I’m just starting to work at home, on a souped-up PC. Premiere kept crashing and I had to even surgically remove some startup file to get it to work. I dumped it. So, I’m using both AVID and LightWorks, depending on the job and what I feel like at the moment. I’m learning fast, because for anything I don’t know how to do, someone posted a video online on how to do it. Isn’t the internet great?

    My wish is that AVID would start up as quickly as LightWorks, and that AVID would clean up and modernize its interface. I have no issue with how it functions, I’m nit-picking about aesthetics, icon images, fonts, and even how it handles my multiple monitor setup. Lightworks does that better, by the way. I know I have the latest version, but it feels like I’m working with software from 15 years ago. Making those improvements, which are really just superficial, will help AVID keep its place and make it more attractive to young editors coming up.

  6. Lol–Just to throw in a wrench no one ever expected for some laughs, and some “hmm, never thought of that”s… I’m one of two full-time video editors part of a 5-person global communications department in Miami. We produce, shoot, and edit everything from bumpers to promos to music videos, stories, interviews, etc., and this is our post workflow: Edit and sound mastering in Sony Vegas, then graphics, effects, color correcting, and finishing in Adobe After Effects. …………..crickets ………. Enjoy the absurdity! 😉

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