Post Production

Are you, as an editor, defined by the NLE that you use?

I’d rather be known as a storyteller than a button-pusher

Are you defined by the NLE you use? If you answered no to that question you can probably stop reading now but if you answered yes then read on. If yes I would ask why? Are you an Avid Editor or a storyteller? Are you an FCPX editor or a craftsman of the moving image. There are still those that define themselves by the tools they use.

editor icons

There’s a lot of editing choices out there and these aren’t nearly all of them. If you can use one you can probably figure out them all.

I think there are perfectly legitimate times for someone to ask what do you cut on? Or even more specifically do you know Premiere Pro? I like to think that in 2015 these questions are only asked when an editor is being hired by a post house or production company that has an existing infrastructure and workflow that they are fitting an editor into. If you’re a company producing reality shows on a tight turnaround with 50 Media Composer bays then you’re most likely not going to take the time to train an FCPX editor on Avid even if they are a great storyteller. You’re also not going to try an shoehorn a different tool into an existing and proven workflow.

The above tweet is a question worth discusssing. I think the answer is not nearly as much as an editor is defined by the NLE they use if that is how the editor chooses to market him or herself. There are some camera-owners who probably define themselves by their high-end gear but they are wanting to pay for that gear more than anything else since camera gear is a bit more expensive that NLEs these days. I’m sure there are some RED camera owners / DPs who define themselves as “RED-only” but that’s more due to the dedicated RED-following. In fact the whole question of is a DP defined by the camera they use? is more about have a person defines their job: Are they a Director of Photography or a Camera Operator?

The same might be said for a small production company that has built FCPX into their business model. If often doesn’t make sense for a production company that might consist of just a producer and director to try and keep multiple NLEs up and running when they have set up their own edit suite. It’s not hard to keep an editing system “up and running” these days but if you’re not working on these tools on a daily basis it can be challenging.

But what about the editor? More specifically the freelance editor who has to move from job to job, client to client. Should they be defined by their NLE?

I think most editors would say no. Many would take offense to being pigeon-holed into a narrow category of button-pusher on some big company’s software.

I don’t ever want to be identified as using only one NLE. I would never want a client to get my name passed along to them (after all freelancing in this game is a lot of word of mouth) and see me identified as an Avid Editor or because he knows Premiere really well. While we don’t want this to happen sometimes it still does. Television / film / video editor, creative offline editor or craft editor are all terms that much better to define what many of us do.

film nashvillle

My local production directory still has a listing for AVID Editors in addition to just Editors. There’s way more listing for just Editors.

I don’t understand why some editors today have a strong aversion to using any NLE out on the market. It’s true you won’t be as efficient on one tool as you might be on another if you’ve spent years using one tool only to be thrush into something different. But we are living in an time when all of the NLEs are affordable and all of the NLEs have free trials so there’s not really any reason not to be be at least familiar with them all other than an unwillingness to try. Avid is industry standard enough that everyone should spend some time on it if there’s even a remote possibility you might be called to cut on it. Adobe Premiere Pro CC is universal enough in its editing paradigm that if you know it well you can easily move laterally to any other NLE. Final Cut Pro X is indeed unique but at four years old, $300 and a real simplicity to it basic design any editor that works in a market where there is a chance to be called to cut on it should know it well enough to work on it and get paid. I’m sure one argument against knowing all the NLEs would be that there’s no chance I’ll ever get called to cut on NLE Y and that’s a fair enough argument as freelancers do evaluate their market and adjust their skills accordingly but I’m of the belief that knowing the world around you makes you better in your own world. I’ve convinced productions to let me cut on one NLE over the other because the strengths of a particular NLE benefits a particular job. That’s not possible if you only use one NLE.

This is an interesting phenomenon that cropped up in recent years. While you still get the diehard Avid curmudgeon who trashes FCPX without ever having really used it there’s also a gallery of FCPX users who totally define themselves by that tool. I belong to a private Facebook group of FCPX users and there are some unbelievably smart and talented editors in there using FCPX in some very professional workflows on big, impressive projects. But I’ve been surprised how much NLE bashing happens in that group. There’s a lot of time and energy spent writing posts and creating videos that serve no other purpose than to bash other NLEs. It’s possible some of these people feel that strongly about their tool of choice and want to tell the world (but they are doing it in a closed group, preaching to the choir if you will) but it’s also possible that they don’t have any work to do.

I mention this closed Facebook group only because this NLE bashing isn’t something I’ve seen in other closed groups dedicated to other NLEs. Those groups and mailing lists are mostly (I said … mostly) users helping others learn their tools and techniques better as well as discussion around that NLE and the company that makes it. Early in FCPX’s life there certainly was a lot of saber rattling upon its introduction. Much of that revolved around the death of FCP7 and while there’s still those very vocal FCPX critics much of that has subsided. There will always be those very vocal critics of every tool out there any they will never be silenced. Adobe Premiere Pro seems to have the most level headed followers with much less NLE-hate than its competitors. The most impassioned discussions around PPro seem to be not whether it should be used or not but why does it still crash as often as it does.

What’s the point of this article? Nothing really, just some thoughts I was having after an a few hours back and forth on twitter about this very subject. It’s fine to have strong opinions about the tools you use, in fact I think that’s a good thing as it helps you know those tools better. As one who works hard to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the different NLEs I learned many years ago they are have very good things and very bad things about how they work. If someone ever begins an impassioned rant about how bad any of the other NLEs are its okay to ignore what they have to say as they don’t know what they are talking about. If you want to engage them for your own amusement, that’s another thing.


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PVC Staff
Scott Simmons was born in rural West Tennessee and didn't really realize that movies and tv had to be made by actual people until he went to college. After getting degrees in both Television Production…

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