Post Production

Which non-linear editing application should a graduating high school senior be certified for?

This is a tough question with many opinions on the correct answer. When asked I answer Adobe Premiere Pro. Here’s why.

There was a tweet the other day asking an interesting question about non-linear editing certification for a graduating high school senior and which NLE certification would be most valuable. There is even a poll being taken.

We can put the debate of “certification” aside for this discussion and exactly how valuable that really is (most professional editors will tell you they have never been asked if they are certified when hired for a job) and focus on the question asked:

Which NLE below is most valuable cert for a grad HS senior?

As you can see in the poll above those NLEs listed were Final Cut Pro X, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, and DaVinci Resolve. I don’t know who beingUS is and why they didn’t actually get the NLE names right for their poll but let’s forget that too. At least the got the ‘e’ on Premiere. And I wouldn’t take the results of a Twitter poll as gospel either if you’re deciding which app to certify your students with. In fact, Final Cut Pro X would be the last of these four NLEs that I would pick for certification. The important part of this discussion is what will be of most value to the student both from a learning perspective and what will benefit them after leaving school. Despite what that poll (currently) says I don’t think FCPX is the answer because it functions so differently from every other NLE and it’s less likely to be encountered in the open market.

There was some excellent discussion in regards to the answer among a number of twittering editors. This is a discussion I’ve had a few times before and already have opinions on it so instead of trying to talk it out in tweets here is my answer and the reasons why.

Which NLE is the most valuable certification for a graduating High School Senior? Adobe Premiere Pro

That is my short answer. What’s the reasoning? Read on below. If you have your own reasons or you think a different certification would be better for a graduating senior then please comment below.

Adobe Premiere Pro is a lateral move to any other NLE

The core concepts and functionality of Adobe Premiere Pro is very “middle of the road” when it comes to how to operate an NLE. While Final Cut Pro X is perhaps easier to learn overall the basics of ingest, cuts and dissolves, titles and export can be learned very quickly in Premiere as well. Once those basics of 3-point editing are established that very core concept is used in all NLEs whether you mark IN to OUT points or Start/End ranges.

Avid is definitely a more complex beast when it comes to ingest and export as well as handling media once it is in your project, both in the bins and in the timeline. Resolve is still new in the creative editing market and while it’s really good I think it has a steeper learning curve for a young mind thatn Premire. FCPX works in its own unique way across the board, and many of the core tool operation skills would have to be unlearned once a student is out in the world. Not a good position to be in if you’re looking for a job.

Premiere is also very powerful once you dig deep and can be tailored to many different ways of working.

In many markets, Adobe Premiere Pro is currently the most used NLE

This point is purely anecdotal but beyond being based on my experience working in a market outside of Hollywood, New York City and LA I’ve talked to a lot of editors and product vendors over the last couple of years about what NLE they see more of out in the market. That answer is almost always Adobe Premiere Pro. But it’s an answer that isn’t always 100% right and might vary depending on who you are talking to and what markets they are around. The 5 THINGS series: on The Truth About Video Editing Software in Hollywood tackles this question with another, very good opinion.

That above tweet reply sums it up well about Avid. If you want to work in features and broadcast tv, then Media Composer is the right choice. But that is still a niche market when you compare all the other types of media production out there these days. There are a lot of agencies, production companies, post houses, corporate marketing departments, directors in their bedrooms, producers in their garages, secretaries in their cubicles, etc., etc., etc., working on Adobe Premiere Pro. They often need help, and they often farm work out.

Why is that? I think a large part of it is that many entities have a subscription to the Creative Cloud, so there sits Adobe Premiere Pro when it comes time to make that social media video shot on an iPhone. A step beyond that is many departments who have researched which NLE to build their department around has found Adobe Premiere Pro to be very functional and incredibly powerful (and stable if you use it right). These departments have used Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign for years, so Premiere is a logical step.

And a few of them moved to PPro from Final Cut Pro 7 Classic … so there’s that too.

The cost of Creative Cloud might be paid by someone else

Since Adobe Premiere Pro is part of the monthly Creative Cloud subscription package that might mean students would have access to the entire CC suite of tools via their school’s licensing, so they don’t have to pay for it themselves. While there are educational discounts for the Creative Cloud if students are left to pay for it out of their (or their parent’s) own pockets, they might not be able to afford it.

Which brings me to my next reason:

Access to the entire Creative Cloud suite opens a world of possibilities

If students do have access to the Creative Cloud, then there is a possibility they can be exposed to a vital part of the media production world they might not otherwise get exposure to: motion graphics and audio.

Even a few beginner lessons through Adobe After Effects and Audio Audition can lay a foundation for the concepts and importance of motion graphic design and audio production. I’m not under any misconception that a class in AE and Audition will make a student an expert in either field, but neither will “certification” in an NLE make them an expert in editing. That only comes from years of experience.

But by having access to these powerful graphics and audio tools (After Effects is an industry standard while Audition can translate into a good understanding of ProTools), it can, hopefully, reinforce the importance of these skills when emphasized by the right teacher. It can also steer a student to dig deep into a more specialized skill that could be a career path should they take to it and love it.

And what else is in that Creative Cloud subscription they might not have to pay for? Print, design, web and a whole host of other applications that might whet the student’s appetite for other creative endeavors.

Back to cost … FCPX is cheap, and you can learn Media Composer for free. Resolve is free too.

If the educational institution carries the cost of a Creative Cloud subscription then that might make it easier for a student to find the necessary funds to purchase Final Cut Pro X. Apple offers a $200 Pro Apps Bundle for Education that includes all of their Pro Apps so a student could learn FCPX on their own time.

Better than $200 is the free Avid Media Composer | First which is a full-featured version of Media Composer for free. It’s an unbelievable value and any student who learns the ins and outs of Media Composer | First will be able to sit down in front of a full version of Avid and feel right at home. They can learn probably 75% of the buttons and features of Avid whether on Mac or PC.

DaVinci Resolve is also free for what is perhaps the single greatest value in all of media production. As far as basic editing goes Resolve functions similarly to Premiere so, again, that proper learning of PPro can be a lateral move elsewhere.

Young minds are ready to be filled with knowledge so if they have some access to Adobe Creative Cloud via their school they stay up all night with FCPX, Avid or Resolve and learn on their own with YouTube as their teacher. They might not learn things the right way on YouTube but they can certainly learn, for free. Or get a free Lynda subscription and learn even more.

Finally and most importantly …

Those storytelling chops will have to be learned elsewhere. No NLE certification is going to teach a student how to tell a good story, only how to push some buttons.


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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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Rakesh Malik

The two things that I’ve found most frustrating about film school taught “editors” is that they don’t understand storytelling or workflow. They cover neither of these in film school… and the result has quite often been a complete disaster when it comes to color grading and effects, and the color grading that these editors attempted was terrible (lots of highlight and gamut clipping in footage that didn’t have any clipping at all in the raw footage, for example). Film schools should focus on teaching editing and professionalism, which includes collaborating with directors (yes, seriously… one editor I worked has been… Read more »

Steve Hullfish
Steve Hullfish

This basically sums up how I feel about the whole poll. At this point, Premiere is probably the thing that makes the most sense to learn for reasons you stated that I agree with: It’s easier to move from Premiere to Avid than from FCPX to Avid, if you want to go “Hollywood.” It’s probably the most prevalent in professional circles (not counting Hollywood). And it’s probably the most stable financially and paradigm-wise through the life of a high school graduate graduating today. Avid has been on shakey financial ground for a while. Apple has OVER AND OVER again, dumped… Read more »

Steve Hullfish
Steve Hullfish

More about Resolve… From a TEACHING perspective, I’d have to put Resolve at the top of the list. It is great because it’s FREE and it is cross-platform. A student could have this at home to work on instead of being stuck in an AV lab on Premiere or Avid – though with Avid, you could easily have Avid First running. But for Resolve, it’s also about being able to easily show the entire LIFESPAN and WORKFLOW of a piece of video or film media. You see that the audio and the color and the VFX are all separate, but… Read more »

Shane Ross

When I was in high school (1984-88), I learned tape to tape editing…linear. When I was out in the real world, I learned Media 100, some Sony digital thing I can’t recall (some all-in-one unit)…and Avid. While Avid was mainly used in feature films and TV and news, at that time, many of them were cut in linear bays, or on actual film…on flatbeds…feature film style. Media 100 was huge in the non-broadcast market, corporate video, weddings, event video, training video. So what application you need to learn all depends on where you will end up. In today’s world, there… Read more »

Brian
Brian

I would imagine that it would be pretty hard to get a gig in “Hollywood” as an editor. There are so many independent film makers that are “not” in Hollywood making films. So it really does no matter in my opinion what you use because they all can be used to make a movie, even if you are editing in a basement Steve H.

Russ Bradbury
Russ Bradbury

Over here in the UK AVID at the top end, their networking and sharing capabilities are much better structured for large broadcast setups and of course with Protools this is the logical choice. Nearly everyone I am meeting seems to be using FCPX, there are 2 independent film makers living on my road who use it and most of the BBC people/other independents I know use it. Watched a couple of editors using it and it seems to be incredibly quick and if you take time to apply metadata you can become 100% organised, very quickly! DaVinci Resolve 15 is… Read more »

Ted Vandell
Ted Vandell

As someone who is charged with hiring creatives for video work, the answer is not which one they are certified on.
The most important thing is your reel.
If you can cut with one NLE, you can probably use all the rest.

Lou Hemsey

In my opinion, HS seniors should be fluent in at least two of the big four mentioned. I believe , by far, That DaVinci Resolve is the way to go along combined with either Avid or Premiere Pro if your destination is Hollywood film. If your destination is Hollywood TV, then Resolve and any of the other three. If your destination is outside of Hollywood in any other capacity, Resolve and either Premier Pro CC or FCPX. There is no question, that Resolve has the steepest learning curve followed by Avid and then Premiere and FCPX. However, currently, Resolve is… Read more »