FCP X: The Hangover 04/13/11
By now you’ve probably digested a lot of information about the new version of Final Cut Pro that’s slated for a June release. I was one of the lucky 1,400 (1,700 by some counts) on hand for the unveiling at the 10th annual SuperMeet at NAB in Vegas. Walter Biscardi, Scott Simmons and Larry Jordan all have great posts on the unveiling. There’s even video of the presentation if you weren’t lucky enough to make it.
The details of the new release has been greeted with a lot of enthusiasm for ground-breaking features and updates that have been a long time in coming. But the mind-boggling price of $299 has created a new wave of anxiety in the Twittersphere among some pro editors. They are worried about the possibility of a huge uptick in the editor talent pool and a decrease in rates:
- @marcusedit: It’ll be interesting to see what the biz implications are for #FCPX.
- @chrisWhite: I’m really not sold on this $299 price point, that has the potential to cause a lot of problems in the long run.
- iamchristopherh: what?!?! $299. everyone is an “editor” now. #FCPX
Not everybody feels this way though (me included):
- @ShotsAndCuts: Bring on the everyman editor – better cheaper tools for all, just leave us the means to make it great #FCPx
- @Dr0id: I do appreciate that, @ that price point, the ‘skill’ of editing will have to be about storytelling again not being a software elitist
- @paulzadie: The tool doesn’t make the editor. They could give it away for free, and talent will still win every time.
- @glenmontgomery: Everyone has a pen and paper but they are not all writers. There will always be need for editors, just harder to separate ourselves.
At $299, Apple’s dominance in the NLE market will increase exponentially. That probably means there will be even more “hobbyist” editors (with low rates) that the pros will have to compete with. It will also further fuel the debate on how our talent has been commoditized. At the Pre-NAB discussion panel held by Alpha Dogs and the Editor’s Lounge, there was a lot of agonizing over this trend.
Steve Cohen, Hollywood editor and author of Avid Agility says commoditization “is the darkside of the democratization of technology”. Moderator and assoc. editor of Creative Cow Debra Kaufman, agreed saying “once media has become a commodity it’s (sold) to the cheapest bidder”. Terry Curren, owner of Alpha Dogs Editorial, was even more pessimistic saying, “the asst-editing job is going to move (to India and China) once cloud based editing becomes a reality”. But Debra also thinks that new business models will arrive (as they always eventually do) that will give the industry a way forward. In the meantime, says Mark Raudonis of Bunim/Murray productions, “the traditional sense of editors editing as we know it…is over. I think you have to think beyond what you’re seeing in front of you…and think beyond a single screen”.
I will take it a step further and say that not only do we editors need to start thinking beyond the screen, we need to start thinking beyond the platforms. Although it’s been said many times before, there needs to be more importance placed on craft – on all levels of editorial. You know – I get it. I get why it’s often easier to talk about tools instead of talent. Tools are concrete and easier to quantify and analyze. Talent is amorphous, subjective and elusive. Just ask Lorne Michaels. But the degree to which editors can differentiate themselves from the pack is the degree to which they will thrive, not just survive. So it’s important to examine your creative approach and your creative value.
They are many ways to think about your skillset beyond mere button-pushing. And there are things that you can do today, right now in fact, that will help you explore and define this. One of those things is by cataloging your creativity. A great method for doing this is detailed in my hack Creating a Personalpedia of Your Editing Techniques. Wiki creation has become so simple nowadays anyone can set one up in minutes. Whatever software you use, it should be structured in any way that makes sense to you.
The personalpoedia in my example is divided into 3 sections:
- Keyboard Shortcuts
- Step-By-Step Instructions
The Bag-O-Tricks section is the place for detailing the procedures of your creative techniques. As you’ll see for the Treated frozen video effect, I show in detail how I used several apps to pull off one of my signature looks. This process of pulling your creative process out of the ether and putting it in black and white is an illuminating exercise. As you begin to document your creativity you begin to understand the unique ways you use editing tools. As more of your techniques are documented, over time a picture emerges of your editorial style. As this become more clear to you, it starts to become easier to tell potential clients in cover letters or phone conversations what you bring to the table. In other words, you quantify your experience and justify your rate. Of course, you should continue doing the tried and true things. Document praise from past clients, keep up with the latest news effecting content creation and always keep getting better at using the tools.
This release of FCP X may well go down as an inflection point for post-production. In fact, I almost called this post FCP X: Fight or Flight. Will we fight for out rates and our livelihood? Or will we retreat in the “race to the bottom”? A downward trend of budgets, time and quality. Let’s take stock of our feature set with as much scrutiny as we do for Final Cut Pro X and by doing so realize that our value is greater than a few hundred bucks.