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Alternatives to Creative Cloud Apps

September 8, 2014 Tags: , , , ,
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Sam here…

So… just in case you hate being locked into a subscription/rental model, here’s a list of alternatives to Creative Cloud apps you can use to move away if you find that you want to.

For the record, from the list of the Apps in the chart below, the ones I use in my day to day are: FCPX ($299.99), Motion ($49.99), Compressor ($49.99), Davinci Resolve (free for lite/$1000 for paid), Pixelmator ($29.99), and Logic Pro X ($199.99). All are available on the Mac App Store.

A late addition to the list but still something we love for quick and awesome looking design is Canva.

For the high end jobs I do, when I send off an edit for sound design or VFX, the pros I’m collaborating with are typically using Nuke or Pro Tools… However, I’m not going to count those in the following price comparison, as I don’t use them in my day-to-day and have never needed to buy them.

  • Anyway, here’s the total cost to buy the Apps I use in my day to day as an editor/colorist (using the Lite Version of Resolve):

    About $630

  • Number of computers I can install these Apps onto from the same Apple ID:


  • Total cost to rent the Cloud for 3 years, which is what I would consider the typical paid upgrade cycle for software to be:

    About $1800

  • Number of Computers I can install the Creative Cloud on before I have to start deactivating machines:


Not only that, but even if I count updating to the paid version of Resolve ($1000), things would still be cheaper than they would be with a paid license from the Cloud over that 3 year cycle.

Alternatives to Creative CloudIn my humble opinion, one system feels like it’s providing a lot more value and flexibility than the other. With the Apps I’m using (all of which are on the App Store), I’ve never had to pay for an upgrade since I bought them, and I’ve never had a problem with a download or had my access to an App I’ve already installed affected by a cloud service outage or for not making a payment (as many Creative Cloud users have experienced).

Also, I’m only paying for Apps I use, whereas with the Cloud model, I’m either locked into single App rental pricing (which at $9.99 for Photoshop or $19.99/month for other Apps is still going to be more expensive over three years than the most expensive App I’ve listed), or I’m going to have to get the whole suite of Apps, most of which aren’t going to be my first choice for the work that i do.

"For an editor/colorist like me, especially one who is not a After Effects/motion GFX centric user, I simply just don’t have a need for the cloud at all."Sam Mestman

In fact, out of the whole suite of what I consider to be the “creative apps”, I’d only really rate After Effects, Illustrator, and Photoshop/Lightroom as the industry leaders in their respective categories… and for most editors, Motion and Pixelmator are more than suitable replacements for the type of things they’re typically asked to do by clients. For an editor/colorist like me, especially one who is not a After Effects/motion GFX centric user, I simply just don’t have a need for the cloud at all.

I’m not writing this to get anyone upset or to attack the Adobe suite of products. I actually happen to like a lot of what they’re doing and would be a Premiere user if I wasn’t cutting with FCPX… but I’m not a fan of the Cloud model, and I don’t think it offers a lot of value for users, in general.

So… without further ado, please take a look at the chart below if you’ve been looking for alternatives to Creative Cloud Apps, and let me know in the comments if you think I’m missing anything or there are other apps you’d recommend over the ones I’ve listed:

Alternatives to Creative Cloud Apps

Creative Cloud App Alternative App Price Link Worth Looking At Comments
$24.99 (Mac App Store) Duke Review of iDraw as Illustrator Replacement. Most of the vector graphics on this site, including the FCPWORKS logo were created with iDraw. It’s a legit alternative and less complicated app than Illustrator.
$29.99 (Mac App Store) Review of Pixelmator at Graphics.com. I love Pixelmator.  By nearly all accounts, it would seem that with the latest update, it’s now a pretty suitable replacement to Photoshop for what 95% of editors do.
After Effects

$3K-5K YouTube clip, migrating from After Effects to Nuke. If you’re doing High end visual effects work, Nuke is generally perceived as the best there is. It’s not cheap, though. I think After Effects would still win based on price vs. performance.
$49.99 (Mac App Store) Motion vs. After Effects Discussion on Creative Cow. I’m a Motion user and I love it.  For most motion graphics tasks that FCPX editors need, Motion is fantastic.  For more specialized tasks, After Effects is the way to go… until you graduate to something like Nuke.  But if you just need to make some nice looking Motion Graphics stuff quickly, Motion is the fastest, most intuitive thing out there because of how closely it integrates with FCPX.
$1470 ProVideo Coalition on Smoke. By everyone I’ve spoken to who has used it, Smoke is extremely powerful and is a full fledged editor/finishing station. It’s great for the graphics/effects centric editor, and lots of people love it. There’s a pretty steep learning curve with it though.
Premiere Pro

$299.99 (Mac App Store) Editors’ Preferences on FCPX/Avid/Premiere. You guys all know how I feel about this one… no reason for me to beat a dead horse.
$1299 Digital Films compares various editing platforms to Avid. Not a huge fan, mostly because it doesn’t play well with any other Apps outside the Avid ecosystem (something Adobe Apps do really well).  However, for high end studio/union editors, Avid is without a doubt the industry standard, even though the code/ interface/ workflow/ business model is archaic and outdated.

DaVinci Resolve
Free for lite or $1000 for full version Digital Films compares various finishing applications. Resolve is now pretty much the industry standard… that’s really all there is to say about it. Pretty soon, it could also be a legitimate NLE competitor to the big three (Apple, Adobe, Avid)… but right now, it just happens to be the best color correction software on the planet in terms of price/performance.
Pro Tools
Around $600 Pro Tools is the industry standard for Sound editing for movies. I really wish it had more competition because I think it would be good for the industry, but there really isn’t much. When it comes to doing heavy sound editing for picture, Pro Tools is currently the best there is and it’s not much of a debate.
Logic Pro X
$199.99 (Mac App Store) Personally, I don’t think Logic is great for film/video sound design/editing, but it is fantastic for scoring/ mixing/ music creation/ podcasts, which is typically how I’m using Logic… although i’ve got a long way to go before I really become competent with it.
Media Encoder

$49.99 (Mac App Store) Larry Jordan compares Media Encoder with Compressor. So… while that comparison article I listed is a deep dive… the bottom line is that both programs work just fine for what you’ll likely need to do with them.
$299.99 (Mac App Store) My presentation on metadata creation in FCPX at the FCPWORKS Los Angeles event. FCPX’s metadata workflow once you combine it with tools like Shot Notes X and Lumberjack, is light years better than anything you can do with Prelude. You can do metadata entry very easily in Resolve as well.