Why I started to use FCPX

August 15, 2014 Tags: ,
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Sam here… so, over the years, I’ve gotten a lot raised eyebrows when I run into people I used to work with, or editors and people outside my circle, and I tell them I cut everything I do with FCPX and it’s the best thing out there. Usually, I get back some garbled version of “really? I heard it sucked…” or “I tried it a long time ago and couldn’t get into it…”

We then have a 10 minute conversation about why they switched to Premiere and why I didn’t… and who, in fact, the crazy person really is in this equation.

And when I look back and really think about why I switched to FCPX… I realized that my circumstances were different than pretty much anyone else’s when it came to switching, so it shouldn’t be surprising that my viewpoint on the program is much different than everyone else’s.

Long story short… I downloaded the program day one like everyone else. There were things I liked, and a lot of things I didn’t. Unlike most, I kept playing with it, and cutting small projects, trying to figure out why Apple had done what they had done… and if, in fact, there was something I wasn’t getting with all of this. I was doing all of this on my off days while I worked at my regular freelance gig still using FCP7 and being pretty content with that workflow.

Somewhere along the way, I got invited to come out and work with the Final Cut team and got to ask some of my questions in person… and I got some answers… when I was finished, I came back to LA, and my perspective had changed a bit. I’d been shown a different way of looking at editing, and sort of realized I couldn’t go back to what I was doing and still be happy with that. I had found I liked editing again (I’d become a bit of a robot with FCP7)… and for the first time in a long time, I felt like there was something new and interesting for me to explore.

So… I sort of made the decision that I was just going to run with FCPX, start my own post house, not tell my clients I was cutting with X (I’d just say Final Cut and let them assume I meant FCP7), and see just how far I could get with what I was doing before I ran out of money.

I haven’t run out of money yet.

In fact, I made more. You see, I was still charging what I would normally charge, but I was able to deliver in half the time… time equaled money. So even though I lost a few customers at first, the ones I did keep I was able to take better care of.

That one decision to go out on my own led to a big old giant chain reaction in my career that is still snowballing. It’s been weird, frustrating, cool, and consistently surprising. At the end of the day, it’s been fun. I have a lot more fun than most editors I know, and a lot more control over the projects I choose to do… which is mostly all I ever cared about.

And when I compare it to cutting the same old piece every single day at my old freelance job in the same tired workflow… well, there really is no comparison. You literally couldn’t pay me to go back to that. People have tried.

So what’s the lesson here? The person who was bored with editing at his cushy freelance gig (me before FCPX) had stopped learning and had stopped getting better. I was starting to become less curious, and editing itself had become just a transaction I would do for money. And when that happens, when you stop caring about what you do, and you stop learning, it makes you more likely to want to preserve the status quo and keep collecting checks. Change becomes threatening and learning becomes difficult. Your job becomes less about doing something cool, and it becomes more about protecting your territory from outsiders. It becomes easy to dismiss new ways of working. Eventually, you become the flatbed film editor who wakes up one day to realize their gigs are gone and everyone is editing on video. You blame the world and get really angry and bitter. No one cares that you are angry and bitter. You get more angry and bitter.

If I had stayed that way, I’d be well on my way to being one of those crusty old editors who love to tell everyone else how dumb and unprofessional their workflow is. “Get off my lawn!”

The truth is that you don’t know what you don’t know. I got lucky enough to have some people show me, and it changed the way I looked at what I do. It’s made be a better and more efficient editor and it has prepared me for the next ten years in this business in a way that many people can’t even see.

At the end of the day, it makes no difference to me what editing platform you cut with. You should use what works for you… but as an editor, it’s part of your job to know enough to know the difference between the different tools, and to continue to adapt to the changing world around you.

I guess my only piece of advice might be that, before you go ahead and dismiss a different idea entirely, decide for yourself, and be willing to occasionally go down the rabbit hole. Don’t stop being curious. Sometimes going down the rabbit hole can change your perspective on things completely. It did for me. It’s why I’m only cutting with FCPX now.

I’m always looking for the next Rabbit hole, though.


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