Premiere vs Final Cut Pro X
As mentioned in Part One of this blog where we discussed the reasons behind the switch from Premiere to FCPX (and PC to Apple), as a video production company our choice of editing software is paramount and after eight years of using Adobe Premiere Pro as our preferred NLE system last year we decided to make the transition to Apple’s Final Cut Pro X. While making the decision we spent a lot of time browsing online and discussing in forums whether to make the change or not. Six months on from making it we now feel like it is time to give back and have produced a little online article of what we think are some of the pros and cons of both Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple’s Final Cut Pro X. So if you’re thinking of making the change, or already have done in one direction or the other, we hope that you enjoy reading, and please do leave a comment if you agree or disagree with anything that we’ve found!
Adobe Premiere Pro: The pros
We’ve been using Adobe Premiere since CS2 and only stopped using Creative Cloud last year in 2016, so after over eight years of using the software, and its various iterations, it must have had some strong points for us to use it for so long. Some things that we particularly like about Premiere Pro:
- The Creative Cloud: The concept of Creative Cloud is very appealing: being able to use all of Adobe’s professional softwares including Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and of course Premiere Pro is an interesting prospect and encourages you to learn new skills as if you’re paying for the software you may as well use them, right?
- Dynamic Link: Similarly to above, the ability to use different software is great, but the ability to seamlessly import and export between software without the need to render files and without losing things like layers is incredibly useful.
- It’s a Traditional NLE: This could be an advantage or disadvantage depending how you look at it, but the fact is the taken on its own Premiere Pro is a traditional NLE. If you’ve used AVID, Sony Vegas or even Final Cut Pro 7 in the past then you’ll find Premiere Pro very easy to pick up. It has tracks, bins and all the cut and trim tools you’d expect in a NLE.
- Good colour correction and audio controls: For colour correction there are a lot of built in options in Premiere Pro, and since they introduced Lumetri you can now do quite powerful colour corrections really quite quickly. While the audio filters in Premiere aren’t as good or powerful as the colour correction ones (we tend to switch to Audition for most audio fixes), for balancing and mixing audio levels the built-in tools are really quite good.
- Cross-compatible, use on a PC or MAC: Whether you’ve got an old bust-up PC laptop or the latest MacPro you’ll probably be able to run a version of Premiere Pro. It works on PC or Mac so you don’t need to invest in new equipment to give it a try.
Looking back at this list it does seem like Premiere Pro is a pretty good piece of software to edit videos with, and that’s because in theory it is. And this was the key thing for us: we found that for all the great features that Premiere Pro offered there seemed to always be ‘bugs’ in the system. Put simply: things that should work didn’t work, or the software had random behaviour which affected our workflow.
These bugs at first seemed little things which on their own seemed minimal, yet when they reoccured over and over, even after major updates to the software, they became major problems to us that affected both our efficiency and enjoyment in using the software.
At first we thought maybe we had a hardware issue, but we soon found that many others were experiencing the same problems as us. Among the bugs and problems that we regularly experienced, there were a few that particularly stood out and seemed to remain unfixed for many months, even years in some cases.
Adobe Premier Pro: The cons (the bugs)
- Non-stop playhead in Multicam Timelines: When editing or playing a Multicamera timeline the playhead would play continuously and not react to any buttons pressed by the user. This could last seconds, minutes or the entire length of your timeline. Nearly always it resulted in force closing Premiere and starting again. It usually happened again straight after.
- Xmas tree effect on the bins: This bug used to drive me mad. Sometimes we you open Premiere, the thumbnails in any particular bin would seem to regenerate themselves constantly creating what someone online called ‘The Xmas tree effect’. You would have to close and re-open in order to get rid of the bug.
- Right click appears on different screen: We often edit on two screens and found that if we right clicked on something on our second screen then the drop-down list would actually appear on the other screen. This would mean jumping the cursor from screen to screen constantly.
- Dynamic Link – good concept, poor execution: Yes, this made the pros list for Premiere Pro because when it works it is a great tool, yet we often found that it just didn’t work as well as it should. We often found that if for example we updated a project in After Effects it wouldn’t update in Premiere Pro, or it would update there but upon rendering it would actually render out an old version. This last example was particularly annoying for it created the problem of the rendered video not matching your timeline, so despite checking your timeline for errors, you would have to check every video render too.
- Render Fails – The famous sheep’s baa: Ah, that sound can trigger editor’s anger like no other. We don’t mind renders failing, in fact we know it will probably always happen in any software, but what was most annoying was reading the why the render failed and just being told ‘Unknown Error’. If you had a large timeline this often meant tracking through and trying to guess why the render was failing. Often we found it was effects on clips which caused this, but it would’ve been nice for Premiere to give us a bit more help as to why and where the render failed in a timeline.
- Cost – You rent it, you don’t own it: Simple maths really: FCPX, Motion and Compressor cost less than £300 and you own them forever, whereas Adobe Creative Cloud is subscription based which means for £300 we would only be able to use Creative Cloud for seven months before we start paying more for it in comparison. Yes, Creative Cloud has lots more software included for that price, and if you use all of the software included then it can be a real bargain. However; for a video production company like us we’ve found that FCPX, Motion and Compressor can do everything we need and more.
As we’ve said these points may seen minor, or very specific, but after years of using the software and minor bugs affecting our workflow everyday we started to look around for alternatives, especially in the hope of finding a more ‘stable’ editing system: one without bugs and one that just worked smoothly. This time also coincided with us upgrading our computers from old PC workstations to Apple iMacs (see Part One of our blog LINK), so now we were able to use FCPX if we chose to do so. Which we did.
Final Cut Pro X, a new beginning
For the first few weeks Final Cut Pro X was quite confusing and it got us to the point where we almost left it, but we stuck at it and after that we started to understand it better and actually found it to be a very intuitive approach to editing which we hadn’t found before. We found two main things which strike you straightaway when you start working with FCPX after working with Premiere Pro:
- You learn a new vocabulary: In Premiere Pro you open and ‘Project’, put your footage in a ‘bin’, and edit in a ‘timeline’. However; in Final Cut Pro X you open a ‘Library’, put your footage in an ‘Event’ and edit in a ‘Project’. Nothing’s really any different, but it did take a while for me to remember what meant what in FCPX. Here’s a link to Larry Jordan website where you can find plenty of content to get used to FCPX new paradigm
- You learn new way of editing: With the magnetic timeline in FCPX there are no video or audio tracks as are traditionally seen on NLE systems, instead there is just one ‘magnetic’ track which is designed to be where the main driving force of your narrative goes and then you can add other video, audio or graphic clips to this. Yes, this can be very confusing at first as it changes the way we had been editing since ever. However once you get used to it, it becomes a very intuitive way of working your way around the timeline.Here is a fantastic Creative Cow tutorial which helped us going in the early days of FCPX adoption
Judging by online comments the second point above has tended to be a bit of a deal-breaker with a lot of people trying FCPX; some people tend to love the magnetic timeline approach and some seem to hate it. To be honest we love it. It takes a little getting used to but it can make editing much more quicker and intuitive, and almost feels like a notepad: you can put things wherever you want, there are no real restrictions.
After getting over the initial paradigm shift of using FCPX we started to really love working with it. In particular below are some points we really enjoy:
Final Cut Pro X: The pros
- No ‘save’ function, instead a constant autosave: At first it felt a bit strange not being able to save your work yourself, but soon you seem to realise that this function actually works incredibly well. If for example your computer crashes gone are the times you’d lose your work since the last autosave, instead you just reopen your FCPX library and voila there’s your timeline exactly as it was before the crash! We love this feature, we trust it to work and it has never let us down.
- Very responsive: We started using FCPX at the same time as buying new a iMac for our studio and we found that the speed and reliability of using FCPX on a new iMac was unbelievable. No lags, no jitters, everything just worked smoothy and quickly. Premiere Pro on the new iMac, as outlined above, we found to be quite unreliable.
- Open more than one project (or Library) at the same time: This simple sounding feature actually really helps on a day-to-day level when working on different projects. It means if we’re working on one client’s project and we need to quickly look at another client’s project we don’t have to close our project and re-open another, instead we can open multiple projects at once. It’s perhaps even more useful in that we can open several projects and share footage between them, which is particularly useful if you have a regular client you work with and you want to reuse older footage – no more re-importing.
- Keyword folders much better than Adobe bins for organising: This is a simple, but real winning feature. The keyword folders are so much better for organising footage that we’re sure that other NLEs will end up copying it eventually. It allows you to organise your clips and sequences with keywords (this could be for example ‘interview’, ‘gv’, ‘dolly’ etc.) and any clip can have as many keywords as you want. This feature might seem obvious and unexciting in print, but once you start organising your footage this way we found that we can edit quicker and better by having our footage nicely organised.
- Cost – You own it, you don’t rent it: As mentioned on the cons for Premiere Pro, with FCPX you actually own the software outright. If money is a consideration for you, and you only want video editing software, then FCPX is a real bargain.
Although no system is perfect, on the whole what we value most about FCPX is its reliability. It works. No half-baked flashy features, if a feature is there, it’ll do what it says on the tin. You can really tell that every update has been checked thoroughly. That is not to say that there aren’t some things that we don’t like about FCPX. Like any software we’ve used there are some small gripes that we have with FCPX.
Final Cut Pro X – The cons:
- Audio mixing: Although we really like the no tracks approach to editing in FCPX, having no tracks does make audio mixing a little more hassle. Unlike PP where you can adjust track audio, and keyframe them, in FCPX as there are no tracks it means most audio editing is done at a clip level. Click here to get you started with FCPX audio editing
- Workaround: So, taking into account some of the comments on the article we would agree that we overlooked the ‘roles’ and ‘lanes’ feature here. The lanes feature especially if you’re used to a more traditional NLE system like Premiere Pro will feel more familiar. It basically works by giving your footage roles according to content (e.g. labelling footage ‘Interviews’, ‘GVs’ or whatever you want for your given project) and then you can select to view your project with the lanes visible. This allows much more control over audio editing than we outlined initially above. If you want to see a really great video which outlines a good workflow in FCPX then this video by Soho Editors/Trim Editing Thomas Grove-Carter goes though lots of cool stuff (in particular the audio editing at 20:30-26:00 and 34:30-36:00).
- Colour Correction: The most striking thing about the built in colour corrector in FCPX is that it has no curves. The FCPX tool is not bad, but we’ve found it a little hard to really control the colour and exposure in an image with it beyond doing the basics.
- Workaround: we often use third-party plugins and bypass the built-in FCPX colour control completely. A couple of plugins that we use are Color Finale and FilmConvert, which are both well worth looking into. Also, for a slightly longer workaround Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve is a free download but is a great tool for colour grading and also for basic editing.
The lacklustre FCPX color correction tools. Pretty useless, get a third party plugin
- Changing tools a lot more:Due to the magnetic timeline there are different tools to move things around in your timeline, such as the position tool (shortcut P) and the select tool (shortcut A). We find ourselves switching a lot between these two and the blade tool (shortcut B), probably a bit more than we’d like
- Workaround: it seems that the ‘Trim’ tool (shortcut T) is the most popular tool to use for most edits in FCPX and is a good starting tool for doing most edits in FCPX. Also, holding down a tool shortcut while doing an edit and then releasing the button after is a good way to temporarily use a tool.
- Transitions: Again due to the way the magic timeline works transitions never start where you’d expect them to start; for example if you have your playhead at the point where you’d want your transition to start and add a transition, your cursor actually marks the midpoint of the transition, not the start. We find this quite annoying and wish we could change this.
- Workaround: if you want a clip to fade in from black at the exact place your playhead is then a quick way is to lift the clip from the timeline (Option-Command-Up Arrow), add the transition (cmd-T) and then add back to timeline (Option-Command-Down Arrow). Or, just add the transition (cmd-T) and adjust manually :).
- The hold function: We probably get irrationally irritated by this feature more than any other. When working with footage or graphics we often want to hold a clip for a few seconds, maybe to add text or an effect on it. We literally just want it to hold for say five seconds and then the clip ends. Instead FCPX seems to always extend the clip, so it holds for a few seconds but then starts playing again. As it always extends the clip this can end up nudging other footage out of sync. We wish it wouldn’t do this.
- Workaround: add freeze frame (shortcut opt-f) can be used to add a traditional freeze frame instead of the hold function (which is more useful for speed ramping footage etc). The freeze frame still extends the clip but this can easily be edited after without affecting your project.
Premiere vs Final Cut Pro, The Conclusion
We used used Adobe Creative Cloud for many years and when everything worked correctly it was, and is, an incredible piece of software for editing video. You can do anything with Premiere Pro that you’d want to do. If you’re using Premiere Pro now and you haven’t experienced any of the bugs we’ve listed above, and everything works great for you then, cost ignored, there is probably no need to change. But, when the cost is factored in we found that paying over £500 a year to rent the software and to then experience bugs on various different computers and hardware setups that never seemed to get fixed despite major updates, then we felt pushed to try something new. Final Cut Pro X was that something new, and despite having some minor flaws also we trust the software to to what it says it will do and we feel that it helps us to edit more efficiently. So for now, if all stays equal, we’re happy with our switch and can see no reason to look elsewhere for video editing software.