Secrets of Indie Filmmaking

Secrets of Indie Filmmaking: Final Cut Pro X

Pssst: Final Cut Pro X is amazing. Pass it on.

Editing at its best is an invisible art. Ideally the viewer should be completely caught up in the narrative, and anything that distracts them from the narrative, such as a cut that is either awkward or flashy, is to be avoided. Like all invisible arts, it is extremely hard to master. It requires a lot of time, experience, consideration, and sensitivity.

Editing a feature with lots of footage is like being given a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces are all perfect squares…

I have thus far had a real love/hate relationship with editing. I am a restless person, and the untold hours spent in front of a monitor moving tiny little boxes of clips around a screen really does my head in. A lot of the editorial process requires meticulous organization of material and patient experimentation and evaluation of seemingly infinite possibilities. I don’t do well with infinity. I like to have stringent limitations so I can respond to them creatively and spontaneously as problems to be solved. Editing a feature with lots of footage is like being given a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces are all perfect squares. But you have to get over that and find your way through to the best possible cut of the movie. You absorb the script, its shape and intention. You become intimately familiar with all the performances in all the useable takes. You use all your instincts, reason, and taste to find your way through.

I cut my first feature on Final Cut Pro 6. I loved that program, it was an amazingly capable and versatile tool.

I cut my first feature on Final Cut Pro 6. I loved that program, it was an amazingly capable and versatile tool. I couldn’t believe I had all that power at my fingertips, even though I never got close to being truly fluent with the software and its capabilities. FCP 6 also drove me nuts. I was using an older, slower computer that could barely handle the HD video I had shot the movie in. I smoked endless cigarettes waiting for edits to render. It crashed a lot. My nightmares really began when I had a rough assembly of the entire movie in one timeline. Any time I made changes to any part of the timeline, I would have to scrutinize the entire movie before outputting it because things would go randomly out of whack further down the timeline. Bits of audio or video would migrate or disappear.

I would like to take a moment to blow a noisy raspberry at all those professional editors who have dismissed Final Cut Pro X as a big step backwards from previous versions. In my albeit limited experience thus far, FCP X has been the answer to all my editing prayers. What do I like better about it? Everything. It is so fast at rendering that it actually does it in the background, leaving no time for me to smoke. It is rock solid, has never crashed on me. When I move clips around it moves all relevant clips out of the way to accommodate me, never once losing bits or putting them out of order. The interface is much cleaner, more inviting. The only obstacle for me has been in unlearning the more laborious ways I had of doing things in FCP 6 and 7, and accepting the more efficient way of working provided by FCP X. Since starting to use FCP X, I have gone from dreading having to chain myself in front of the editing monitor to being excited about editing because it’s now fun, almost as easy as thinking.

And when using a tool is that close to pure thought, that’s a great tool. And when a tool actually makes you want to make stuff, is there any higher recommendation?

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