No, I don’t mean the kind who gets paid to go on holiday, I mean the kind that pays good money to have an industry TELL him or her that he or she is a professional.
I suppose it started with Space Tourists, or perhaps with Executive Producers (the kind with lots of private money and no professional contacts), and proliferated with reality TV ‘stars’ in the naughtys, but what has me thinking about this particular topic right now is the whole FCPX fiasco that myself and other (perhaps former) Final Cut Pro editors have just gone through.
For those of you who have been spending millions to hitch a ride in space for the last few months, I will fill you in as concisely as possible. Basically, FCP editors were anticipating the launch of Final Cut Studio 4 back in April when the consistent rumours that the suite was going to add Shake into Motion, thus blowing out of the water the one program Adobe had that was superior to Apple’s, namely After Effects, were replaced with very credible leaks that what was really happening was that the guy who f***ed up iMovie had been monkeying around with Final Cut and the new release was alarmingly similar to the 2007 version of iMovie, a version so bad and widely rejected by the public, that despite it’s price tag of $0, Apple had to give away a previous version for free to stop the riots.
By June we got definitive news and some had even bought this new version of iMovie now named Final Cut Pro. My first reaction was denial and then a sense of ‘how could they do this to us’. Then I went into business mode. Like my own industry, the tech industry is a business first though this is often difficult to remember. I looked at it from Steve Job’s perspective and then it made sense.
When Apple first got into the business of editing software, they were a small company and a boutique product appealing to a small user base made sense. But post iPod, iPhone, and after the renaming of the company from Apple Computers to Apple Inc. in 2007, can we really expect them not to want to lay off the team developing a product that has only 20,000 users? Doesn’t it make sense to get out of the business of professional editing in favour of the exploding customer base to be found in ‘pro’sumer editors potentially numbering in the billions.
The only question that remained for me was why transfer the name Final Cut Pro to a program that is an enhanced version of iMovie and for which iMovie projects are the only ones that are reverse compatible? Why the nominal fiction?
And then it hit me. Professional tourists. For years people with a bit of money to spend had been splashing quite a bit of cash on Final Cut Studio because they wanted to buy a place at the table. My first purchase of Studio 2 was second hand from just such a purchaser. She had bought it thinking that having the pro tool would make her a pro and quickly learned that not having the pro skills rendered her pro tools useless. I was able to purchase Studio 2 which cost at the time around £800, for only £400.
In contrast, when I first started and was still developing my skills I bought as old an upgradeable copy of Final Cut Express as I could find for £49 off of eBay and upgraded for £50, under cutting the retail price of express by almost £100. This is what pros do when they start out. I only looked to upgrade when I had my basic editing skills in place an was in need of colouring, transcoding, and motion graphics tools.
This idea that to be a pro you must buy professional products is a decidedly consumer driven idea. As a director of photography I was once given the option of shooting on a RED camera with unpaid labour or using my DSLR with paid pros on my team and I actually pleaded against the RED in favour of a team of pros with skills. Of course I would love to have a RED or ARRI with skilled labour but given the choice, skills trump equipment.
For instance if one were very motivated and had enough skilled people, one could accomplish a ‘bullet time’ effect with a bunch of pinhole camera obscura. I am not saying it would be easy or look as slick as the effect did in The Matrix (1999), but it can be done. In fact, for me, a mark of professionalism is a hesitance to pad the budget with expensive equipment just because you can get your hands on it in favour of careful consideration of the abilities of those on one’s team.
So this brings us back to Steve and his decision to call a souped up version of iMovie, heretofore free with every Mac, by the name of Final Cut Pro. Once I got over the shock and settled into editing professionally on Adobe products I can only see this as pure genius from the perspective of a man trying to attract large numbers of consumers who want to buy a ride on the professional train.
I have used FCPX in the shop and I can say that what it lacks in professional features, it makes up for with a very shallow learning curve. Within hours I think someone who has never edited before can find their way around some pretty impressive presets and make some really cool videos. And there are enough presets it might even take the world six months to get tired of them. For most people that is well worth the $299 price tag and as an added bonus they get to be told they are a pro a believe it for a while.
Genius Steve. This truly changes everything.