An editor’s job is to turn many little shots into a story that elicits emotion, not knowing all the little software tricks. However, in the path to completing this task you will need the adequate tools. There are many different options out there, each one with their own bells and whistles. The following are professional grade programs that have been used for many different purposes, from youtube videos to blockbuster movies.
Final Cut Pro (FCPX)
Final Cut is known for its intuitive platform and for being a pioneer in shifting timelines easily, which set the standard for how professional editing softwares treat timelines.
In the field I move in, it has a high acceptance rate, especially with documentalists. When you work on documentary films, you need to hunt for moments in clips; and FCPX has a great feature for this that works with key words and intelligent bins (which is great if you have tons of material or multiple cameras). Let’s say that you want to have a protagonist named Jorge and you want to find every little clip he is in. So while going through all your material, you can write “Jorge” in the description of the clip you selected and FCPX will create an intelligent bin where all the Jorge tag clips will be, without making a mess in your original bins. If you are working on a long feature this is a step that makes this software totally worth it.
Another great thing is that you can easily make proxy files in case you go for 2k or 4k. Like other Apple softwares, FCPX is an intuitive platform and their workspace will be shaped depending on what you use. I mean, if you don’t use some feature, FCPX will hide it so it doesn't distract you. You won’t even know it existed. Ever.
For sound editing in FCPX you can use Apple’s Logic which is built into the software and it’s pretty functional. But, if you are going to do movie sound, I always will raise a hand for ProTools. Especially since the workflow from Final Cut to ProTools (and vice versa) is fairly intuitive.
Movies made with FCPX: 500 Days of Summer, No Country for Old Men, 300, The Blue Years
Price: USD 299 per year (plus in-app purchases)
Best Feature: Keywords!
It’s great for: Managing tons of material
Adobe Premiere Pro
Back in Film School I remember my editing professor saying “Premiere sucks. “Premiere has ‘Pr’ in its name, and so does ‘Primitive’. It’s a waste of time.”
That’s some radical thoughts and bad advertising for a software where many filmmakers take their first steps on editing. At least that’s where I began and I learned the basics there: cut the footage, put it on a timeline and make some adjustments in the audio.
You may not be comfortable working on Premiere but it’s not a bad software.
If you work for an agency, many times you’ll need to link motion graphics or special effects. If you work with the whole Adobe Creative Suite you’ll be happier. I’m happier. There’s less chances to get errors when exporting files, and although FCPX and Davinci Resolve can be linked to After Effects, sometimes jumping between platforms can be painful.
Premiere has its own color correction feature, Lumetri, but I personally don't like it. I think that Color Correction should be subtle and Lumetri tools are rougher. You don’t have color wheels or spectrums as detailed as in Davinci; and although there are many LUT’s on the internet I only recommend them if you are experimenting with atmosphere and textures from a beginners level.
I think it’s weird that people don’t recognize Premiere as an intuitive software as much as FCPX. You know who are masters at Premiere? Youtubers.
They love Premiere cause it has fun effects and transition plug-ins.
I’m not someone who loves effects and transitions, I prefer straightforward cuts, but I can tell that this is definitely a competitive advantage for Adobe.
Movies made with Premiere Pro: Deadpool, Hugo, A Ghost Story, The Florida Project
Price: USD 178
Best Feature: Can be linked to whole Adobe Suite easily.
It's great for: Working with motion graphics
Davinci Resolve, powered by Blackmagic, is known for being a Color Correction Software. It has dope features and is compatible with advanced hardware to manage Color Grading and Color Correction. You could turn yourself into an expert in Color Correction with Davinci and make a career out of it. But this Color Correction Software happens to have fine editing tools that you can enjoy for free and that’s what has made it so popular.
Davinci allows your workflow to be very smooth and fast by combining the best color editor of all time with a great video editor and a good audio editor. For many years people underestimated the power of this free editing software, but Davinci used those years to study their competition and improve their platform 100%. Another good point for Blackmagic’s software is that it can run on MacOS, Windows and Linux, unlike FCPX or Premiere Pro.
I think Davinci is getting closer to becoming every editor's dream platform. Talk to me in 5 years. I mean, you can even make your DCP right there (this is included only on the pay version but it’s worth it), so your work would be ready to hit every festival or cinema theatre without having to pay external people or shift to another software. Maybe we can talk about how to accomplish your DCP on another blog post!
Davinci has been trying to do some smart bins but hasn't nailed it yet.
I would absolutely recommend you start using the Davinci Resolve free version if you can’t afford another software. You can learn the basis of editing on a professional product, no watermarks or ugly things that come from bullshit programs (Looking at you, FILMORA).
Movies made with Davinci Resolve: Roma, La la land, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Off the road
Price: FREE / Full version USD 295
Best Feature: Its free version is incredible and the Color Correction tools are the best in the industry.
It's great for: Keeping your workflow on the same platform
Now, what’s my workflow?
I'm a Davinci Resolve fan. I love it (Can you tell?). But maybe it is because most of the time I edit what I’ve filmed and that means that I know the material by heart. So if I’m working on a short documentary, I will choose Davinci cause it will help to maintain all my stages there. I will organize everything in bins, edit very fast and go directly to color correction. But again, that's because I like to do CC myself and I know the material.
But if I’m working with archives I have never seen before, or if I’m editing along with other people, I will rename all the archives in Adobe Bridge, make my proxy files at Davinci Resolve and go to Final Cut for editing to exploit their keywords feature. Adobe, Davinci, Final Cut: the triforce.
Right now when it comes to my work at Maniak I use Adobe Premiere because I have to link Illustrator files and After Effects most of the time.
So my final advice is that if you are taking your first steps on the editing world, try to learn the basics on Davinci. But if you are looking for improving your workflow think first about what it is you need, and choose based on that information. I hope this blog post can help you make that choice.
So, what is the best editing software?
There is no best editing software. Every editor chooses one based on their workflow and personal preference. One important thing to remember is that no software will give you the structure for making a narrative, you have to do that yourself. So it’s not important if you go Cmnd + B or Cmnd X or Control X as long as you know how to best tell your story.