Skip to main content



The introduction and development of Apple’s Final Cut Pro software has created positive and negative waves of opinion throughout the various strands of the media industry in the UK and worldwide. You could say it has thrown a spanner in the works for its long-established competitors.


FCP Keyboard


The introduction and development of Apple’s Final Cut Pro software has created positive and negative waves of opinion throughout the various strands of the media industry in the UK and worldwide.  Positive feedback appears to be coming from experienced users of the system: companies and creative individuals who have harnessed the technology and pioneered its industry application and who are, as a result of their efforts, directly benefiting from its affordability and usability.  The majority of backlash that I have read or witnessed seems to be coming from the more traditionalist fraternity, often backwards-looking companies and parties whose profit margins are being directly threatened by the introduction of such a great value and revolutionary entry to the post-production market.  There are of course those whose negative opinions of the FCP platform are derived from less than pleasant experiences in the edit suite, but I would have to argue that in 99% of cases like these, the problem is not the software but the technical hardware setup and knowledge base of the operator behind the keyboard.

It is an undeniable fact that over the last few years, Final Cut Pro has begun to revolutionise the post-production of television, film and video content. It may not have been an overnight success and it certainly hasn’t taken over (yet) but I believe it is on its way to securing a significant proportion of the market.  Since it’s initial launch at the beginning of the new millennium Apple has re-designed, developed and tweaked the FCP package, to a point where it now stands shoulder-to-shoulder among edit systems costing over 10 times the price. The fact that the BBC has now decided to join in the movement, only adds weight to the already substantial support that the product has received by film, television and design professionals around the World.

You could say it has thrown a spanner in the works for its long-established competitors.

Apple Logo

Technology has a habit of evolving at a far faster rate than many people consider comfortable. We are only just stepping into the 21st century and already we have witnessed a cataclysmic shift in the music industry as a result of the ‘iPod’ and online content delivery. 10 years ago, a gigabyte of storage wouldn’t fit in your rucksack and today you can fit it in a stick smaller than a packet of chewing gum. Fundamentally, as technology advances and becomes cheaper, the old products begin to look more and more tired and more and more ridiculous. The huge financial savings that new technology brings with it, accelerates the demise of the old.

In the case of the post-production industry, technological progression is at an all time high. We are on the brink of HD and digital broadcasting, where each manufacturer is battling for the top spot and a generation of creative talent is demanding the most economical and functional tools for the job. It stands to reason that in the age of the ‘iPod Generation’ the service and product providers that offer function, quality and usability at the lowest cost to the consumer will be rewarded with the greatest market share, regardless of tradition or brand loyalty. 

Historically, if you wanted a professional standard edit suite, capable of handling broadcast formats, you had to re-mortgage your house and sell your granny.  After that there were only a limited number of manufacturers to choose from. Today, the options available are far broader and far more realistic.  In my opinion, there is no solid, practical or logical argument that justifies spending astronomical amounts on an Avid system (or similar product), when, with the correct knowledge and practical experience you can custom build an FCP suite, with top-end peripherals, jaw-dropping storage and real-time workflow for a fraction of the cost. Many Soho based companies have jumped on the bandwagon.  Hollywood has been using it to cut movie trailers for years and now the major broadcasters are adopting this economical and sensible shift towards implementing the system on a mass scale.

G5 Screen

My opinions have developed from 6 years working as a professional television and video editor, my first 2 years using Avid Film Composer on a daily basis and the last 4 years with each incarnation of Final Cut Pro, up to the current version 5. Before I made my living as an editor, I trained in Media 100, Premiere, Optima, Quantel Editbox and Paintbox and I therefore have a fairly rounded perspective of ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ when it comes to editing systems through a range of cost categories and technical specs.

Having edited for literally thousands of hours and also professionally trained other editors, you could say I (and others like me) represent the ultimate test-drivers of the aforementioned systems. If you spend your life trapped in a darkened room with such beasts, it doesn’t take long to discover their bad habits, their outstanding personality traits and how to tame them if they throw a wobbly.

My experience of intensive Avid edits was far from a bed of roses. Admittedly, the system we were running then is now far out-done by Avid’s latest, high-performance and popular offerings, but my point would be that at £80,000 for the base system, I was not happy with snail-slow rendering, constant crashing, poor reliability and astronomical servicing costs (and neither was my boss).
However, in 2002 I discovered Final Cut Pro. Since then I have used it almost all day, every day for 4 years. I have worked as a professional FCP demonstrator and used it to edit everything from music videos and HD commercials to entire TV sports series for worldwide broadcast. I have pushed it to the limit on numerous occasions, learned how to set it up correctly, how to respect it and make it work for me.  After an extensive amount of use with very few technical hitches, Final Cut Pro has become my tool of choice.

There are many factors to take into account when analysing a technological leap such as high-speed desktop editing, but for the purpose of this article and considering my experience of the application: Final Cut Pro, I would like to condense these into the categories of: function, affordability and reliability.

FCP Edit Suite 













The Tools
An edit suite is a tool, intended for a trade. If it does the job you want it to do and does it well, then it has served its purpose. Final Cut Pro is no exception. It shares every functional capability of the more expensive alternatives and presents them in a well-constructed interface that any competent editor will quickly understand and adapt to. On its own, it functions as a great cutting tool for every format, in every frame rate and every size of digitally acquirable footage. Combined with its studio siblings: Motion, Livetype and Soundtrack Pro, the operator has the capabilities of compositing, creating stunning graphics and designing custom audio tracks. The multi-platform nature of the Apple FCP Studio package is one of its most innovative and attractive qualities.

Final Cut Pro is an independent software package. If you want to, you can install it on a £350 Minimac and use it to cut DV home videos in your bedroom, or stick it on a laptop to edit rough cuts on location. If you do so, don’t expect industry standard performance or output quality. For FCP to work at the top end of its capabilities and compete with a system worth as much as a 2-bedroom apartment, you must build it into a top-spec Apple hardware system. Many people are undoubtedly suffering problems using FCP because their hardware package is simply not up to scratch. If it crashes or is slow then you need to improve the hardware system it is built into. This is not a downfall of the software, and not (always) of the user either.

The Operator
It takes months to fully explore and master any software package. You cannot expect to pick up FCP overnight, but if you already have a familiarity with non-linear systems then many short cuts, tools and filters will be instantly recognisable and transferable. Any experienced Avid broadcast editor could quickly become an FCP expert, but if the person behind the mouse is an editing ignoramus then the results aren’t likely to be pretty. In essence, an edit system at the top technical spec (regardless of manufacturer) is only as fast as the person pushing the buttons.


I have a small studio facility in Surrey called Sequence Post-Production. Our entire business is built around the Final Cut Pro Studio platform and our suite is top of the range, very reliable and did not cost the earth.
Our current online system runs on a dual 2.7GHZ G5 with 4GB of RAM, 1 terabite of raid storage, a blackmagic HD card, professional sound mixer, dual monitors and a professional sound monitoring setup. It has been used to cut, grade, mix and create graphics for a long list of productions, in a host of formats ranging from PAL and NTSC Mini DV, SD Digi-Beta, HDV and DVC PRO HD footage. We may be small, but there are other post companies running identical setups for the same reason: it works and it is affordable.

The question of affordability raises concern in some camps who seem to fear that with such mass accessibility, packages like FCP will open the floodgates for poor quality productions, blurred industry job roles (e.g. producer-editors/ ”preditors”) and consumer content production seeping its way into the broadcast domain via podcasts, digital channels etc. It is true that the emergence of desktop and laptop edit suites has increased access and levelled the playing field, but as long as executive producers and production companies maintain a clear vision for quality and spend time and money on the talented people behind the kit, I do not personally see a problem.  The fact remains that having the equipment doesn’t make you a good editor, in the same way that owning a sports car doesn’t make you Jenson Button. As long as resources are spent on developing talented people and quality content then there really is nothing to worry about.

Mac G5 Cinema ScreenRELIABILITY

I have read numerous accounts of Final Cut Pro virgins, complaining that their system kept crashing, they kept losing their project or their media disappeared etc. In every case I have experienced with such anomalies, the answer has always come back to a basic lack of knowledge of the tool being used and in most cases, a lack of correct technical setup. Over the last 4 years, in addition to my role as an editor, I have been contracted to teach and demonstrate FCP, provide technical support, act as an installation consultant and supervise the running of multiple FCP suites. The occasional problems that have arisen have always been minor and usually surmountable with a few simple clicks of the mouse.
What the industry needs is a solid base of creative FCP editors who also possess technical and problem solving skills. There will always be teething problems for any user switching to a new system but a few basic pointers in the right direction can make all the difference.

Our FCP suites at Sequence Post-Production have never caused us any concern. The main reason for this is that the system was built and customised for the user, with the practical application in mind from day one.  A bit of TLC, understanding and respect for your tools can go a long way to maintaining a successful FCP set-up. Understanding things like ‘autosave vaults’, ‘scratch disks’ and ‘audio/video settings’ can often be half the battle won for a new user.


Sequence Post-Production is a good example of a company that is harnessing the new technological developments available to us. As we move into 2006 our plans include expansion from a facility and talent perspective.  We are in discussions with a major Media School of Excellence in the UK with plans to implement a training/apprenticeship scheme to mentor and develop the best emerging Final Cut Pro editors and provide the UK production industry with fine talent and great value services. I feel certain that over the next few years, many companies, regardless of size, will continue to accommodate Final Cut Pro systems.  The software and hardware will advance and evolve in sync with format developments like HD and within no time at all the complaints and politics of the early days will be forgotten, leaving an appreciation of the benefits such a fantastic all round package has provided to the industry.

At the end of the day, it is just a tool and if it is a reliable and affordable tool, capable of handling all the formats and projects you can throw at it, without costing an arm and a leg then it surely represents the ultimate in product satisfaction. I for one think so and I intend to use the tool to develop quality content and spend money on talented people with great ideas, rather than waste it on overpriced kit.

Ben Foakes, Company Director/Senior Editor: Sequence Post-Production.
SPP provides Apple-based post-production services for TV, Film and Video including: Offline/online editing, grading, graphics/compositing, 3D animation, DVD design/authoring. Company Director: Ben Foakes works as an FCP editor, trainer and consultant. For more information visit
or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Editor's Note: Thanks Ben for such an interesting perspective on FCP, which Netribution readers are sure to enjoy. Netribution welcomes clearly written contributions on a wide variety of film subjects for the Essays section of the website. Please keep them coming. And again, thanks to Ben Foakes for giving us the benefit of his expert insight into editing software.