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What's wrong with the young FCP editor?

I was recently reading a blog post about an Avid editor’s experience with Final Cut Pro. There were both good points and bad points from this user’s point of view and a number of things he did and didn’t like. That’s not unusual when an Avid editor moves over to FCP for the first time. What really caught my eye was a comment at the bottom of the post. He was talking about a group of experienced editors sitting around discussing FCP and one of them made this observation: “How is it my son can make Final Cut work so well?” This kind of comment isn’t unusual at all as FCP is pretty much the editing platform of choice for the “next generation.” What generation am I in? I’m not really sure. I’m 36 so I’ve certainly used (and still use on a regular basis) my fair share of Avid Media Composer but I have also been a FCP owner since version 1.0 so I am a champion of both. Final Cut Pro came along at just the right time, at just the right price point and was just the right product to give a whole generation of filmmakers an affordable tool. FCP, a Firewire equipped DV camera, and a Firewire Macintosh was everything you needed. Many folks learned FCP and then began to call themselves and market themselves as an editor. But what I am consistently seeing from a lot of editors, “younger generation,” “next generation,” “sons” whatever you want to call them, is a real lack of some basic post production knowledge. There’s almost a total lack of knowledge about the offline/online workflow and almost an aversion to doing an online at all. Sure with newer formats and cheap hard drives and Kona cards the need for a traditional online isn’t near what it used to be. What used to be the online process of taking low resolution footage (AVR 3 anyone?) and recapturing to high resolutions isn’t necessary with P2 media, Pro Res, and even DV. But there’s more to an online that high-rezing footage. There’s quality control with video levels, color correction and color grading, formatting, graphics, masters and sub-masters, audio lay-back, and SD down conversion among a lot of other things. But I’m also talking about something so simple as someone who has taken a mini-dv dub of D-Beta source reels and then doesn’t want to do the online because the dv footage “looks great!” There’s often a blank stare when you request an EDL. If the young editor does know how to generate an EDL (it is only a menu pull down after all) they very often don’t know how to check its integrity or even read the numbers that the EDL generates for that matter. Continuing in the offline to online vein, there is often no knowledge of why you would want to collapse your video layers down to a single track to avoid capturing a lot of unused media that is never seen on video track 1. I’ve taken a Final Cut Pro project on several occasions that had to be prepped for online and been confronted with an unwieldy timeline with many unused video tracks, clips turned off but left in the timeline, unused media that had been stored at the end of the edit left in the timeline (even when a list was generated) and just an overall sloppiness in the organization of the project. I know that every one has their own way of working but to leave this kind of sloppiness intact when sending a project to another editor or to a post house for online is something that was rarely seen before FCP came along. I’ve even been confronted with a project that needed to be rebuilt from a crashed, and very cheap, hard drive. It was unable to be recaptured as the editor used a cheap camera to capture the media and it didn’t capture the timecode. FCP could see the camera and it allowed for transport control but since no timecode was captured, FCP assigned its own. The editor was floored that we couldn’t batch capture. And that’s only after I explained the concept of batch capturing. He was happy to learn this was possible until we discovered there was improper timecode in the clips he had captured. I asked why he didn’t check the timecode upon his first capture. I got another blank stare and the response, ” I never do.” Why is this kind of thing so prevalent in a Final Cut Pro world? I think the biggest reason is that you have people who aren’t really editors editing projects. Yes many people can push the buttons and yes many young directors want to cut their own projects but there is an overall scope to what the full edit of a project means that isn’t understood and isn’t being done. This is so much more prevalent with young editors who only know Final Cut Pro and have never set foot in a post-house. Most directors who edit their own projects aren’t quite as clueless. I don’t expect a director who has learned insert and overwrite in FCP to know the full checklist of editing but I do expect them to allow someone else into the edit to make the technical side work. I have a great workflow with a number of directors that lets me begin the project with proper set-up, organization and capture. I then do my own offline cut and pass it to the director for his or her own tweaks. After some back and forth I then take the locked edit back for the final preparation to online and audio. If there is no traditional “online” then I am able to properly finish it on my system. It works well, it full-fills the director’s desire to do some of his/her own editing but also acknowledges that they don’t know the nuances of the technical side so they let someone else handle that. This isn’t as easy when you have someone who claims to be an editor and is supposed to know this kind of stuff but doesn’t. They are often insulted when you try to teach them otherwise. As a freelancer there was one thing I learned; most post-houses have their own way of doing things and if I learned what that was then they were much happier to take on projects I was involved with. I think part of the problem is you have a lot of film schools that try to teach the art of the edit but they never deal with the technical side. I believe it was Robert Rodrieguez that said if you are technical and creative you are unstoppable. A lot of the other editors that didn’t go to film school have just bought a copy of FCP and learned it themselves. There’s an unbelievable amount of free tutorials and learning aids on the Internet so anyone can learn how to use it. But those tutorials that teach you how to make exciting things like glowing type don’t make any mention of boring topics like proper video levels and program formatting. I’m still amazed at how many times I’ve explained the concept of a program starting at an even 1:00:00:00 timecode on a master tape and how foreign that concept is to some people. You also have plug-ins that are cheap and freely available but those plug-ins only reside on the system they are installed on. Once click can create amazing effects that were once only possible on a higher-end graphics system done by an animator. You might not have all of these effects available if you move from your system to another. Plus if you do have an edit go to online the online editor won’t have these effects available either. And as powerful as an online system may be, it can’t necessarily recreate those dancing, smoking fonts and crazy video looks that came from a stack of filters applied to a clip. Again, a lot of FCP editors just don’t understand why. Of course many of these things discussed above are learned from doing. Either doing in the right kind of editing class or doing when working alongside a more experienced editor or doing from this point forward after making a mistake. But many a young editor who knows how to push the buttons of Final Cut Pro never have the opportunity to do these things so they never learn them. Many of them have no desire to learn any more than what they know that has gotten the DV or HDV project in and out the door and made a client happy. Some of them see no value in a larger post house at all, at least until the cable network refuses a show they have “mastered to mini-dv” due to problems with the specs. Let me be clear that I’m certainly not talking about all young FCP editors. I’ve had a number of editors from local production programs call and just want to sit quietly and watch an edit session. How boring is that!?! It’s actually quite exciting if your goal is to properly learn the craft. If you are a Final Cut editor working in your own little world, do yourself a favor and try to reach beyond the walls of your own room as there’s a lot more out there to post production than just your install of Final Cut Pro.


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  • http://themudthebloodthebeer.com JohnC

    I agree with most of what you write here. I am a Director of Photography who has decided that to get my own projects done, I also need to be an editor and producer. I devour tutorials, FCP blogs and film making forums for both cool (free) plug-ins and work-flow/organization tips. There’s a beauty in the community of FCP editors that share their successes and failures that is missing in not only the AVID world, but much of the production community. That is, unless you reach out and visit a film/video set, or as you suggested, a post house. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my internships. The chance to soak in what everyone does and how and why they do it is invaluable, almost as invaluable as the opportunity to network with professionals in your field who at some future point maybe looking for a hungry young FCP editor sometime soon.

  • http://www.lfhd.net Shane Ross

    This is 100% nail-on-the-head. I wanted to get that comment out first. I will add my comments to this, and also to my blog. Because this is a huge problem that we are facing lately…hiring “FCP Editors” only to find that they might be a little weak in story structure, but VERY weak when it comes to assembling a proper timeline. When you hear crickets after you mention a basic step you know you are in trouble.

    This is why being an assistant editor is VERY important, but unfortunately that job is starting to be phased out by many companies. And something that never existed in most production houses outside of the big film and TV markets.

  • http://pistolerapost.com Patrick Sheffield

    I honestly don’t want to sound like a “grizzled old codger”, but I worry that the attitudes evidenced in the “younger generation” of FCP editors are really just representative of a mass phenomenon.

    My wife just went thru a “hiring cycle” and she says she no longer wants to talk to anyone under 30. She found them largely to be “superficially technically proficient” at computer use – even very creative in this regard – but lacking in both in-depth knowledge and initiative to acquire such knowledge. They can’t see why they should make the effort.

    These attitudes, coupled with the sense of entitlement and a general lack of work ethic – instant gratification syndrome – make most twenty-somethings very unattractive employees.

    I can’t help but wonder if the “everyone is a winner”, there are no losers, everybody gets a prize, way that many have been raised in recent years hasn’t contributed to this situation.

    Patrick Sheffield

  • Joseph

    I’ve had actually the reverse experience, of Avid Editors who haven’t dealt with the technical issues that you sometimes have to deal with in FCP.

    I have had to go in and clean up after people who are used to working with avid and a single system, and haven’t used drives that are being removed, The issues with speed adjusted clips and onlines.

    Finishing is something that simply isn’t taught in even some of the better film schools, or if is, it is taught as a complete afterthought.

    I do a lot of onlines using FCP and Color, and they are great tools, but they require an understanding of codecs, EDL’s, and media and data management that many avid editors have gotten away with not knowing.

    Also, a major problem I have noticed is that there’s a been complete destroying of the Assistant Editor position that used to be a real position, which is now a total entry level, barely above intern position. How many assistants-editors are no longer veterans of edit rooms and long night shifts but fresh out of a 3 week film-school?

  • AndrewK

    Like Shane, I agree 100%. I worked in a dub room, a tape vault, and as an AE before I started editing full time and there is so much knowledge you can only learn working at post facilities or under experienced editors. I’m sure many of us have read Mike Curtis’ horror stories over at HD for Indies of people who just purchased hardware/software off the shelf and went on their merry way w/o regard to established standards and practices. This is a situation where ignorance is *not* bliss. I wonder how many young FCP operators out there have every reel in their project “labeled” as the default “001”?


  • http://www.scottsimmons.tv Scott Simmons

    Great comments all! And besides the “001” label you could probably look in their many Capture Scratch folders across their many firewire drives and find hundreds of clips with the name ‘Untitled,’ ‘Untitled01,’ ‘Untitled02,’ etc etc.

  • Beowulf Grimbly

    Great post, Scott.

    Like you I’m 36, but I came into the industry ‘sideways’. I’ve always been self-taught. I learnt on an A/B tape-to-tape suite at college, but took a detour into design: print, web, interactive TV, then taking one of those multitasking roles where I got to do both design and video. Now I’m freelance, mainly doing broadcast.

    The concept of craft has always been very important to me, and so with my earliest broadcast submissions I took great pains to ensure that they were at least legal and within spec, if not actually beautifully graded or particularly well-mixed. I didn’t work my way up as a runner or a tape-op, and Assistant Editor roles only seems to exist in the film world in the UK (and still pretty rare at that). By the time I took the plunge to go fully freelance as an FCP editor, I had kids, so working my way up for peanuts at a post-house was never a realistic option for me.

    Despite being self-taught, I assumed that every other pro I met worked their way up through the industry. It astonished me to meet editors – with more impressive CVs than mine – who don’t know what a reference tone is for, don’t check for illegal levels, don’t put clocks on their playouts or as you said, line them up to a sensible timecode.

    And these are just the basics! There’s still so much more to learn…

  • Matthias Tomasi

    Seeing as I am one of your “next generation” (third-year television student), I’d like to put my two cents in.
    I agree with most of the problems you mention, as I see them in colleagues and even teachers almost every day. People going for flash instead of substance, doing a “one-stop-shop-post” that makes no distinction between offline, color correction, quality control and output. (By the way, the same goes for a lot of After Effects artists, who consider themselves “VFX experts” without understanding the mathematics of an image or the concept of a holdout matte.)
    That being said, you might want to reconsider putting the blame on FCP and the relatively unregulated ways of working it enables. Yes, you can lash together completely unorganized sequences, mix all sorts of media and output without any QC whatsoever. And yes, many people do just that, whereas Media Composer, through its rigid structure, forces editors to go about their work with discipline and in-depth knowledge.
    But, as the size, complexity, and number of people involved in a project grows, Final Cut Pro behaves no differently. IRE limits must be obeyed, timecode must be cloned, masters must be uncompressed, timelines must be collapsed. The software neither prevents nor discourages a technically flawless post production workflow, users only need to learn the underlying concepts.
    My point is simply that NOT hiring under-30-year-old FCP editors with little Avid experience is not the answer.

  • Nasos K

    I am a young editor from Greece(21yo)…I graduate from a 2years film school…My teachers always told me to be creative…The technical issues they say i would learnt on the way…
    I have learned Avid,Sony Xpri and in my house i bought Final cut..In my country FCP is the new “trend” for post-houses..
    I have saw online editing with 2 betas only in the tv channels…And when i say that i know about cables etc they didnt believe it…

    P.S.Sorry for my poor English..Im trying to improve them :-)

  • http://www.lfhd.net Shane Ross

    For the record, I too started out in a tape vault. Well, I apprentice edited first, then tape vault at two companies (America’s Funniest Home Videos being one), then Post Coordinator, then Assistant editor, then ONLINE editor…then Assistant again, then editor. So much is learned at those entry levels that are musts. But those positions don’t exist in many places, and are being phased out in places where they were strong. Sad really.

  • http://www.notArt.org Rob Schultz

    Well I’m one of these ‘new guys,’ more or less trying to find my way through this without all the experience that I’d like to have.

    On the one hand, the article makes me feel a bit better about my position – just reading a couple of the items and thinking ‘at least I don’t make THAT mistake.’ I started cutting tape-to-tape, so I still have respect for time code. To me, the idea that someone could be doing this for a living and NOT want to learn more about how it all works is completely baffling, but not surprising – most of my classmates were in that group. At least the school studio and gear were always available…

    On the other, and I know this is simply a sign of the poor luck / choices that have brought me the projects I’ve had in the past year, but the digital workflow has been leading to the -producers- being the ones who want to lop off the corners. I’ve been asked to run ‘the diVinci filter’ on vastly under- and over-exposed footage, to mix the final audio for a feature in FCP on several occasions, and (in one delightful case) called an idiot for not color correcting the 40 hours of raw footage before we started cutting and told it was extortion to expect to be paid for a couple days grading the 78 minutes of movie that was left at the end of the process. (Protip: project files should be kept local and separate from the production’s media drive, at least up to the point of the last paycheck.)

    I am new here, and I am trying to navigate by blog posts and forums, but every so often being new and being on my own works for me: I’m told by friends in post houses that P2 is a hassle and a nightmare, because it doesn’t have the 30 years of precedent that tape has, and people get confused. For me it’s great – I have a powerbook locked at software versions that work, and a system for keeping backups that hasn’t lost a shot (as long as the ACs remember to give me the cards before putting them back in the camera!). I’m organized, so that I can pass it on to another editor, and it was designed so that editor-Rob could receive all the data from loader-Rob, so I had the motivation to make it solid.

    I guess what I’m -really- saying is….anyone out there hiring an assistant?

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  • Alex

    Funny that comment about under 30 AE.
    I’m 30 and i’ve been trying to find a job at a post-production house. I was told by a good number of companies that i was too old to be an assistant.
    It’s funny because i’m applying for an assistant position because i know that being able to use a software interface is only half of the process. I don’t want to run befor i can walk.
    I can use FCP, Avid, basically whatever software you throw at me. Give me a week or two on it and i will know how to use it. It’s not because i’m a genius, it’s because they all do the same things, almost the same way.
    The only differences between software are the interface (where the buttons are placed) and what it can do that the other app can’t.
    Once you’ve learned that you know that software, it doesn’t take years.
    If you’ve learned any nle software you can be operational on any other nle software within a month. Nobody is reinventing the wheel of NLE interface design.
    Basically what you want to do with a particular tool is much more important than how the tool works.
    Whether an artist is using a brush, a wacom tablet or a pencil he should still be able to draw correct perspective and proportions.
    Likewise i believe a good editor will be good whether he is working on avid, fcp or a moviola.
    I guess that’s the difference between an editor, and a FCP operator.

  • Craig

    I work as Technician/Demonstrator at a University in the UK and teach the students FCP in the first year, showing them the basics but try and hammer the technical side into them and teach them how to use it properly. The teaching in the 2nd/3rd year is then how to edit but there is always a massive decline in technical teaching especially with the more Post house stuff that you talk about been the norm.

    I think my technical teaching in the 1st year will help a lot for the editors but I agree with what your saying. Most the students who decide to edit at home instead of at the University come in with a load of technical issues and most the time ignore what we say about the technical side, especially when they have lost all the material and captured it all via log and capture.

    If we could get all the students into post production houses that would be fantastic but it doesn’t work out like that here so I think it needs to be started with the technical teaching at the Universities/Colleges, my colleague and I are trying to force this into all teaching but like Nasos K points out that his teacher told him technical issues will come then nothing will change.

    The one good thing is that we can run pro training courses at our University which helps the 3rd years who decide to do them learn more about the technical side.

  • Steffen Wirth

    Excellent article and comments. Now – I’m a rookie greedily searching for books and information about, among other things, onlining (using Premiere Pro and AE). I already have Mark Christiansen’s and Stu Maschwitz’s books as well as several other ones about filmmaking.

    I would be really grateful for any recommendation of a book or a website etc. that teaches me the technical “basics” of onlining that were discussed in this thread.


  • http://web.mac.com/andymees Andy Mees

    You’re extremely kind in your assessment Scott! The situation is laughable. I spend inordinate amounts of time talking to “filmmakers” who do not have the first clue about QC, not the foggiest idea how to make head nor tail of the technical specs for programme delivery that they have been issued …. beyond throwing a “Broadcast Safe” filter on their edit they are utterly lost.
    What is most gobsmacking is that these people don’t even realise that they are wholly lacking in the skills they should have … and actually seem to get away with it. Needless to say, our acquisitions folk regularly take advice on who should be left off the Christmas card list.

    “He that knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool. Shun him

    He that knows not, and knows that he knows not is a pupil. Teach him.

    He that knows, and knows not that he knows is asleep. Wake him.

    He that knows, and knows that he knows is a teacher. Follow him.

    (Arabic proverb)

    To be fair to those up and comers who have already posted here, the very fact that they are out there seeking the knowledge that they need to make them better at what they do or aspire to, already puts them squarely ahead of those that I think are referred to here.

    Though some blame may lie with educational institutions that don’t cover the fundamental technical basics of our craft, I believe thats not the crux of the biscuit here. The real problem is one that we’ve all waxed lyrical about before, and which Scott notes again here, that being that that you have people who aren’t really editors editing projects. The tools get ever more affordable and easier to use bringing more and more aspects of the video and film production workflow within reach … consequently ever more people are marketing themselves as industry professionals, but the number of truly talented individuals is as rare as ever. The needles are still there, maybe more than ever before, but the haystack is getting exponentially bigger every day.

  • Reid VanVoris

    I feel your pain…somewhat. What I think the FCP generation represents is the democratization of the media creation process. Will that bring a few problems with it? You betcha. The obstacles you mention regarding prepping timelines and timecode, video signal measurement, EDL’s and such, can be learned in a short time. Like anything else, they take time and practice to become good at. One advantage of the FCP generation is their ability to learn and adapt quickly. Maybe one of you should put together a book or DVD on the pro cutting room knowledge and techniques you are bemoaning the lack of in the new generation. Those young whippersnappers aren’t as averse to learning new tricks, or the work it takes to do it, than you seem to think they are. What you’re seeing is inexperience because the barriers to use of edit systems have been lowered. It’s no longer necessary (despite the benefits) to sit behind an experienced pro before getting a chance to cut. You make good points, but it’s time to stop complaining about how the world is and start figuring out how to change it. Sounds like there might even be a market and a buck it it, too.

  • David

    While alot of the comments about sloppiness are basically correct. every project should be started logically and done right. I do sense some bitterness though. its a fact that we’re all moving to tapeless work flows or at least the only tape we may see is the final output.

    a lot of knowledge has been built up over the years on tape workflows. in 5 years that knowledge won’t be very useful and if I spent 10 years learning and perfecting it I’d be pretty upset too. in 5 years new editors won’t be batch capturing anything from tape. it’ll be all p2 style work flows and for that I’m grateful. while I look at every piece of footage I have I don’t want to spend 30 hours batch capturing from tape no more than I want to spend 30 hours syncing dialogue tracks to picture. the tools are getting better and giving us more time to edit and less time with the mundane tasks. its unfortunate that this has lead to some people taking no care whatsoever but I think those kinks will eventually be worked out or those people simply won’t be hired again.

  • http://www.videopark.com C. Park Seward

    While consulting with a high-end non-linear Hollywood post house, they had a problem with outputting from their Avid. I asked how the video looked on a scope. They didn’t have one. Enough said.

  • AndrewK


    I don’t think anyone is bitter, and the talk about the tape work flow is just a common example of the problem (it’s not the problem in and of itself). The online/offline process isn’t going to go away just because tape will. The need to adhere to delivery standards (be it b’cast or digital projection in a theater) and keep projects organized so they don’t turn into a logistical nightmare isn’t going to go away just because tape will. The tapeless work flow is arguably more complicated and requires more organization because you don’t have a master shoot tape to go back to.

    This situation is akin to a farm kid learning to drive a pick-up around the farm to get supplies and such from point A to point B. That kid might be a great driver on the farm, but put him on the road w/o any driver’s ed training to learn the rules of the road and it’s not going to be pretty.

    It’s not that the “youngins” are stupid or anything, it’s just that they lack the experience and exposure to professional environments to know there’s a lot of stuff they don’t know. And that’s nothing new. When I came out of college in ’01 w/my degree in radio & TV production one of the first things I realized when I entered the workforce is I didn’t know sh*t about how productions worked in the real world. But neither does anyone else when they start out so, in the grand tradition of things, I learned as I went. But if I never got a job at a post house, if I insulated myself from the production world by editing on my computer at home, I’d never learn that there is so much stuff I hadn’t learned yet. And I’d never have the chance to learn and grow under the guidance of seasoned professionals.


  • nevin

    I’m a 20 year old FCP Editor and I’m your worst nightmare.
    Just kidding but I know the pains brought up in this article.
    I took a 15 month digital filmmaking course at a technical arts school, my biggest criticism is they did not stress the technical nearly to the level they should, I told them this in my exit interview. We shot DV, but never learned what the DV codec was, or about other shooting codecs. I would be surprised if I asked anyone who I graduated with what field order means and not get a blank stare back at me. The students didn’t care and the few times teachers actually tried to teach the technical, it was more of a tutorial and no real hands on or even testing, to most students it was in one ear out the other. We were explained the technical to some degree but it was rarely seen as important information, at least thats what it seemed. I had the most technical knowledge going into the program out of my classmates, and I can learn & think very quickly so I soaked up the technical, but I still found myself having to learn a lot of it on my own after I got out of school.
    I know I still have a ways to go but I make sure I do everything as most proper to my knowledge and to make projects accessible, editable, and changeable down the road by other editors. I’ve never had to work in an offline workflow but I’ve taken my own time to grasp an understanding of what it means. Also the company I work for just got a RED so understanding the concepts of offline before getting we got it helped me understand the whole workflow without the blank stare moments.
    I know a few people who think they are Final cut editors because they can get footage in the program and bump it together with some nice effects, but in the end of the day I can usually tell if it’s a sloppy job with many cut corners by looking at the project or even the end product in many cases.
    The lack of knowledge usually shows through in image quality.

  • http://www.prestodigital.ca Joe Owens

    There’s never enough time to make it short.
    Too bad the only people who would read a blog like this are already among the converted.

    We’re obviously at a crossroads. There may come a time that technical knowledge becomes moot — nobody now needs to know or care about “color framing” anymore… any blank stares? But certainly the introduction of a wild card app like COLOR into FCS2 raised a number of issues — the app likes things to be a certain way — just like an on-line house, surprise, surprise, and those that “don’t know” get stopped in their tracks… and its right away to the internet “Please help me, I’m new… blah, blah, blah…” Manual? what manual? Then read it to me…. (aka “training DVD”)

    What’s really missing is judgement and critical thinking. Can you be truly creative without any of the building blocks? How can one possibly create art with no knowledge of the physical medium? Mix your own paints and you’ll know what I mean.

    But in the end, “Surf or Die — Stephen St. Croix”


  • Anthony Vescio

    It used to be you learned out of necessity, there was not an enormous amount of books and knowledge bases to get you started. All you had was the films/shows that you grew up with, your imagination, and your spirit. You were forced to understand how something worked.

    Now it seems like you learn from convenience. I only have to hover my mouse over an object for 2 seconds until it informs we as to what it does. If i get lost all I have to do is go to my help menu.

    What is the real problem? The ease of use of the programs? Or the lackadaisical nature of the people using it?

  • http://dowork.com Rob

    Rather than curse the darkness, why not light a candle? I look forward to the tutorials you will write. Please, tell us why we should “starting at an even 1:00:00:00 time code on a master tape”. I’d love to know.

  • http://www.lfhd.net Shane Ross

    The point of film schools and many classes that teach editing and how to use editing systems is to give the students knowledge to START with. They don’t graduate school and are now EDITORS! No, you have to now find a place to work that will show you the ins and outs of the business. The politics of the edit bay, the way a post facility works, how shows are formatted for delivery to networks. Starting out as a Production Assistant to get the basics, then moving up. You never stop learning…and you definately aren’t ready to start editing for network delivery right out of the gate, unless you have been taught well. I knew a bit more because I interned at a company that made a series of Discovery Channel Specials…I picked up things just being in the office.

    One of the biggest issues is that people think that because they can arrange clips into a story structure, that that is all that is needed. Sure, it is fine for short films that you put on DVD or up on YouTube. But then these people might land a job editing some commercial for a local business and are suddenly faced with needed to deliver a proper master tape. I have seen this a LOT on the forums. People who don’t have the first clue on what to do. Again, this is stuff you learn while working at companies that do this, and you learn on the job.

    I think that FCP being as cheap as it is still is a wonderful thing. It put filmmaking and editing into the hands of many people who couldn’t have done this before. And i really wish I had this when i wen to film school. It give the opportunity for the truely talented to be able to make themselves known and for some great content to be made that otherwise wouldn’t have. Unfortunately we have to wade thru the 98% of the crap out there to find it, but I think it’s worth it.

    But I have strayed from point. Point is, when it comes to filmmaking for personal use and DVD and YouTube you don’t need all of this technical stuff. You are having fun. I shot more than my share of films on super 8mm and spliced them with tape. Fun. But I cannot do that once I start working professionally. Working professionally means needing to know more…adding more technical skills to your toolbelt, and to do that you need to start low on the totem pole.

    I can build a playhouse and a decent shed. But I wouldn’t rely on me to design and build your next house. Not until I spend a few years on the construction site to see how it is done, and what pitfalls exist and what tricks of the trade help make this process smooth.

  • AndrewK

    Many of people posting comments here light candles… a lot of candles. Scott Simmons, Shane Ross, Joe Owens, Patrick Sheffield, and Andy Mees are all names I recognize from various industry forums, blogs, and/or on-line articles.

    I don’t know the “official” reason for starting at hour 1 but it comes in handy for a few reasons. First, I know exactly where the program starts so cueing it up is easy (and if you have to cue up dozens of tapes a day you don’t have to time shuttle around each tape looking for when the program starts). Second, starting at hour 1 means is very easy to know how long a program is and/or how far into a program you are just by glancing at the TC. Finally, starting at a specific hour can be used as another way to ID a tape. For example, hour 1 for the first tape of the day shot, hour 2 for tape 2, hour 3 for tape 3, etc.,.

    Standards are the grammar of our industry. Not the sexist of things, but necessary for effective communication.


  • http://web.mac.com/andymees Andy Mees

    >Please, tell us why we should “starting at an even 1:00:00:00 time code on a master tape”

    Rob, if you ever have to deliver a broadcast master to a large network you will discover that this kind of thing is a prerequisite for technical acceptance of your show. Does it change the quality of your editing? No, of course not, but fwiw, for those on the receiving end, it is a remarkably simply pointer to the professionalism of the editor that produced it.

    And you have to remember that when delivering for broadcast there are dozens of incompetents in the chain after it leaves your edit suite, and they are all expecting the timecode to start at 01:00:00:00 or as directed … anything else will overtax their collective brain cell.


  • http://www.konspiracystudios.com Mike Greenberg

    I thank the stars everyday I got a job at a post house at 15. I would be in the same boat as the rest of these kids except I sparred the humiliation because I had this knowledge before I had FCP. Now 19 I run my own company, and the stuff I send post houses is, uh, right.

    I do however see a lot of cable producers who make the same mistakes as these young editors, in fact I don’t think it’s age at all that matters it’s just people don’t know.

    If you’re not in post you don’t KNOW post. Producers show up with all audio references on an edl listed as DA88… Well which DA88? Tone comes in Hot, All media listed as coming from the same reel….

  • http://bscenefilms.blogspot.com Mike

    So, if the situation is now that young editors cannot get jobs as PA / assistants etc, what do you suggest they do, Scott?

    I think that cream rises to the top. Those people with a natural talent for the craft and a hard core work ethic will end up getting the work.

    My wife, Nance, worked as an assistant for peanuts for a long time before she decided to go it alone and do the free-lance route and it has worked extremely well for her.

    Part of the issue with working as an assistant or PA or whatever in LA is that you cannot make enough money to rent a corner of a garage to live in.

    So the up-and-comer that wants in will have to work a real job and save up so that they can go get a job as an assistant and still afford to eat.

    One alternative is interning at the cable access studio. Weekends and evenings and learning the entire workflow end to end.

    Anyway, those are my thought, FWIW. The real talent will always find a way to succeeed and make whatever sacrifices are necessary. The wannabes will not last and will move o to a new career in motion picture marketing or whatever else best suits their talents :)

  • http://phillr.blogspot.com Phillip Roh

    I think the problem is moreso with the college/universities/schools than any specific program. To pinpoint it on a piece of software is falsehood, possibly to the extent of implied personal bias which hurts the credibility of the messenger for such an important topic of debate.

    With the digital age, schools have been focusing more on the technical rather than the philosophical elements of editing. I see editing as a language, where you place cuts is like grammar, scenes are paragraphs, etc….. Sometimes seeing an act as an essay helps me during times of creative blockage. But language is a tough thing to learn. Science has shown that conventional languages (e.g. English, Spanish, etc…) are easier to learn at an earlier age rather than later in life. So it strikes me as odd that the schools would spend time teaching technical knowledge rather than philosophical knowledge, as I personally believe it is harder to learn the language of editing later in life.

    That being said, I personally find alot of young people out of school being able to dance technical circles around my white haired brain. Like any great learning experience, i’m enamoured with the amount of organizational suggestions, performance tweaks, and workflow management that they can teach me. What I find weak however is their inability to tell a good story. I used to immensely enjoy student films of by-gone years, as they often had a very refreshing perspective on life, or a unique story. But nowadays I find the vast majority of student films to be piles of dreck, roughly equating to one gem per fifteen films.

    From my personal experience, I find Avid editors especially are amazingly weak on the technical side of things whereas FCP editors are those that I can depend on to cover my back on deliverables. When it comes to storytelling, I tend to find people originating from an Avid-background are slightly better than those originating from a FCP-background. But that being said, I recently wrapped two primetime television shows airing across North America, one cut on FCP and the other cut on Avid. The FCP show was a breeze in post, amazing story, technical aspect all locked down in set standards, easy online/delivery with very minor hiccups. The Avid show on the other hand was a nightmare. We went through multiple restructurings and total workflow overhauls, huge last minute adjustments had to be made before online, and the story wasn’t that great either.

    All in all I feel that it boils down moreso to people. Who they are, what their background is, does an impressive CV always equate to a quality employee? We should be debating more about how to pick the good employees out of the haystack, rather than doing another pseudo FCP-bashing session.

  • http://www.allanwhite.net/ Allan White

    Great post, excellent discussion. I’m trying to decide how I should feel about this.

    I’m new to the editing field, coming from design, animation, and multimedia. Learning FCP was a snap: so much easier to use than Flash! The CRAFT of editing and storytelling is what I’m trying to learn now. Color correction is mostly done by eye, occasionally by FCP scope, and always to taste (aesthetic judgments).

    In my job, I very rarely need to go to a post house – for anything. Nearly all our programs go to DVD, are shown at conferences on projectors, or delivered online (a few HD theater trailers, too).

    My future target mediums are Blu-Ray, online video (from iPod to HD), on-demand cable, and projected HD. Those standards seem to have little to do with the Jurassic workflow of the tape-based post house. If you’re not broadcasting on TV, why spend time learning many of these soon-to-be irrelevant skills?

  • http://www.allanwhite.net/ Allan White

    I started professional life as a designer. I watched a similar transition in the print industry, when it went from film-based to [digital] direct-to-plate. Almost overnight, many skilled craftsmen who were considered irreplaceable a few years before were suddenly completely unnecessary. Some could make the transition to other, related jobs, but many had to get out of the business altogether.

    I want to reiterate my distinction between broadcast and other mediums: if you’re creating for broadcast, the kind of post-production knowledge & experience is a requisite. Broadcast isn’t the only game in town now, and so isn’t driving skill requirements like it used to (combined with easy access to stellar tools).

  • http://video4pro.blogspot.com Piero

    I posted the link to Scott’s article on my Blog hoping that the shy italians could participate to this interesting provocation/discussion. I’ll let you know.
    But my point commenting the article was a little bit of my professional story as I started as consultant/designer for computer fx in 1986. This article remind me of certain discussion and debates that came out when the electronic Post Production got “adult” in the second half of the 80’s. This point was used to be made by film guys “against” the new electronic guys and their point was: “you’re just too young to know or you’re to technical to know..” Then it came Avid and those guys changed their point to: “Am I too old for this staff, am I not technical enough for this?..! So the story goes again and again everytime a new or cheaper technology hit the film/videomaking market. My point as others have posted here is: I’m happy that FCP give almost all the chance to express themselves, ideas often go beyond quality issues (low budget great movies against silly perfect big Budget), competition based on ideas and possibly quality, is much better that the fake one based on money or P.R.
    Then Scott is absolutely right on the online issues when it comes to broadcasting and movies, but then what about tv programs based on You Tube videos as we have here in Italy?
    So as everybody I hope already knows, we are in a chaos world from all point of views. Not anarchy but just chaos. So if this is true, the duty of the most experienced editors or filmmakers is to teach the young guys as many of you do through Blogs and Forums but also during work!
    Take care!

  • AX

    I agree with Allan White. The people complaining about the newer more efficient editing softwares (final cut) are most likely frustrated by the obsolescence of their skillsets. Just as I cringe to learn a new computer operating system, it’s a necessary evil. One must adapt. Everything is being “dummed down”. Look at the iPhone. Your grandparents can use it if only they can trash the idea that it is hard to use. Tapeless workflows are the new school- get used to it! Instead of getting intimidated by these young bucks, make the technology work in a way that sets you apart from the little guys.

  • Joshua Rosenfield

    Interesting discussion. I myself am a young editor, but I totally agree that garnering a technical proficiency is key to becoming a professional in the world of broadcast and film post-production.

    I started out as a logger, working nights for about 10 months, then moving up to an assistant, and then an editor from there.

    Way back in the day, I learned to edit at home using a very early version of Adobe Premiere. College taught me Avid (which is the primary system of where I work now). Not long thereafter, I built my own system at home, and, as you can imagine, FCP offers a very cheap solution that also is professional. Many here have pointed out that Avid maintains a rigid structure which lends itself for professional environments, and I have to agree. I’ve often told people, “as an editor, I prefer FCP, but as an assistant, I prefer Avid.” FCP has come a long way moving from a consumer, to prosumer, and now a professional product…but I feel there’s a lot more work to be done.

    Nonetheless, regardless of what editing system an editor is working on, I feel it only helps to have a working knowledge of the technical side of post-production. The more people around a post-production facility, no matter from which category of duties, that know the technical ins-and-outs, the smoother everything runs.

    Oh, and just a quick tidbit on tapeless workflows: I love the idea of tapeless workflows, but tapes are going to be around for LONG time still.

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  • AndrewK

    Allan White you said, “Those standards seem to have little to do with the Jurassic workflow of the tape-based post house. If you’re not broadcasting on TV, why spend time learning many of these soon-to-be irrelevant skills?”
    Timecode and reel numbers aren’t things that are going to fall by the wayside and a main point of the article is people that *want* their stuff to be on TV not knowing these things. Another point is people not recognizing their own limitations and, in an attempt to do everything themselves, turn their project into a technical rat’s nest that is a PITA to fix after the fact. To paraphrase Mike Curtis, they saved a nickel on Monday but that ended up costing them $5 on Friday.

    I think you might want to re-read the piece. It’s not an “old dogs don’t want to learn new tricks” editorial. Scott Simmons has a number of articles talking about post work flow for Red cameras (that’s about as bleeding edge as it gets), Shane Ross has years of experience working w/P2, and Andy Mees knows a thing or two about XDCAM (just a few examples from the names I recognize).

    At the ripe old age of thirty I’m young enough never to have cut a piece on a linear editor, but old enough to remember when computers still need hardware assist cards to help process DV footage. I’ve worked jobs that were primarily b’cast, I’ve worked jobs that were primarily for DVD (but all deliverables had to be b’cast ready), and I currently work at a company that is primarily web delivery. Do I worry about hour one or exact video levels much at my current job? No, ’cause neither one of those things really apply to web-only content. Do I worry about project management, organization, and workflow? Most definitely ’cause those types of things are universal (especially when there are a dozen editors sharing a constantly full 18TB xSan).


  • http://www.allanwhite.net/ Allan White

    Timecode and reel numbers aren’t things that are going to fall by the wayside and a main point of the article is people that *want* their stuff to be on TV not knowing these things. Another point is people not recognizing their own limitations and, in an attempt to do everything themselves, turn their project into a technical rat’s nest that is a PITA to fix after the fact.

    AK, I’m with you there. TC is with us forever. =)

    In spite of the Robert Rodriguez’s of the world (DIY everything), the ideal production workflow involves a small, skilled team. I love the days when I get to work with a top-notch director, and I basically operate for him & make his vision happen. I learn so much that way.

    I’ve entered the broadcast world described in detail here very little. I learn at your feet, graybeards!

    BTW, AX: It’s, “dumbed down”. LOL!

  • http://www.allanwhite.net/ Allan White

    Phillip Roh said:

    What I find weak however is their inability to tell a good story. I used to immensely enjoy student films of by-gone years, as they often had a very refreshing perspective on life, or a unique story. But nowadays I find the vast majority of student films to be piles of dreck, roughly equating to one gem per fifteen films.

    This is truly the heart of the matter. Well said.

    I’ve realized that I’m not very strong in this area, and attached myself to good writers and storytellers. It makes for a great collaboration. Know thyself!

  • http://www.scottsimmons.tv Scott Simmons

    Wow…. this has turned into an amazing discussion beyond what I had imagined. Any time you pose such a question you are going to get answers on both sides of the equation. I think some of the comments that think I am blaming FCP for a general lack of the young editor’s knowledge is a bit short. As I mentioned in the post I use both FCP and Avid on probably a 50/50 basis. I can change from one app to the other in a single keystroke and not miss a beat. I can argue the merits and de-merits of both equally. I have always said that they are just tools and are really irrelevant to the discussion. FCP just happened to come along at the right price point to even make this discussion relevant. It could just as easily have been Adobe Premiere but it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter about the tool, only that the user doesn’t know how to properly use the tool to get an end result. As has been mentioned, if the editor’s only result is their own project then I’m sure most people don’t really care how organized or unorganized they might be. But what I’ve found is a lot of those editors who began only doing their little project for themselves, their friends or their church keeps doing them. They enjoy this profession and want to move on to bigger and better things. If they are good then they do move on …. and they end up with a big job that has to move beyond their own edit suite. That’s when knowing many of these basics of post production can make life easier for them and all they encounter. Is it all young FCP editors who don’t seem to know what they are doing? Of course not. Do most of them have an arrogance that their new ways are better than what any of us “older” folks are doing? That’s not the case either. But there is enough of that that I see it on a regular basis and apparently a lot of other people do to. Age isn’t necessarily the determining factor either, I see a lot of directors and producers trying to cut their own material as well and they have the same problems. But they are often much more willing to listen to the post-professional and try to learn the right way. But not all of them, it goes both ways. Whatever the case, if this discussion makes some people seek out a better way to do their post-production then I guess it was well worth it! Thanks to all for the great discussion.

  • http://www.allanwhite.net/ Allan White

    I think this is less about tools, and more about 1. a generational shift in how (younger) people work, and 2. the way that oft-younger generation deals with the dizzying array of tech choices & change in the creative fields.

    This generation (I can relate, even though I’m 36) tends to “feel” their way through technology. Manuals are only for when they’re really stumped. Just-in-time-knowledge (ad-hoc training) rules the day. Many technologies they’ve directly interacted with have transformed or become obsolete overnight. They’ve grown up in a time where no tech can be counted on to even exist tomorrow. So, why spend time learning stuff that’s more than 5 minutes old?

    It’s really not as bad as all that! I see great potential and hope in this generation. I’ve been thinking about this discussion, and searching for deeper meaning and considering trends.

    I’ll say this: when they start editing video like guys in Minority Report (holosuites, gestures, multitouch), the Gamer Generation will be first in line.

    And they’ll pay us graybeards to help guide them in storytelling and proper color correction. =)

  • http://www.digitalrebellion.com Jon Chappell

    I think the issue is that young people nowadays are focused on the end result (“becoming” an editor, director, etc) with no thought as to how they will reach that stage.

    In film school, I met so many people (and they know who they are) who just didn’t bother to do the work and skipped class because they “knew it” already. And by “knowing it”, I think they meant that they had seen a lot of movies.

    As someone who falls into that age bracket, I am used to people not wanting to give me a chance or not believing I am capable of doing what I say I am. It is frustrating but I realize that there are a lot of young people out there that give the rest of us a bad name. We are not all like that, however, and younger members can bring fresh ideas based on their different perspectives of the world.

  • http://www.scottsimmons.tv Scott Simmons

    > So, if the situation is now that young editors cannot get jobs as PA / assistants etc, what do you suggest they do, Scott?

    Well, I think that getting a job as a PA or an assistant isn’t that far out of the question is it? It might arise from an internship in school. That’s how my first job in post came about. After the internship my first 2 PAID jobs at the post house was painting a room and cleaning out a closet. I think that kind of thing seems to be beneath a lot of people these days because they can run FCP quite well and feel they should be able to step into a paying edit job the day after graduation or after they finish their first EPK. Now that’s not EVERYONE but that kind of thing sure has been seen a lot over the years. There’s a comment above that mentions people not wanting to read manuals anymore. The massive FCP manuals are a wealth of information if one will just read it. And let’s say you are awarded a cable show that will go to broadcast and you don’t know how to finish it properly. Just a phone call to the post house that is going to help you output or an experienced editor you might hire for the final finishing can be a wealth of information. I can’t speak for anyone else but I’ve rarely turned down an opportunity to help someone learn the proper way to do things. I think most people are willing to help if they have the time. Often one only has to ask!

  • http://www.jehpost.com Tony Gallardo

    As Shane said, you hit the nail right on the head! I’m a late twenty-something yr old editor/Dir of Post of a small post facility. At my previous post house, I was an intern about six months and an assistant editor for about a year and a half, way too short if you ask me. I wish i had more time to absorb and develop, but the senior editor left and i made a bold move to take his place and asked the higher-ups to “test” me and if i couldn’t “swim” then to bring in a more experienced editor. “Swim” i did, but only through blood, sweat, and tears. in the end it all worked out, but if it wasn’t for all those “rules” and basic procedures i wouldn’t be sitting here.(Not that i’m anything important, or in the same league as yall, but you get the idea) No matter what, one should always be yearning to “grow”, not only creatively, but in the Details, its always the details that come back to bite.
    This is some great content. Thanks Scott.

    tony g

  • http://www.firstgencom.com Wayne Persing

    Scott, excellent article, and those of you who have made comments, I agree with many and disagree with some.

    As someone who started his editing career in the days of 2 inch Quad and Editvue and to this day continues to work as an editor using current formats and software, my career has been one of constant learning and redefining my skills. I have seen many formats come and go, however standards are constant. To use an old phrase “We’ve come a long way baby…”

    My number one complaint is and probably always will be with many of today’s schools and the lack of professional experience of the teaching staff. Degrees do not make an editor, skills do. Technical skills are equally as important as creative ones. When the technical becomes transparent to an editor, a whole new realm of technique is opened. I believe in the old way, working side by side with an experienced editor, watching him and how he works, taking notes and asking questions when appropriate. Another thing I find younger editors extremely lacking in is knowing where, or being to lazy to find answers to their questions about the software they are using.

    Every new piece of equipment or software brings with it new demands and required skills. Those of us who can be called old-timers need to take it upon ourselves to help our younger brothers and sisters whenever and wherever we can. Personally, I take each one of our interns and give them our facility manual and review it with them. I show them our patch bays and explain their function, introduce them to our scopes and meters…you get the idea. And when one of them asks that basic question about the software they are using, I show them how to use the help menu. It really is quite useful.

  • http://www.allanwhite.net/ Allan White

    Technical skills are equally as important as creative ones. When the technical becomes transparent to an editor, a whole new realm of technique is opened.

    Yes, yes, yes. Knowing the tools, the process, inside & out is critical. Kids: don’t be lazy!

    Another thing I find younger editors extremely lacking in is knowing where, or being to lazy to find answers to their questions about the software they are using.

    This boggles my mind, with so many resources online and powerful search engines. Spending time at DVXUser or 2-pop will go a long way.

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  • http://www.relayproductions.com Richard Numeroff

    What a great discussion… and such a diverse group of people contributing. I’m in the group that started in film and 1″ tape… and Produce, Direct and Shoot and have put in a few thousands of hours on tape edit systems – off and on-line and then Media Composer and now Final Cut… I’ve adapted to so many work-flows over years and expect many more. The technological changes have brought fantastic access to the medium but has also given people the sense of mastery when really they are just taking the first small steps. I have noticed that a whole generation of shooters who have only used the small DV and HDV cameras never get to develop the detailed and nuanced creative and technical skills that are ultimately required to get the most out of the larger cameras with better lenses and accessories. These poor people can go years not getting experience which is crucial to developing their professional expertise. With budget cuts in so many areas of television production and so many shortcuts being taken people in all departments are not always learning best practices on the job. The technology and tolerance for crappy content makes this possible… it just wasn’t technologically possible many years ago to not be very detail oriented and very careful every step of the way… fudging was not an option. Now we can fudge endlessly and it often works great! A blessing and a curse…

    a few of my cents…

  • Mike Barber

    “I think that cream rises to the top. Those people with a natural talent for the craft and a hard core work ethic will end up getting the work… The real talent will always find a way to succeeed and make whatever sacrifices are necessary.”

    Sure sound like Social Darwinism to me. Not to come off unnecessarily antagonistic, but by that logic those of us who are sincerely trying to up their game and become better editors though are find themselves struggling… we somehow deserve it. The OP likely was not intending to give offence, but I find it a bit insulting to be effectively told that the reason I’m not experiencing any success as an editor is because I’m lazy.

    I do not have the financial resources to go to a film school that ISN’T going to teach me what I need to know. I already have some years of freelance experience and even broadcast experience in a TV studio as a director/editor. I’m now in a position of trying to find work again… I’ve submitted my CV to almost every post house in Canada from Montreal to Vancouver… guess how many replies… zero. Any postings out there for Assistant Editor are really unpaid internships in some “Mickey Mouse” operation that likely knows little more than I do (I know enough to know BS when I see it), so the opportunities for learning on-the-job that many of my peers have had do not seem readily available.

    I think enough has been said regarding the problems. Can we please devote some energy to discussing solutions?

  • watcher_skys

    One important thing this article has pointed out is that editing has nothing to do with the equipment you are working on. I am an EDITOR period. In order to continue to make a living, and because I like toys and technology, I have learned to use many systems from Avid (started on system id #6 in 1990) to FCP. Just because you own a word processor it doesn’t make you a writer. The old system of starting as an apprentice, then assistant, then editor is gone and the downside is anyone with access to the software is now an “editor”. Talent WILL however always win out, so I suggest you young upstarts learn a thing or two about the process and about editing in general (its more than just knowing which button to push) before you start handing out business cards. In the long run all you are doing is diluting and devaluing the work editors do and causing rates to drop, which affects you too!

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  • Mike

    Great stuff, Scott. As a grizzled veteran (48, two networks, one Emmy) I’m shocked by how much technical knowledge is being wielded by the 20-somethings, but how tone-deaf so many of them are when it comes to basic editing and pacing. I’ve seen “editors” who could write nifty expressions for their After Effects comps, yet who insisted to making EVERY dissolve in a piece 30-frames, even at the expense of the flow. The good ones will be just fine with some seasoning – the others will be like the dreaded “Avid Editors” who appeared on the scene in days gone by. We never hired “Avid Editors”; we hired a lot of editors who used Avid as the platform to ply their craft.

    In this day of web video, and better-faster-cheaper, the meat and potatoes skills of shooting good video and editing it properly are more important than ever, now that a potential viewer’s attention is fragmented sixteen ways to sunday.

  • http://www.askmrvideo.com Perry Lawrence

    Great discussion and great post Scott.

    I began linear editing in 1986 so I’m in THAT generation (I’m 48). My first exposure to non-linear was VideoFX (a horrible hybrid). Then I purchased a Media 100. Loved it, hated the company. I eventually was editing for a number of houses in NYC on an AVID. I do a lot of work for a large ad agency and they have in house 4 AVIDs and 4 FCP stations. I work on both.

    At 48 I’m at the top of the editor range but the bottom only goes down to 30ish. Why? Client interaction and trust.

    Most young editors (whatever platform they are editing on) do not have the client skills to instill confidence and trust. If a client is paying the big $, they want someone with whom they can talk to, reason with and who will take care of ALL the little details (like timecode ;-). I have NO DOUBT that there are young editors that can edit rings around me but they simply do not have that sexy mix of humor/gravitas clients want. Can you learn it? Sure – but it takes time. Holed up in your personal studio doesn’t help you learn client interaction, video standards, deliverables, etc. Taking an AVID or FCP class alone, certainly won’t do it either.
    Young editors should become an assistant, apprentice or whatever it takes to get in front of a client and WORK those skills. I can’t say client skills are more important that editing chops, but they account for a good 40-50% of what makes a “good” editor.

    Had to laugh at Mike’s “tone deaf” comment. Most of the “older” editors I know of are musicians of one sort or another – creative types to the core. Today’s young editors come out of the tech/web side. Not saying one’s better, just an observation.

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  • http://www.benscottarts.co.uk ben scott

    read the article

    cant agree more with a lot of what you are saying, however, and this is a big one

    don’t presume it is the software, the people new to it or the legacy of the past that matters most

    it is plain and simple people are being taught very badly how to do very complex things and they are being taught only the basics.

    I teach final cut for a living and make sure I cover things like batch capturing, 3 point editing and scratch disks over things like all the buttons, I cannot say the same for all other tutors. I have had so many students on more advanced classes that dont know how to target tracks and perform 3 point edits without dragging to the timeline that have been on courses with other people. or learners that have attended some sort of film course at university (where the tutors dont know how to teach them) and for who my teaching has been refreshing.

    people think they can learn fcp in a week, I always show them why this isnt so and make sure they understand that more difficult aspects of the software can be got to only after 6 months hard study. the next feature they want to learn give it more time again. the people that take it slow and listen get it the others dont.

    all I can say is emerse yourself young editors, I did and after lots of mistakes learnt how to do many things. I am still learning everyone should think the same way

  • http://mkrupnick.go.cc mkrupnick@mac.com

    I started back in `67 slicing 2″ quad videotape with razor blades. Now I’m working from the digital desktop and loving the evolution of the technology but hating some of its after-effects (apologies, Adobe…).
    I see the central problem as the commoditization of knowledge: the idea that you can somehow package a shortcut to experience that is a viable substitute for practicing a craft. I was lucky enough to be able to apprentice under the tutelage of seasoned professionals who were not discouraged from taking the time to do it well. That climate is hard to find today, at schools as well as work. When continuing education is perceived as a product instead of a quest for knowledge, the craft suffers.
    I put in the time to learn my skills for the same reason I continue to work them: I love the magic. It’s not about “being” a director or editor; it’s about doing what I love – making the “music” because it makes me feel good. I don’t see much love of the craft evident anywhere in the media landscape today…not from the companies, not from the schools, not from the “pop” artists who generate most of the revenue, so the students are not provided with many good role models. Show business has become little show, all business. It’s sad that today’s students are better served by getting a business degree than one in arts. This trend dumbs-down the content and humanity in every niche of our culture, polluting our politics, art, intellect, and our fitness as citizens of this world…and it’s even bad for business in the end.
    It not only ignores the future consequences of such short-sightedness; it disregards a crucial resource: the successful transfer of knowledge from experienced teachers. My generation’s potential contribution to the industry is overlooked entirely as too expensive, and our perspectives, gained from decades of doing the work, are horrendously undervalued in a culture that sees nothing beyond the current fiscal quarter. I accomplish more now (and better!) than ever before in my career, but only a handful of clients are smart enough to see that and pay a fair fee for it. In this YouTube world, there’s much less aggregate value assigned to really good work.

  • Brian Adrian

    It was both sad and depressing when I walked into the TV truck’s tape room on the 2nd day of production on an NBC Network show to see the TD explain to the FC editor what a waveform/vectorscope is. The editor didn’t even know it existed, much less how to use it. I don’t care what system you use, you need to know the basics and it seems like the best editors started in the tape world.

  • http://www.redguitarfilms.com Chris Lombardo

    I believe the problem is twofold. First, the web. Thanks to YouTube and other channels, quality standards are not as important. This will disappear as bandwidth and codecs improve. Second, creativity is king. We’ve all seen technically-perfect editing with very poor content. Not usually the editor’s fault I know, but this is the era of the writer/cameraman/editor. People would much rather have high entertainment value over quality any day. And the young editors know it, so motivation is not high to learn time code management and how to use EDLs and scopes. In fact, it’s often DESIREABLE to have a film look crappy. Adds to the realism. That’s my .02 anyway.

  • Brian D.

    For a niche magazine catering to pros, this article is appropriate but really obnoxious.

    Do you hear yourself, Scott? You’re coming across as the old school style elitist, whining about the lack of editing standards, procedure and technical knowledge in younger editors and how “their” alien techniques are inferior to yours.

    Put your cigar and whiskey down, along with your nose, then put your thinking on the shelf next to 1989.

    No one is going to care about your procedure if your video stinks. People don’t care about your tech knowledge they want to see the end product. Period.

    If you’re product is good, you get it done on deadline and you’re cheap, young editors are going to run circles around all of the elitists like you while all of you are still figuring out why you didn’t get hired.

  • http://www.firstcoastpost.com Neil Samuels

    I think there is much to be said here on both sides of the isle. I am an old codger in my late 50’s whose seen things come and go. Frankly this is my take. Many of us have had to endure the channels which governed our industry for many years. Intern, AE sometimes for years. and eventualy we got to be editors. This is the way it was, so we grumbled and did what we had to do. Our bosses gave a us a bunch of (HARD TIMES) and we took it because we had no choice. But today things are very different. Schools are charging tens of thousands of dollars to learn the craft and sometimes they miss some issues which we as pro’s from the linear era think is important;and it is. But this new generation must now pay off sudent loans bigger than many of our first houses and do so in an atmosphere that has “0” patience and where the clients want everything for nothing. they must toil to produce the most amount of work in a very small amount of time. Because as I’ve pointed out many carry debt for learning the craft as high as $75,000.00. With that hanging over your head you won’t intern either. They will learn what we have learned in due time. and with some bangs and bruises along the way. I’m not saying they’re right and we’re wrong. I’m saying it’s a very different world out there and the emphesis is different than it was when we entered the market place. Sometimes I think that I’ve forgotten more than these folks will ever learn but then again I wasn’t asked to work for minimum wage either. Remember you get what you pay for.

  • http://www.scottsimmons.tv Scott Simmons

    I feel this comment from Brian D needs addressing directly….

    >>For a niche magazine catering to pros, this article is appropriate but really obnoxious.< <
    I would call Studio Daily far from niche. It carryies a wide rang of topics from the high end product on down to prosumer. I you are working below prosumer then yes, it's not for you and neither is this discussion really. And I'd hardly call any site with tips and tutorials on software you use as niche.

    >>Do you hear yourself, Scott? You’re coming across as the old school style elitist, whining about the lack of editing standards, procedure and technical knowledge in younger editors and how “their” alien techniques are inferior to yours.< <
    It's not that your techniques might be alien, it's really the total lack of "technique" at all. In fact it's not technique... the "technique" you use to get to your locked picture doesn't really matter, it's what happens after that in how you and your project interact with every one else that's is the discussion here. If you and you project never have to interact with anyone else then it doesn't matter what you do. But when you do, learning how things are properly done can only help your project and by doing that make your client happy. And a happy client is a good thing right?

    >>Put your cigar and whiskey down, along with your nose, then put your thinking on the shelf next to 1989.< <
    Naaa, I don't smoke cigars and besides, I don't really know what the thinking was in 1989 as I was in high school then.

    >>No one is going to care about your procedure if your video stinks. People don’t care about your tech knowledge they want to see the end product. Period.
    If you’re product is good, you get it done on deadline and you’re cheap, young editors are going to run circles around all of the elitists like you while all of you are still figuring out why you didn’t get hired.<<
    I totally agree that “people” want to see an end product. And by people I’m sure you mean the client that hired you. But if that end products gets kicked back from a network because you didn’t check your levels properly and misses an air date then the client will care about that right? That’s your fault. As I said, if you can live your whole career and never interact with anyone in the post chain then you really can do things exactly how you want. It’s these standards that you so don’t want to learn that will help you and everyone you encounter when you do have to move out of your own edit suite.

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  • Tucker

    I’m still trying to get through all the comments, but I did want to add my thoughts.

    I began editing on a Media 100 in 1994 (actually did do some tape-to-tape before that) when I was in high school. When I graduated, I wanted to go to film school, but I wanted to go to a school that would not teach me the technical side of editing, because I already knew how ot make the system work. I wanted to learn the art of editing and the philosophical reasons for making an edit here or there.

    I tried looking for schools and found really only 1 or 2 that taught EDITING rather then taught AVID. It was amazing to take my technical knowledge and go to the film world, where we cut on flatbed editors. Then, you had a reason for making the cut here or there and you had to think about it. I learned so much about how you cut and why, rather then just making music videos.

    When I got back from school I got back into corporate video and within a few years, once Final Cut came out, my business was tanking. Because suddenly any Joe Schmoe could by themselves a Final Cut Pro system and they were suddenly an expert. It took a good 8 years for the video companies in my town to get oversaturated and then UNDERSATURATED. I am getting clients back now that left me 4 or 5 years ago to go to so and so’s brother’s, cousin’s, husband who used Final Cut. Now, I am seeing these little video companies go out of business because the clients that came to them are recognizing talent. Or, these clients just get big enough that they are sending their work to the big guys in LA.

    Anyway, I think that schools could still teach the art becasue that generation could learn the technology on their own (if they haven’t already). But, it is tough getting these kids to listen to the art of storytelling.

    The only thing I can say, playing devil’s advocate, is that we are seeing some daring new techniques BECAUSE of some of these kids that are just messing around with the technology. They aren’t afraid to break the rules of film, because they don’t know what those rules are to begin with!

    Coincidentally, my film class was the last one to cut that way, shortly after I left the school got a big grant from Avid and then they started transferring the footage to DVCAM.

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  • Melson

    Yes, “kids with no idea” can be extremely frustrating, though so can the other end of the scale. I have found that some of “the old school” players seem to keep a great deal of their knowledge base (IE tried and true techniques, workflows and standards etc) to themselves, unwilling to share with the younger kids coming through. In these cases it starts to smell like in some kind of attempt to retain their validity in the industry; and proves to be a favoured topic in the conversations and rants in their small social network/s – “bagging the young kids in an attempt to make themselves feel better about their own lack of willingness to adapt and constantly evolve with technologies”.

    The methods used by editors of the past decades and the standards by which their work / deliverables were governed should be learned by the new school if they are to be conversant in the industry. Every bit of knowledge helps, and the more knowledge the new and old in the industry are are all willing to share between each other the easier it all will be. Only then will we be able to concentrate more heavily on the most important aspect, the story.

    Coombaya lol

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  • http://www.petersalvia.wordpress.com Peter Salvia

    Ok Scott, as an English major with a concentration in Language, Writing and Rhetoric from University of Maryland at College Park, my initial observation is that you are caught up in the rhetorical analysis of definition, i.e. “What is an editor?”
    As a 29 year old editor & producer (yes, a Preditor) who was trained on Avid and now holds Apple Certified Training certifications in Final Cut Pro, Motion 3, and Color, I’d have to say your comments are borderline ageist and NLE biased. But I digress.
    I found lots of value in your observations that many young editors don’t understand efficient timeline management, media management, how to output an edit decision list, etc. But guess what: regardless of your perspective that these are fundamental skills inherent in the title of an editor, kids with FCP skills are still getting their videos up on YouTube and Vimeo with millions of views, millions more than most broadcast shows will ever receive, despite how many iterations of dvd sales and ipod sales they go through.
    I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to matriculate my Avid offline / online workflow, my Avid media management workflow, and many other Avid-centric skills, and implemented them into a Final Cut Studio workflow with great success. Many of my peers don’t have the opportunity to learn an Avid workflow because the old steel doors are sealed shut unless you want to work a 6pm – 2am shift with lavish titles such as E2 or Digitizer with the hope that one day, 10 years in the future, once you’ve crossed the age 30 barrier, the old Avid guys will swoop in and title you Assistant Editor. Now you can try making a stringout!
    Or, buy FCP, a Macbook Pro and a Canon HV20 and start shooting, cutting, and posting to a the growing New Media outlets available to everyone right now. Which choice would you make at age 21?
    So to bring this back to my initial point, as an industry we may need to reconsider what it is that defines an editor. I’ll take it on my 29 year old shoulders to assist those who don’t know why betacam sp tapes are pre-blacked with timecode starting at 00:58:30;00, why it’s important for a Color grading workflow to have a timeline with just one video layer and all your motion projects and still images exported as self contained quicktimes and then reimported, and why you might want to check out the manual controls on the HV20 to control the amount of light being recorded. I hope you can realize that endless finger pointing, role defining, and ageist viewpoints will only isolate the old Avid farts into a corner to find themselves drowning in the crashing new wave of innovative video production workflows.
    I look forward to a continued civil discourse.
    Best Regards,

    Peter Salvia

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  • Mark Raudonis


    My compliments for the best “headline” of the year. Quite a lively discussion you’ve sparked. Thanks.

    For the record, I’m an old fart. But, that didn’t stop me from pushing our company to switch from Avid to FCP over three years ago. Yes, back when FCP was still only version 4.5, and AVID was still king, I saw the light and spearheaded our move to FCP and X-SAN. At the time, everyone thought I was nuts. “FCP isn’t ready for prime time”, they cried. “It’s not stable”, the whined. Blah, blah, blah. Despite all that FUD, I persevered, and the transition went more smoothly than I would have imagined. We’ve now got almost 100 FCP editors spread over two X-SANs, working on numerous shows for five different networks. Most importantly, and here’s the relevance to the original post, all of our former Avid editors are now FCP editors. Did they suddenly lose their previous technical knowledge? Uh, no. Did they suddenly become lazy, underpaid slackers? Uh, no.

    Many comments on this thread bemoan the “lack of assistant editor training”. From my perspective I don’t see that. We usually have 8-10 assistants working at any given time. Many of them have come into the company from entry level positions as loggers or PAs.
    I don’t assume that they know anything. I only ask for a positive attitude, a passion for the process, and a willingness to learn. Everything else, I can teach them. But I can’t teach character. That has to come from within. I can honestly say that I have been quite happy with the quality and character of the people we have working on our team. Their energy, enthusiasm, and youthful hubris keep me on my toes and make everyday I come into work an enjoyable experience. Seriously!

    By the way, we are delivering at least two – four HOURS of finished programs to the networks every week. Many of the twenty something youngsters on the team contribute significantly to that effort. And yes, some of them can even read a scope!

    Mark “It’s NOT FCP’s Fault” Raudonis

  • http://www.FCPTalent.com Doug Suiter

    It occurred to me a long time ago that the great power of FCP – its accessibility – was also it’s Achilles heel.

    Bad FCP editors were always going to give FCP a bad name as a result of the inevitable bad experiences.

    My response to this was to create a “Talent Registry” for producers to find quality operators that had been ranked and vetted to quality assurance (www.FCPTalent.com)

    The cream will indeed rise to the top.
    The craft will never be the same, but it will adapt and survive – and the progress is worth it.

    Also – I think it should be noted that there is a market for amateur post production. It is not the same as the market for full spec. post. So there are now two markets – one affordable and one quality. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as we acknowledge it.

    The best editors will be brought to light, employed and paid accordingly.

    The cheapest producers will pay poorly, and their product will reflect accordingly.

    There’s nothing wrong with any of this.

  • http://www.jms-group.com Tom Mountford

    I’m one of the many editors these days who has never used a linear edit controller or analogue video equipment. I started editing in 1998 on Premiere, moving to a Discreet system and then three years ago making the move to FCP.

    Three years ago I also made the move into completing post on TV commercials. It was something of a baptism by fire as all the submissions go through QC at the broadcasters. Initially I whined about how my masters kept getting chucked back at me by ‘fussy engineer types’ – illegal colours, incorrect timecode, text outside safe area, inconsistent audio levels etc. But each time I tweaked my submission to hit the tech-specs I noticed how greatly improved the commercial looked for doing so. I’ve now become fastidious about technical QC – but if I hadn’t been submitting to a broadcaster who was pointing out those flaws I wouldn’t have picked up those analytical skills myself – no one seems to teach just the importance of sticking to proper technical standards to improve the quality of the finished production.

  • young fcp editor

    You dont learn about codecs, levels, or really any technical side of editing in school. I have not gotten jobs also because I have given that blank stare when asked about edl’s or broadcast levels. I’m now 27 with a pretty good reel, good eye and good story telling. But how could it be that after 3 years of professional editing that I still not know some of the fundamentals for editing and graphics. Final Cut is just so tactile that really anyone can be an editor.

  • http://www.allanwhite.net/ Allan White

    The best editors will be brought to light, employed and paid accordingly. The cheapest producers will pay poorly, and their product will reflect accordingly.

    Perry Lawrence et. al. brought up an interesting point: the value of people skills. This is the “x-factor” that determines your success as an editor (or whatever we’re calling it now). A good editor with lousy people skills will never win & keep clients. Clients will continue to choose someone that – even if not the best for the money – they can reliably communicate with to solve their business problem.

    Get away from the computer now and then, and be deliberate about your human interaction skills. That is something we should be teaching the new kids as well.

  • shashbugu dra

    this is an interesting article. the writer fails to acknowledge that editing with avid’s MCP was not a home based practice. The comparism between the two user groups, young and old, is like comparing a hammer and nail carpenter to a nail gun wielding brat. I love the comments that followed

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  • wormser

    A short retort from the next generation:
    What about the opposite side of the coin–older editors who bill themselves as “FCP editors”, but are too stubborn to learn the ins and outs of their system. Yes, they can cut and have their own setup, but they can’t assist themselves and don’t bother to learn how to work their own machines. That old school attitude of entitlement–“well, I shouldn’t have to. I’m an editor.” Shouldn’t have to what–stay up with technology?! It’s your job!! I guess that attitude is fine when you have an assist, but what if you don’t and are marketing yourself to clients as a one-stop shop?

  • http://www.spacevirus.com Maxplanar@gmail.com

    Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. Your article is SO on the money.

    FCP has actually done two things:

    1) Old codgers grumble that ‘young FCP whippersnappers’ don’t know anything and will work for free – and although it’s somewhat true, the old codgers need to realise their moans aren’t going to change anything. They’ll continue to lose work to the young and inexperienced until they become less rigid in their thinking.

    2) As you say, tons of young idiots are out there, totally immature, technically inept, blindly arrogant and unable to deliver a single thing in the broadcast and pro world. I’m so utterly sick of hiring assistants who don’t know why you’d bother going to telecine or an online, or why project portability matters so much.

    I sigh, then I get back to my FCP. But your article hits a nerve, for sure.

  • http://www.scottsimmons.tv Scott Simmons

    wormser, you are absolutely right that a lot of “opposite side of the coin–older editors” don’t know their way around FCP well enough to make their way into the future. That’s a totally true statement. As a former client used to say …. ‘you gotta bend with the wind.’

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  • http://www.gravnetic.com Jake Hawkes

    Interesting, but very rant like…

    Let’s see some specific workflow diagrams with explanations and references to further reading. Clearly you could reference technical decisions and rants such as this.

    Editing is highly technical, AE is even more so, and by the time you get to flash you really had better have your workflow nailed, because you are going to be juggling so many variables that when I am interrupted I nearly break down in tears sometimes. All I am reading is a bunch of experiences sprinkled with ever so slight an amount of real content / information.

    List out some generalized steps and post them. This is why the younger generation doesn’t care, because you can’t communicate with them. They are used to quicker gratification using modern research toolsets. They don’t do Dewey decimal.

    PS don’t use the word “uncompressed” and rant about being technical in the same breath. Uncompressed is 4:4:4:4 and that is what it is. I can guarantee that none of the users here are working that space. My own personal pet peeve, sorry!

  • http://www.scottsimmons.tv Scott Simmons

    Jake, the point of this post wasn’t to list a bunch of technical info on the applications and how to use them. This kind of info is available all over the ‘net, all one who wants to learn more has to do is seek that information out. And that’s what many people refuse to do. You say the “younger generation doesn’t care, because you can’t communicate with them” ….. it’s not that at all! If you read the post the part of the whole point is that a lot of the “younger generation” doesn’t care about established workflow norms and practices as they think what they can do is better and they don’t need these norms. And they are all out there for those who don’t mind taking the time to research and learn them. Not every thing can be handed out on a silver platter.

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