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Beware of (Some) YouTube FCP Tutorial Videos

A couple of weeks ago I came across a YouTube Final Cut Pro tutorial about how to edit a music video. It popped up in my RSS feed, as the “tutorial” was embedded on a website. As one who often edits music videos and is always looking to pick up tips or a better way to do things, I clicked over to watch. What I saw was one of the biggest train wrecks of a FCP tutorial I’ve ever seen. Not just because it was badly produced but because a lot of what they were recommending really wasn’t the right way to edit a music video at all. This got me clicking around on YouTube to see what other FCP tutorials were posted and the results weren’t pretty. In the time I spent looking over these videos (I hesitate to call them tutorials), I saw clip after clip after clip that were not only poorly produced but also taught incorrect Final Cut Pro techniques and/or skipped over some of the most basic editing and assistant-editing skills. The most common thing that these creators did not do was to convert audio into a FCP-friendly audio format. Besides the videos that were using other than 48k audio clips, noted by the green line that appears on the clip in the timeline, I saw video after video in which the creator used MP3s, iTunes clips and God-knows-what-else as their audio sources. Each time they used such a clip they had to render the audio for playback. Some of these folks noticed that something wasn’t right and confessed how much of a pain it was to always render audio. Another tell-tale sign of an amateur tutorial? Dumb mistakes. I watched one video in which was the creator made a mistake, in real time, and proceeded to recognize it and catch it. If you’re creating a video tutorial about VIDEO EDITING, don’t you think you should go back and edit out the part where you make a mistake? Now while I think we can all learn from watching others make and correct mistakes these flubs were not a teaching moment. Most were typically just a slip of the mouse or grabs of the wrong clip and were never used to show the viewer about what had gone wrong. The video quality of most of these tutorials were extremely poor. Some creators used a handheld video camera to shoot the computer screen. If you want someone to take your FCP tutorial seriously, you have to use proper screen capture software to create it. There are many affordable options available for Mac OS X out there, including the free built-in option in the QuickTime X player. And while you’re at it, use a good microphone and record quality audio. It gets worse. I watched one video in which the trainer attempted to perform the entire edit with Windows Media .wmv files. Everything that he did required rendering. And he wondered, out loud, why FCP was being sluggish. Even if you don’t use, or can’t afford, workflow tools like Loader or Transfer anyone creating tutorial videos and attempting to teach others should know about them and be able to tell the viewer why they might be useful. And then there’s the free utility MPEG Streamclip that will often convert what seems like the unconvertible. My bet is that if you don’t know to convert a .wmv file to another format for editing in FCP, you don’t know much about proper workflow tools. This blog post isn’t meant to be just a rant against bad YouTube FCP tutorials. It’s more of a warning to those trying to learn the software and work toward being a good editor or assistant editor. We’ve debated this before: bad YouTube tutorials could be a big part of What’s Wrong With the Young Final Cut Pro Editor. Some of the clips I watched had hundreds and thousands of views, too. That’s a lot of bad information being disseminated out into the editing world. Not all of those watching these things will be walking into my or your edit suite looking for a job, of course, but I’ve seen enough FCP editors who lack the most basic post-production skills walk in over the years that it’s obvious they either don’t care to learn proper workflow or they are being taught bad information. Part of that blame may lie at the feet of the schools where they were educated (that’s a different discussion for a different day). Or maybe they just walked into an Apple store and bought the software without bothering to learn the basics first. My recent experience wading through these YouTube clips tells me much of that blame may lie right there. Free, high-quality tutorials aren’t that hard to find and there are a lot of great FCP educators out there. For free, embeddable videos, go to the FCP tutorials found on Vimeo, which seem to be more accurate and of higher quality overall than those found on YouTube. Lynda.com has long been the go-to place for those really wanting to learn software operation, but their longer, quality tutorials aren’t free. Similarly, there are also many excellent Total Training and Class on Demand tutorials for sale in the StudioDaily store. You’ll also find great (and correct) workflow stories, tutorials and resources here on StudioDaily and on the sites of people like Larry Jordan, Richard Harrington and Ken Stone. Blogs are another great place to look. Sites like Little Frog in Hi-Def, Digital Films, or my own Editblog are written and maintained by real working editors. We don’t do this for money but rather as a way to engage and share with the post-production community, while hopefully improving our own post skills as we move along. We all strive to provide quality, accurate content. There’s also Creative Cow where tutorials and advice can be found through the forums and posts from the larger community. If you really want to learn how to use Final Cut Pro well, avoid the siren song of free and plentiful YouTube tutorials. If you’re so new to this that you won’t recognize a bad tutorial when you see it, here are a few signs to look for when watching a YouTube tutorial. When you come across any of these things, stop watching and find another:
• Bad video quality. If there’s a shaky camcorder shooting the FCP interface as opposed to screen-capture software, turn it off.
• Bad or low audio quality. If you can’t easily hear what the creator is saying (audio is a large part of video post-production), turn it off.
• Mistakes that the creator catches. If there’s an obvious mistake while the creator is working, so obvious that they catch it and correct it without explaining WHAT went wrong and WHY, turn it off. This is video editing so it shouldn’t be too hard to correct that mistake.
• If the software crashes during the tutorial and the creator doesn’t edit that out, turn it off.
• If the creator has to render everything they toss into the FCP timeline, turn if off. You should not have to render EVERYTHING you toss into the FCP timeline if you know what you’re doing.
• If you have to sit and watch anything that takes more than a second or two on a render bar, turn it off. It’s not that you don’t have to often render more than a few seconds worth in FCP but rather the creator shouldn’t subject the viewer to watching a render bar tick away. Why not edit most of that render bar out with the very editing software that’s being explained?
After some Twitter discussion went down the day that I found the bad music video how-to clip on YouTube Rob Imbs took some time to create a rather amusing FCP tutorial of his own. Of course this will only be funny to the edit-geek who’s experienced enough to realize all that Rob is doing wrong. But since it can also be taken at face value if you don’t recognize what is wrong, then consider this challenge: until you can identify what the FCP/workflow problems in this video are, you probably aren’t ready to call yourself, or sell yourself, as an editor. FCP Quick Tips – episode #183 from Rob Imbs on Vimeo.


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  • http://blogs.adobe.com/kevinmonahan/ Kevin Monahan

    I know this is a FCP oriented article, but if you’re trying to learn Premiere and After Effects and do a search from within our help system, we weed out all the poor tutorials.

    We maintain a custom search engine which delivers high quality results. Check it out:

    Premiere Pro: http://help.adobe.com/en_US/premierepro/cs/using/index.html
    After Effects: http://help.adobe.com/en_US/aftereffects/cs/using/index.html

  • mike mampis

    Maybe if people stopped using an ancient plodding dinosaur like FCP you wouldn’t have to warn them about such things . . .

  • S.Bryce

    @Mike Mampis

    Please don’t troll against editing software. I work in Broadcasting and freelance Film / Corporate editing. I can tell you right now that 9 times out of 10, you work with what you are TOLD to work with.

    If the client wants Avid, you use Avid. If they want FCP, you use it. Hell, if a client asks you to edit a feature in-house on Premiere, you still do it.

    As an editor, you should never blame your software, as editors should all train to have transferable skills between all editing software, codecs and tape formats.

    OT: I know it’s not free, but when drilling the basics, I’ve always found the tutorials from Lynda.com to be very good and pretty good value for money.

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  • http://www.FilmmakingWebinars.com Marcelo Lewin

    YOu left out another great resource, my site! FilmmakingWebinars.com – Free live webinars taught by working filmmakers like you Scott (in fact, you presented 2 in my site) :)

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

      You’re right Marcelo .. I sure did. And it is a great resource, not just because I’ve done couple of them!

  • Jason_L

    Love the Rob Imbs video! So that’s the one all those newbies have been watching :) “You want to set that codec to animation…” LOL!

  • http://www.larryjordan.biz Larry Jordan


    Thanks for the kind words!

    Creating a good tutorial is surprisingly difficult – sadly, creating a bad one isn’t.

    I agree with your rant.


  • Jeff Hanley

    Scott, you are so right. Low quality, clumsy tutorials and podcasts of all kinds are extremely frustrating and counter-productive. Not to mention embarrassing for the producers. Ironically, some of the very worst are done by Adobe evangelists in official posts. You’d think they would know better. Enough with cheap web-cams and bad lighting!

    Thanks for your article. It needed to be said.

  • James Rader

    “…my buddy said the Animation codec is the highest quality available…” Hahaha! I love it! Thanks for the hilarious “tutorial”!

  • Sharad

    If fcp is a dinosaur, what’s the futuristic cloned sheep of editing software now?

  • Mike Webb

    I thank you for this article being that I am one of those people who is rather new to Final Cut Pro and alot of the video tutorials I do watch when working with FCP, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, etc. are from youtube. I do not have the funds to go to film school or take classes at a training center so creative cow, video copilot and youtube are my film schools. I have recently started watching tutorials on lynda.com and I have noticed the difference in the video tutorials when you do pay to learn, but lynda.com is an affordable website.

    For a person such as myself who is looking to learn the most out of Final Cut Pro or any other software program that I’m working with such as Adobe CS4 what other websites other than the ones mentioned can I go to? I have bookmarked this page for future use, but I would like to know what other websites are out there for the diy editor? I am new to working on music videos and I already have a list of clients who are very pleased with my work so far, but I am looking to gain more knowledge so my clients do not have to wait for their finished product due to me having to go back and look up a tutorial on creative cow.com.

    I’ve come across a site called the nyvs (New York Video School) which is fairly affordable as well along with another site called Ripple training. Are these reliable website’s as well? What are some other websites or even books and DVDs I could purchase to learn the basics of video editing, working on music videos, starting a production business, working on large budget productions, HDSLR workflows such as the Canon 7d and 60d, color grading, working with track matte’s ect? Remember I am new to this and I am teaching myself.

  • Mike Gantenbein

    Having edited video in a smallish market since before the advent of non-linear editing, I wholeheartedly agree with all of your points, Scott. The down side to easy self-publishing is that there are lots of poor options to choose from.
    Many students get one class in editing and think they’re pros. I’ve tried for years and there’s no way to teach more than basics in a 10-week quarter. Yet that’s all our local U offers. BTW – I often allow “mistakes” to happen while doing demos in front of class. It provides the opportunity to teach troubleshooting when things don’t go perfectly. But you’re right that it should be a teachable moment, not just a flub.

    The main thing I got out of this essay, though, is the importance of good workflow technique, which requires strong knowledge of how things operate under the hood. Although I’m sure my workflow is imperfect, developing one and sticking with it is the only way this one-person promotion department gets the job done right without staying up all night.

  • http://www.syko.tv enzo treppa

    I can’t believe that this isn’t a joke. You know like a parody on video editing… If this guy gets paid I am going to hang it up right now.

    Ha.. Just caught the ending..

  • http://web.me.com/mkrupnick/PixelLabs/Hardware.htm Michael Krupnick

    There are many predators now proliferating throughout both the job-posting and knowledge industries. Scam artists see this as an opportunity for a quick buck, and they have no concern, let alone expertise, to bring to your aid. Be very wary. A good free source of high quality is Creative Cow. I personally miss the apprenticeship model, where a student can get personal instruction from a caring teacher.

  • mtamundsen

    Personally I am very happy to have paid my dues back in the days of film, when I could pull trims and stay in the room with the editor, watching and learning and listening. It was an apprenticeship situation.

  • Bill

    OK, I’m far too much of a geek as Rob’s video had me ROTFL throughout. :-)

  • http://www.cbsla.com Kelly

    Great rant, I couldn’t agree more. If I were just starting out to learn how to edit, I’d be totally confused and feel very lost. This blog entry should be required reading for what not to do. If you read my comment, please bear in mind that I’m coming at it from a pro point of view, though armchair editors might find my thoughts useful. Scott’s entry about young editors is also excellent, here’s the link in case you missed it in the blog above: http://www.studiodaily.com/blog/?p=466

    I’ve been a working editor in LA in broadcast TV and film for nearly twelve years, and the number-one issue that I see in assistants and novice editors is thinking that knowing how to use the software application is enough to make you an editor. It’s not, not by a long shot, and anyone who wants to edit professionally needs to understand this. Other elements that go with the job include

    How to make sure your equipment can handle the editing project you want to work on
    How to get footage and graphics/audio elements into and out of the computer
    How to optimize your footage to make your editing process as seamless as possible
    How to manage media (picture, sound, and graphic elements) once it’s all ingested into the computer
    How to archive your projects
    How to make sure you can easily hand off your working project to another editor
    How to interface with other creatives, such as graphics artists or audio mixers… not to mention producers, writers, directors or execs…
    How to deliver final projects in various formats
    How to interface with clients
    How to manage alternative versions of your projects for changes that may be needed down the line

    The list goes on… but I’ve yet to see any good tutorials that cover the most basic versions of the above.

    A great way to learn is to find an established editor in any discipline (film, TV, news, web, etc.) and make an arrangement to shadow them. Get an internship at a boutique edit facility even if you’re just working in the machine room for a while, and you’ll be amazed at how much you learn. Even just one day a week can be helpful, and don’t be shy about asking what you may think are silly questions. Better you get them out as an intern/assistant rather than as an editor who is working for a paying client.

    If this isn’t possible, my go-to training advice for newbies to learn the FCP software are Lynda.com and the Apple Pro Training series of books. Lynda is good stuff, and it’s easy to follow the tutorials. The Apple-sanctioned books are great and they come with interactive DVDs that include practice footage. They’re also the same books used in the Apple Certification classes. You can usually find the books for cheap on half.com, or buy them new for around $40. If you balk at the price, remember that the book is way cheaper than taking a course, and you also get the DVD for reference.

    A side note about those books, I don’t think Apple Certification is at all necessary– it’s never held me back from working at any of the major studios or post boutiques here. It’s more useful if you’re an IT pro, in my experience.

    It’s also helpful to be able to realize when you’re stuck and need help. There are so many useful online forums where others are sharing similar problems, be they conversion issues, software bugs, etc. Bookmark a bunch of the tech columns and reference them often. My faves are Creative Cow, Studio Daily, the LA Final Cut Pro User’s Group (www.lafcpug.org), and kenstone.net. Ken Stone is also a frequent contributor to the lafcpug site. It’s not a bad idea to read videography.com now and then too, because many of the codecs you’ll likely encounter in your post work are covered there, but from a camera point of view. Inexperienced people always forget that everything culminates in the editing room, and they often just shoot stuff with no thought as to how it will all come together. Sadly, this is true both on a tech level and on a creative level. The creative part will come with experience and a willingness to learn. But newbies can get a leg up on the tech side by embracing the fact that it is a constant learning curve, even for pros, b/c both hardware and software are changing so quickly.

    Scott, thank you for this blog! I really like the fact that you often acknowledge the reality that post and editing are part of a larger whole, and so many problems lie with bad or incomplete education. Anyone who thinks that learning to edit means just knowing the software is kidding themselves– it’s a multi-layered process that can take years to learn, but knowing where to go for help is the first step to improving anyone’s skills.

  • http://www.youtube.com/craigamabello craig amabello

    I edit at dreamworks… $100,000,000 films everyday… I’ve been editing like this since I started here in 1985… GREAT TUTORIAL!… I’m at work now rendering a 20 minute rough cut… The rendering usually takes 3 days… So I’m drinking my Whiskey again… God do I love Hollywood!… Damn do I love Rendering… Shit I’m Drunk!

  • Graham

    I love how this forum digressed into my editing system vs. yours when that was the whole point.If you didn’t get it maybe you shouldn’t be calling yourself an editor.I edit in a completely different system and I still got it.Although I still haven’t got paid so I can’t claim to be a pro editor.

  • Paul E Musselman

    I’m on the Studio Daily mailing list and just happened on the ‘notice’ about low-quality FCP tutorials. It’s not just FCP that has low-quality tutorials– they’re available for any subject! (;
    As a complete amateur when it comes to editing, I’d like to add a couple of thoughts–
    First, watch a lot of movies or music videos or whatever it is you plan to work on. All of the ‘pros’ have made countless editing decisions to create a commercially viable product. Seeing what is possible and what they’ve done can give inspiration for your projects. No, not to copy their ideas, but to get a feel for some of the possibilities.
    Second, watch all of those ‘making of’ extras on the DVDs you buy– sometimes they have interesting footnotes on how they solved a problem, or they’ll show how they made that fantastic shot happen, or dealt with an editing dilemma.
    Third, keep all the bits you can! I’m talking about pixels (and the corresponding sound). You can always throw away resolution you don’t need, but if you never had those pixels to begin with, you can’t get them back! I’m constantly amazed at people who distribute pictures on-line by compressing them to postage-stamp size and low resolution and think they’re “preserving” the images!
    Thanks for listening!
    –Paul E Musselman

  • http://YouTube.com/user/fissurefilms Fizz

    “Another tell-tale sign of an amateur tutorial? Dumb mistakes. I watched one video IN WHICH WAS the creator made a mistake…”

    Ahem. ;)

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

      @Fizz — good catch!

  • http://deysonortiz.com Deyson Ortiz

    Great article Scott and could not agree more!

    Another great place to watch some great tutorials is on the CreativeCow.net website.

    I just added my first podcast to the Cow last week about the benefits of Apple’s Motion software and I would love to hear some feedback:


    Let me know what you think.

    Thank you and have an awesome day!

  • Alex I

    You know this all boggles my mind.

    First off, why is there such a market for training? The manuals and help that come with the software I’ve used are all VERY readable, and usually contain the most accurate information.

    Second, Final Cut Studio comes with a great set of tutorials that cover the basics and would keep you away from most, if not all, the mistakes in the parody video.

    So, again, why the huge market for basic training? Can’t people at least refer to the manuals? I know nobody reads them, but come on- at least use them as a reference!

    I get the need for advanced training, and I definitely get the need for peer to peer help with troubleshooting. There is plenty that isn’t in the manuals or the included tutorials.

    I’ve always been underwhelmed by most aftermarket tutorial videos, the best of them are still speaking to the complete novice most of the time. That’s annoying.

    Even books leave me scratching my head. The last one I found useful was Apple’s Shake training book- and that’s because I didn’t have my own Shake license (and thus manuals and tutorials) until the last version of Shake. (My chagrin at finally buying in only to have Apple announce it would be the final version is another matter.) Everything else is not software specific.

    OK, so the basic concept boggles my mind. Then I had a quick look, because of this article at the YouTube videos.

    WTF? I can not understand how anyone can look at those things and fail to understand … to perceive the unreliability of the source. Forget the obvious errors we see. The entire tone and polish of the content reeks of incompetence.

    Are people this “critical” of all their news & information sources?

  • http://www.abdulqadir.tv Abdul Qadir

    Thanks for the amazing advice Scott. I just completed a training in FCP from Steve Martin (Ripple Training) and he is just amazing. To the point and no mistakes.

    I think FCP is a very efficient application given that you do it right.


  • nprobert

    “Generally if you see a checkbox, click it. That’s my rule.”
    I couldn’t stop laughing.

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