FCP vs. Avid again (and again)

Platform wars bore me, and the whole product evangelism thing doesn’t fire me up. For example, I love my Mac and I don’t particularly like working in Windows, but I don’t aspire to bring people to my way of thinking. Corporate IT has its reasons for going with Windows, so do my clients and colleagues. It’s my job to work well with them, and if it means having a couple of Dells in the office, so be it. If someone asks my preference, I tell them. If DV wants a review in the magazine, I shoot straight. Beyond that, whatever floats your boat. It’s about the work, not the tools.

I haven’t always been like that. In the professional space, evangelism requires a certain amount of newness in both the evangelist and the evangelized. When I was in my 20s and the Avid/1 was just out of beta, I would get on my soapbox every chance I had to urge my WGBH colleagues to drink the purple Kool-Aid. This product is totally cool and efficient and it’s the future. By extension I was making the same claim about myself. So I was personally invested in Avid’s future success even though I hadn’t yet spent a dime of my own money on an Avid product.

The reason this comes to mind is that I happened to walk in on a conversation a broadcast client was having with members of its sister unit. The sibling was a Final Cut Pro facility. From the little I overheard, it sounded like they had built a pretty sweet suite around FCP and AJA hardware. My client has been an Avid facility for at least ten years.

Someone in corporate thought it would be a good idea to get everyone on the same platform. In my experience that sounds great and seems completely logical, but is nearly meaningless unless you’re talking about a collaborative environment with shared media and resources. These facilities made different programs at different ends of the country. They had nothing in common save the corporate parent. Now if there’s a plan afoot for these units to become collaborators, then the systems need to be evaluated on a range of criteria that includes asset management, version control, etc. Those features weren’t even being discussed.

But the guy on the other end of the speakerphone was totally in love with his FCP rig, and felt passionately that my client should switch from Avid. Why? What did it matter to him? Because it would be a feather in his cap to be able to lay claim to introducing more senior colleagues to a better way. The reverse wasn’t true. Telling someone the market leader works doesn’t have the same cachet.

I’m far from an old, grizzled veteran who could care less. I care deeply about my clients. I don’t want my clients making the wrong decision, so I will offer my counsel when asked. But far less is at stake for me because I’m not trying to enhance reputation as an expert. I’ve got a track record and great client list, and I want to keep it that way.

To me, these questions are far more interesting.

  • What is the true cost for my client to switch from a familiar platform to a less familiar one?
  • What criteria should be included in the evaluation of the systems? Every system out there can make pretty pictures. What else should be considered?
  • How does a mature market leader such as Avid counter the passion of young evangelists? Let’s face it. There’s not a lot of professional glory to be had convincing an employer or client not to switch. So the whole evangelist thing will almost always work against the market leader.

Time permitting, I’ll spend some time answering these questions in future posts.

4 Thoughts on “FCP vs. Avid again (and again)

  1. Chris H. on August 9, 2006 at 8:30 pm said:

    Interesting you should post this, on this week of all weeks. I have been testing out XDcam on Avid Xpress Pro and FCP with the hope that I’ll be able to show folks that it dosen’t really matter what you shoot or edit on anymore. It’s all about the work and what you plan on doing with it once you have the media. I have to be honest, I think I’m the only one who is excited about this format.

    It could be the house that I’m in, but I think people think that if they ignore that shiny new equiptment that we are testing out, it will go away. I had to ask myself today, I’m I pushing too much on this? Maybe.Maybe not.

    Keep in mind, I’m pushing for a “newer” version of Avid, and FCP living together in harmony and the burial of BETA SP, DV Cam and DBETA.

    You talk about “Plateform” wars, I think the bigger battle is the formate war.

    The NLE is just the battelfield. In this war it dosen’t matter which battelfield your on. You can try to fight on that but then you’ll find a bigger fight. Peaple who think BETA SP 4×3 is the best thing since the Jeep Wrangler.

    Then again, it might just be my house…
    Forgive me, I’m just venting.–CH

  2. ” …it doesn’t really matter what you shoot or edit on anymore.”

    I understand what you mean, Chris. But it’s simply not true. It does matter.

    Would M Schumacher be just as good driving for another team? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s a bad example. But it’s a popular thing to say; that your tools doesn’t matter. They do.

    It means a lot which tools you use. Good tools are an extension of yourself, bad tools not. Good tools save you time, bad tools spend your time.

    When comparing FCP and Avid, it doesn’t make sense unless you set up some factors to evaluate things from.

    I make promos. We switched from Media Composer to FCP about four years ago. And never looked back. FCP is simply better constructed to work with lots of effects and content going back and forth between apps like After Effects etc.

    But I can see why people editing movies use Avid products. Or people working with news on a large scale.

  3. Scott Hancock on September 5, 2006 at 10:22 pm said:

    Has anyone seen data on current market share in the professional world among NLE?

    Especially Avid vs FCP..

  4. I’ve been reading dv for over a decade. Frank is the only fair product reviewer that I’ve ever read in that magazine, or any video magazine.

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