When you’re designing software you always have a “use case” or typical user in mind. For our Assisted Editing software I can pretty much name every person we had in mind when creating it. First Cuts was definitely made for me. Transcriptize was an idea from Larry Jordan and was made for him. Sequence Clip Reporter‘s inspiration was from my friend Les Perkins.
So, when I had the opportunity to ask Apple who their typical user is, I had hoped for something more specific than “the vast majority of their current Final Cut Pro users”. Without knowing the demographics of their current user base, we have no idea how to work out who exactly is buying Final Cut Pro X, or who ‘should’ be buying it.
It’s hard to point fingers at who the “2 million installs” equates to, or even the year-earlier “1.4 million unique paying customers” (and there are likely a couple more installs that didn’t pay).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 25,500 “film and TV editors” in the United States. Career oriented StudentScholarships.org suggests slightly lower number – 21,000 – with 16% being self employed and 19% being unemployed or under employed. For the purposes of the discussion we’ll take the higher number and assume that worldwide it’s about 4-5 times higher. (BTW, these were the best employment numbers I could find, if you have any other sources, I’d happily take them into consideration. I’m not trying to prove a point, but to understand an industry’s shifts.) Since that group were never Apple’s core customers, preferring (probably correctly) that Media Composer was a more appropriate tool for the work they do, I’d say that there are roughly 50,000 Final Cut Pro customers that are “professional film and TV editors”. Probably fewer. (Just by way of logic testing that number, there are about 7,200 members of the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild.)
Leaving us to find 1.35 million users that are not ‘professionals’ as many have defined it during the current debate. I think we struggle over the terminology. Who are these people?
And just as an aside, if we take the SCRI report that Final Cut Pro 7 (and earlier) has more than 50% of the “professional NLE” market, and Avid comes second with 22% (these stats are older as current SCRI reports are expensive). Also it should be noted that Apple’s 1.4 million number includes Final Cut Express, Final Cut Studio and Final Cut Pro sales. Based on those data points, Avid has (probably including DS and Liquid) about 400,000 NLE customers. Again way more than the total employment in the US of 25,500 “professional film and video editors”.
Clearly there are a group of people working with these tools but not as “film and TV editors”. I do not believe they are all “prosumer”, either. In fact I’d like to clarify that I never used the word prosumer in my interview with Variety (registration and viewing restrictions required) – in fact fought the use of that term – and the only reason I think it was used was because the journalist, who’s a pretty savvy tech writer in general, just doesn’t have a term for “not that particular type of professional but still professional”. I’ve already written some on the subject in What the heck is a Pro anyway? where I focused on workflows as being key.
Well, I’d like to go back to another perspective: a much larger, longer time scale perspective that I’ve written about before and even done a Terence and Philip Show about. What we now call ‘video’ is just another form of literacy, like reading and writing. To understand the argument we have to go back a couple of centuries, before the general population was literate.
Back then – pre printing press and general literacy – being literate (having the skills of literacy) made you a hot commodity. The work you did was appreciated by many although most didn’t understand what was involved. In fact, at that time, if you were literate, then your entire career was probably built around it: copying scripture (and other Holy works); reading it to people; interpreting it.
Later that literate group expanded and the literacy component became just part of a priestly function. Literacy was still a very important part of a Pastors duty – reading scripture to the congregation, teaching, interpreting – but it was part of the profession.
I think that’s where we are now: there are still those who use their “video skills” as their primary income: they put “Editor” on their tax return and employment questionnaires. For the record there are just slightly more employed as ‘Television, Video, and Motion Picture Camera Operators’ (26,300 in 2008).
I don’t buy that everyone else who buys Media Composer, Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro is a “prosumer” (whatever that is). That term came about when there was equipment that produced results close to broadcast quality but at a fraction of the price, but with some compromises at a technical level. Prosumer gear was generally thought to be purchased by advanced hobbyists or beginners. It was insulting at the time and it’s insulting in its use now.
I did not put “editor” on a tax return, ever, because I never worked exclusively in that field. I wrote, I directed (after I learnt that I was a lousy shooter), I edited, did motion graphics (and for a while became the defacto effects house in my smallish market), and output. I did TV Commercials that went out locally, and nationally, in Australia. I did a lot of corporate work, but largely decided that educational content was where I was particularly good. We produced, and sold, many dozens of titles and hundreds of copies, used around Australia in Tertiary education. We shot a variety of formats and eventually mastered to BetaSP. I don’t recall ever shooting BetaSP – usually SVHS or occasionally the digital Hi8 format.
Was I then a “film or TV editor”? I doubt that I fitted that description. Was I professional? Absolutely. That’s how I made my living for nearly 20 years, and employed up to four others in that business. Even though I occasionally did broadcast work, that wasn’t the focus.
Since moving to the US, I’ve done some editing (for a Yoga DVD, shot multicam mostly) in Final Cut Pro, but mostly edited smaller projects. I’ve also increasingly set up and supported systems being used by people editing broadcast television and film. Mostly on Final Cut Pro, but I moved one production from Final Cut Pro to Media Composer because I thought it was better suited to the job.
As well, I support systems for professionals whose work goes directly to DVD or the Web (or Blu-ray). I also help create software that is largely for “pro” workflows.
I was a professional video producer I guess, although I wrote, directed and edited as well as produced. So I would argue strongly that there are professionals who are not “film and television editing professionals” who are equally not ‘prosumer’.
The trend is for this type of application of both forms of literacy. We see very clearly that, in most jobs some ability to read and write is assumed and essential. From reading the instructions in a franchised food business, through writing reports and presentations, right through to the niche that derives all their income from writing. But even there, there are those making a living writing novels, and others making a living writing technical manuals.
So, who are that “vast majority” Apple claims Final Cut Pro X is for? They’re the people that Final Cut Pro has always been primarily for: the democratized new media professional, in all its guises. Final Cut Pro 1 supported just one workflow: NTSC DV and that was definitely not for the “pros”, who mostly had nothing to do with Final Cut Pro until version 3 or 4 many years later.
Josh Mellicker – one of the original Final Cut Pro gurus – makes a great argument that Apple erred in pitching Final Cut Pro X to the “pros”:
With FCP, he has always had the product positioning philosophy of “get Hollywood first, everyone else will follow” (A philosophy I do not completely share, I recommended in the early days that Apple forget Hollywood and focus on making it “the editing software for the rest of us” (the millions of emerging education/ industrial/ training/ science/ medicine/ politics/ religion/ documentary/ independent video producers) and let Avid keep the couple thousand hardcore high end editors).
Emphasis is Josh’s. Even though Apple did reach out to the “pros” it was for marketing advantage, not because that was a big market for them. “Hollywood” is (or perhaps was, not sure) important to Apple because every film cut on Final Cut Pro sells a large number of copies down the ecosystem.
Josh is spot on here. Final Cut Pro does not seem to have ever been considered as a professional (as we now define it) tool when it was introduced. Steve Jobs did not set out to create a great tool for “professionals” – like John Molinari (Media 100’s CEO) before him he wanted a tool for every desktop user. From his 1999 introduction of the iMac DV and iMovie 1:
We think Desktop video is going to be the next big thing. Imagine this in classrooms. Imagine classroom video reports, imagine this with parents, imagine the Steven Spielburgs of the world being able to use this technology when they were kids. It’s going to be unbelievable.
Sounds like it could have been lifted from John Molinari’s Blood Secrets. (This article is a great read btw.):
Our purpose is to build nonlinear systems that empower the individual to compose finished videos, largely on their own, with small overhead costs. We call these people new users and see the individualism of their work leading to new forums of interest for video and altering how programs are “broadcast” to a target audience.
Alex Lindsay has a great article where he lists out just some of the people for whom Final Cut Pro X would work (I’ve trimmed Alex’s writing for brevity, the whole article is well worth the read):
Marketing staff – Video is no longer a bonus on a website — it’s a requirement.
Photographers – They are NOT videographers — they grew up on stills. But it’s a brave new world and everywhere they turn, people are expecting video.
Educators – The education system in the US and around the world is changing very rapidly and video is a large part of this revolution.
Beginning Filmmakers – They have a vision, but not the skills to get crazy with the edit.
Podcasters – Most of these folks what to create shows on low/no budget… not edit the next masterpiece. FCPX is a great tool for this.
To which I would add:
- Journalists – CNN alone has several thousand journalists who not only shoot video, but also edit it, a radio report and upload for broadcast and web. Usually several stories a day.
- Webisodes – a lot of content is created for consumption on the web with no pretenses to any historic media.
- Corporate video – more than ever
- Conferences and Events – Final Cut Pro X would be great for fast turn-around conference video.
- Wedding and Event videography – you’d be surprised how professional this market is now compared with when I was starting out (and did a few weddings, to my chagrin).
And Josh lists out:
- independent video producer.
There is obvious overlap and there are more I can’t identify right now. This, now huge, group have been the primary purchasers of NLE software for most of the last decade or longer. No NLE company could survive on catering only to the needs of the “professional film and TV editor” market. Even Avid. Avid generates much more income from its server and workgroup products than it does from Media Composer. In its 10K filing Avid breaks up its customers into Creative Enthusiasts, Professionals and Media Enterprises (TV Stations largely).
Sales of professional video-editing products accounted for approximately 13%, 13% and 14% of our consolidated net revenues for 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively.
That’s definitely higher proportion than Final Cut Studio’s contribution to Apple’s net revenue, but even Avid’s focus is not directly on “professional video editors”. They derive most of their income from someone else. If Avid dropped Media Composer completely the company would still do okay financially. For many years Terry Curren was predicting that Avid would become a “server company”, until the current management had obviously turned the company around.
Also important to consider is that Adobe has zero reliance on Premiere Pro for its financial success and not that much with the video creative applications. Large scale (print and web) publishing and document management solutions – and Flash – are the core of Adobe’s business. Again, ‘professional’ editing isn’t the focus.
And right now, Brent Altomere (and others) are even more pissed off with me for dissing “professionals”. I’m not. Really I’m not. I applaud anyone who wants to produce quality in a market that’s increasingly pushing quantity. What I’m trying to do is work out who are those 1.35 million Final Cut Pro customers that aren’t doing the traditional film and broadcast TV work.
They’re the democratized market. Of those Josh, Alex and I outlined above, not many would identify themselves as editors or even “video producers”. Many are marketers, or trainers or other occupations where producing video is only part of what they do. I think in a world where High School Juniors are expected to turn in projects in video form (i.e. the video is not the project by itself, but the subject matter of the report must be turned in as a video) is a world where “professional” has new value, because of its scarcity as an occupation. At the same time there are millions of professionals who produce video as part of their employment: much as they read and write reports etc. as part of their employment.
That group has been the dominant part of Apple’s Final Cut Pro market since day one, and is also the preponderance of Avid’s Media Composer market and Adobe’s Premiere Pro market. That group will be very well suited with Final Cut Pro X (particularly once it gains multicam and workflow tools).
The democratized markets that John Molinari targeted with Media 100 (and was horrified to discover how many units were in facilities when addressing a 1998 NAB Breakfast meeting) and Steve Jobs identified as an opportunity for Apple, clearly show the direction the market has been going. I think Final Cut Pro X is an inevitable step i that direction.