The present and future of post production business and technology

What is a Prosumer and who is Final Cut Pro X for?

What are the editing concepts in FCP X and who is to for?

Another episode of The Terence and Philip Show where we attempt to decode the editing paradigms in Final Cut Pro X and who it is for.  I admit, when Terry tries to push “prosumers” as the target market, I got frustrated and agitated because we both agreed Final Cut Pro X was for professionals but not “hollywood’ professionals.

By definition, someone who is professional – who earns money from the value they add to clients – cannot also be “prosumer”.

In fact, I don’t believe the term should ever be applied to people because in that context it is an absurdity. Now, depending on whether you think “prosumer” means “professional/consumer” or “producer/consumer” determines whether or not you think it can apply to a person. Until I read the definition on Wikipedia I had never heard “prosumer” used to mean “professional/consumer”.

I go back to the earliest times I heard the term – back in the mid 90’s – when consumer gear started to become used for professional uses. Sony didn’t intend the VX700 for professionals, nor the VX1000, but they were very quickly adopted for professional production, although mostly independents not going through traditional distribution channels.

That’s the only understanding I’ve ever had for “prosumer”: consumer equipment used for professional (i.e. for pay) production.

I really don’t think the term  can be applied to people because in any given context you are professional (being paid for the work) or you are consumer (buying the work).  I the context of production professionals, how can someone be simultaneously a professional producer and a consumer.

Now in the wider context we are all “the people formerly known as the audience (consumers)” but that falls apart when you bring it down to apply to any given situation or person.

Personally, I think “prosumer” is a word either deliberately chosen to be dismissive of professionals working in a different area of the business, by elites who think they are the business; or it’s used because people heavily involved in the milieu of  studio film or broadcast television genuinely have so little understanding of how the world of production has changed around them that they do not have a concept or word they can use, so they fall back to the mildly insulting “prosumer”.




16 responses to “What is a Prosumer and who is Final Cut Pro X for?”

  1. Craig Seeman

    The term “prosumer” is used by many derogatorily. I can think of a potential fair use of the term. That would be people who work only to pay of the costs of the gear and not for any additional business expenses or profits.

    That might be someone who works only occasionally the cover the costs of, let’s say, a $3000 video camera, so they can then use it for “fun” rather than someone who works to cover living expenses, money to reinvest in the business and make a profit as a primary source of income.

    Of course the same $3000 might be “prosumer” for one person and viable and regular source of income for another. I guess gear that might be used for either/or might be considered “prosumer” just as the person looking to cover the cost of the purchase only may be a “prosumer.”

    Of course this is all my own conjecture and certainly not an “official” definition. If someone makes a healthy living doing weddings or marketing videos for the web, they’re certainly professional.

  2. I think of a prosumer as someone who is willing to buy professional grade tools because they enjoying using or having those tools – even though they do not expect to make back all or even some of the money they spent buying the tools. In other words, they are willing to take the loss just to have and enjoy the tool. I think of a dad who wants to shoot his daughters wedding in 3D.

    What makes prosumers dangerous to freelancers is that they often obscure the price of the work. They can under bid everyone because their goal is not to make a living doing that work. In general, prosumers do not produce as good a result since they do not dedicate the resources to education and experience that a fulltime worker would.

    However, the farther your customers get from buying a product for the first time, the more they understand what they are paying for, and hence are willing to spend a few bucks more for the better result.

  3. Ian Johnson

    I don’t think you can say that prosumer means someone who isn’t making money with the gear. Pro is right there in the word. Prosumer is a mix, someone making money in video for whom consumer level tools are almost (but not quite) good enough.

    Prosumer tools are consumer tools that have been enhanced by a selection of the most-used professional features. SVHS was a better form of VHS, a consumer format which might be recorded on a single chip camera with VU meters.

    Some people who buy prosumer gear might be hobbyists who like to have the better stuff. It is there for them to buy because of the professionals working on low budget projects for whom adding a few professional features to consumer gear is good enough.

    I think that might be where some of the negative connotation comes from. Prosumer gear is cheaper because it is only trying to be “Good Enough” rather than “The Best”.

    1. No manufacturer proposes their equipment for “prosumers”. They have professional divisions (sometimes more than one) and consumer divisions. Nobody sells their equipment as “good enough” for a pro. They sell it as high end amateur and people buy it and use it for professional purposes.

  4. People are not prosumers, products are.

    You are right that we should not define a person as a prosumer Philip.

    However, FCPX is a prosumer product.
    Its price if anything else defines it as such as its cheap enough for anyone to afford.

    The problem for it is that it is defined by its perception.
    It can be used by pros, but its price defines it as not that “serious” as its too cheap.

    Personally I think Apple still thinks it will do well in the hi-end market. They have just done EVERYTHING wrong to archive this. I expected them to change direction of back peddle. The have not. The arrogance is beyond comprehension.

    I personally don;t think it can recover from this. Hollywood will be a FCP desert in a few years.

    The perception will be that PROS use Avid and some Premiere. FCP will be pushed into the Vages box.


  5. Tomas Rugys

    I think we should establish a new terminology.

    Let’s leave alone the working people and/or the software. Because it’s now so blurred we can argue forever…

    Let’s talk about the WORKFLOWS. Especially considering the software.

    “Professional workflow” – collaborative environment, project exchange between various kind of workstations.

    “Sandbox” workflow – no “foreign” exchange on the project level, one does it all.

    FinalCut X does not fit into professional workflow category yet. But you CAN achieve professional results in some cases and CAN earn money with it.

    No professional workflow support. Yet. But still – a tool. Let’s have a respect for all working people “pro” or “con” in this age of media flood. There are enough screens aroud for everyone 🙂

    1. Professional workflow = solve my client’s communication problem and get paid. Nothing more, nothing less.

  6. Art Bell

    From Admin comment:

    “No manufacturer proposes their equipment for “prosumers”


    Typed into Google: ‘Canon prosumer cameras’ …2,600,000 (million) hits.

    One of thousands…”Canon unleashes EOS 7D high-performance prosumer camera….

    I don’t know what or who a prosumer is. But if one makes their living all day, every day from a tool and clients recognize the added value of paying some one or some company to use that tool over themselves, they are a professional. And those ‘professionals’ will pay good money to increase their productivity and creativity. That does not describe FCP X.

    I have no idea who Apple designed FCP X for, but its not me. Not in this studio. Not this year at least. We have enough toys.

    1. OK, Canon described their equipent as prosumer.

  7. AndrewK

    Prosumer to me always meant something above consumer level gear but below full blown professional level gear. For example, traditionally cameras that fell between $3-$10K was considered prosumer. It was a hybrid point between PROfessional and conSUMER level products.

    For someone who enjoys metadata so much Philip I’m surprised you are pushing for just a single term, “professional”, to describe everything from local used car spots to Avatar. 😉

    Professional is a very large umbrella term with a lot of subdivisions underneath it, IMO. I don’t know why admitting that there are ‘tiers’ in production is turning into an elephant in the room. There are tiers in sports (F1 vs Sprint car). There are tiers in business (Fortune 500 vs small / home business). And there are tiers in production & post. I don’t think labels like prosumer or high-end should be considered hard and fast but they do help break up a very large, very diverse industry into more bite-sized chunks.

    If someone working on feature films wants to look down on someone producing original web content ‘outlawing’ the word prosumer isn’t going to change that. “Oh, you just work on the web” or “Oh, you’re just a lower-end professional”, etc.,. Heck, reality TV is the redheaded step child of broadcast. I’ve heard people stress that they work in *scripted* TV so as not to be lumped in w/the apparent dregs of humanity that work in reality TV. Snobs will be snobs.

    Sony uses the term prosumer as well, FWIW.

    1. It’s the “I’m professional and you’re not” attitude that pisses me off. In all the examples there are accepted ways that professionals express their professionalism. In the FCP X debate only “entertainment professionals” are allowed to be “professional” and all else are “YouTube” or “Wedding” videographers and that’s just so far from the truth that it pains me when people take that attitude.

  8. AndrewK

    I’m not a fan of holier-than-thou attitudes either. I have seen it go both ways though. The field is greatly varied and different people have different needs. Horses for courses, as they say.

  9. Chris Wilby

    So-called ‘Professionals’ are using the ‘Prosumer’ tag in a deragatory way – FACT. You don’t have to be Einstein to work that one out. It is an eliteist arrogance on their part. Type-setters had that attitude in the 80’s and look what happened to them. The so-called professionals are scared to their core with what FCPX represents – the end of their dominance. I feel sorry for them. RIP.

    And for James Gardiners comments about Hollywood being a graveyard for FCPX – get real Nostrodamus!

  10. Floris

    I agree.

    Prosumer is the word professionals use to make them feel better about themselves. If you a prosumer buys a RED… somehow that makes a professional angry because someone with know knowledge or skills uses the same equipment/tools.

    Prosumer is the most stupid word you can use.

    I know professionals who use consumer gear and get magical results. I know consumers who use Leica camera’s with expensive lenses who take crap pictures. Your can be a professional and are always a consumer. Manufacturers target their products at professional (separate divisions) but that’s pure marketing. A product is aimed at GROUP X.

    Final Cut Pro X is a professional tool. However:
    – It is in beta state
    – It is not finished
    – There is no workflow yet

    I don’t approve of how Apple has launched Final Cut Pro X but I do know for sure that they have big plans with it and that professionals are one of their target groups. I also believe that they want to upsell to iMovie users.

    And one more thing: the price of a product doesn’t say shit about if it is for professionals or consumers. It find it very pathetic and childish that people are shooting down Final Cut Pro X because of the price. Is OS X Lion not professional because it sells for $29? Is Windows 7 more professional because it sells for $129? Arguments like that are nonsense and really don’t show your intelligence.

    I love your book about metadata philip. Reading it now!

  11. Until you, Philip, I had never heard of a person called prosumer. In my mind, it was always reserved for equipment that was marketed to both high-end consumers and low-end professionals. This is exactly how one might describe equipment that meets the needs of the new media professionals you speak of.

    Just like the prosumer HDV camcorders that I was skeptical of, but eventually embraced into production workflows, FCP X is gaining my acceptance as I learn more about it.

    And just like HDV camcorders, FCP X is not the right fit for ALL of my projects. So, for me, Apple has either turned FCP from a high-end professional product to a prosumer product OR into one that fils a hole in a market that is undoubtably larger than my needs.

    I still work with US broadcasters and non-US distributors that require tape and and multi-track audio.

    But I have given FCP X a shot. I’ve bought some training and I’m finding things I like about it each day.

    I liked your word processing example. That helped me wrap my head around FXP X a little more as I try to figure out how to work with it.

    Conversely, sometimes you have to supplement a word processors capabilities with a spreadsheet, In-Design, Photoshop and Illustrator to get the document you want. FCP works the say way. There is always something else that is needed to fulfill my requirements. FCP X is no different.


    Todd Roberts
    Start Pictures International

    1. I do not use Prosumer to apply to people, but it has been used that way in the Terence and Philip Show (by Terence) and by commentser.