Probably the most interesting conversation I had at NAB was Sunday night at the Independent Filmmakers of the Inland Empire KISS mini-golf event. The setting might have been unique but the problem was not: Now that Final Cut Pro 7 isn’t the default choice for colleges (and high schools) to teach, which NLE do I teach? As the conversation continued it became obvious that there were more factors at work than just taking a punt on which NLE will become the “next FCP 7″.
Although Final Cut Pro 6/7 are probably still the most used NLE (although I’m beginning to think that’s debatable), schools have to look forward so their students have relevant skills for an industry that’s still three or four years away. In the “pro” market Media Composer still rules “Hollywood” (although not necessarily the latest versions); Premiere Pro is gaining some foothold where it never has before; and Final Cut Pro X has a lot more penetration into the Pro market than most people think it has.
In this lady’s case, the complicating factor is that her school has a deal with Lynda.com so that students (and faculty) have unlimited access to the Lynda training library, meaning students can teach themselves the details of whichever app the school decided to teach.
Here’s the problem: there is no way that anyone can accurately determine which NLE will be popular/dominant in 3+ years when the students graduate. I have my own educated guess, but who knows, Lightworks on OS X might turn out to be incredibly popular due to its power and near-free pricing. (Arguably though, the cost of any NLE is so low these days that, used professionally, they are all effectively free.)
Then it came to me in a flash (or maybe it was just the UV light catching my eye). The role of the teacher/professor at the College level (particularly) is not to teach button pushing. The job is to teach the skills of telling compelling stories using video as the medium. Whether you cut the piece in Premiere Pro, Media Composer or Final Cut Pro (7 or X), it makes absolutely no difference.
I suggested teaching a short introduction to each of the major NLEs (Final Cut Pro X, Media Composer, Premiere Pro) and then allowing student to choose which NLE they want to use. At some point in the course, assign a project that forces them to use “one of the other” NLEs than their default, just to make sure they get exposure to more than one NLE. Reality is, they are going to need skills in all current NLEs if they are to be employable when they graduate.
One of the main changes I’ve noticed among motivated college age students now, is they seem to be well suited to processing “similarity” rather than processing “difference” which I believe our older generations tend to do. Having learnt the general principles of a NLE, they will be able to adapt to using any other NLE with little problem.
So, which NLE should I teach? All of them, and yet none of them. Devote your classroom to teaching the craft skills for efficient and powerful storytelling, and let Lynda.com (or other source) handle the details, because no matter which details you teach, the market will be different in 3-4 years.
And not just the market, the NLEs themselves continue to evolve. If you taught Final Cut Pro 7 in 2009, how well equipped are your students? If you taught Premiere Pro CS 4 in 2009, your students are facing a completely revised media engine, interface (and with the next release) timeline and edit tools. If you taught Media Composer 4 in 2009, you’d have taught only the beginnings of AMA and missed a whole range of modern tools (including the Smart tool, for example, and Stereoscopic editing).
Teach the technique, not the tool.