The present and future of post production business and technology

What Drives NLE Choice?

One of the best things about conferences (like NAB) is the opportunity to discuss topics of the day with other smart people. I frequently imagine that the best part of being in a larger company would be the robust discussions during feature development.

In one of those discussions, I found myself saying “Track based NLEs are for people who make video for others; FCP X is for people who make video for themselves.” Even if true it would be a gross oversimplification, but indulge me for a minute.

The original NLE for making TV for a lot of “someone else’s” is of course Avid’s Media Composer. Absolutely track based.

The NLE’s that followed – Media 100, Final Cut Pro (classic), etc – were all track based and shared conceptual similarities with Media Composer, because that’s what people expected. That they were used to make video for other people was almost a given: that gear was expensive so it had to generate a good income.

NLE software became affordable when it was separated from a hardware component, so FCP Classic started to empower those who would have otherwise gone to a production company, to start doing it themselves.

At that time I was still producing video for others, but our good friends in Sydney, who “produced video” by hiring camera operators, cameras and edit bays and expertise, bought a DV camera and FCP and started doing it themselves. It was FCP 1.2.5 that bought us together when I answered a forum question for them, before we realized we were in adjacent cities.

All generalizations are going to be inaccurate somewhere. Trackless FCP X is definitely being used by those making videos for others. And Resolve, Media Composer and Premiere Pro all have individual users making video for themselves, but those using track based tools, tend to have been in the industry the longest, and they know track based tools because the only way we could afford them was by making video for others.

Now there are a hundreds of ways people making video for themselves as part of their primary job, or as their primary income, and they tend not to have come out of a traditional production workflow. FCP X is definitely easier for those people to pick up and be productive, which I think is why it is so popular (outside the traditional industry circles).