Final Cut Penetration in Hollywood

Every year the American Cinema Editors compiles the results of a member “equipment survey.” It offers a pretty reasonable estimate of the number of feature film and television editors currently working with various kinds of equipment. The 2006 survey results were released yesterday.

Key results:

  • About 90% of survey respondents are working in features, movies of the week, miniseries or episodic television. That gives you a sense of what ACE members do.
  • Over 80% of respondents are using Avid systems (Meridien, Adrenaline or Xpress). 13% are using Final Cut. More interesting is that Final Cut penetration has remained constant now for three years running. In 2004 it was also about 13%. That can’t be happy news for Apple.
  • DI penetration is increasing. In 2004 it was 18%. In 2006 it was 33%. (Keep in mind that TV shows don’t do DIs and they’re included in these numbers.)
  • On over half the shows, the editor chose the equipment. From an editor’s perspective, that’s a bit distressing — it would be nice if we chose the equipment on every show. But from a manufacturer’s perspective it means that the editor is still the primary customer. And making us happy still has to be job #1.

Full results of the survey are here. Special thanks go to Harry Miller for his hard work on this project.

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15 Comments on “Final Cut Penetration in Hollywood”

  1. L.R. Pebler Says:

    The fact that FCP penetration has not moved much for ACE editors – well-established craftspeople for well-established studios/networks – is not that surprising. I’d be much more interested to see what the stats are for the rest of the industry.

  2. Edit Says:

    I’ll second that. It seems like I’m always reading about FCP displacing Avid suites in the local/regional spot business. Apples and oranges I know, but someday a tipping point will be reached that affects even the Hollywood majors.

  3. Steve Says:

    I don’t think this is a matter of trends or branding or mindshare. Many Hollywood editors have tried FCP now and have found it wanting for what we do. It’s a close call, certainly, and NAB may change the equation again. But for the moment, the Media Composer is still the better tool for what we do.

  4. christopher Says:

    i’ll third that thought. it was the first thing that came to mind when i read that stat. i know among my peers (30-something amateur filmmakers with industry jobs but not as editors), fcp saturation is total.

  5. Mark Raudonis Says:

    I looked at the statistics. This survey is based on only SIXTY responses. Is that a truly “representative sample”?

    “How we select a sample is extremely important. Improper or biased sample selection can produce misleading conclusions. Sample selection is biased if it systematically favors certain outcomes. If we select only Democrats to participate in a political survey, the outcome will reflect Democrats’ opinions, but not other political parties’… We need to select our sample in an unbiased fashion.”

    There were approx 600 feature films released in 2006. Even more worldwide. (MPAA STATS: http://www.mpaa.org/2006-US-Theatrical-Market-Statistics-Report.pdf)
    That isn’t even taking TV production into consideration, which is even bigger.

    To then point to this survey as proof that FCP isn’t making any inroads…. doesn’t make sense.

    Mark

  6. Steve Says:

    Good points, no question about it. I think main problem is what’s called “self-selection bias” — the sample wasn’t chosen randomly, people decided themselves whether they wanted to fill it out. That introduces the question of who is more motivated to fill out such a survey and those people are thus over-represented.

    But informally, in my experience and in that of everybody I know, FCP has not made any kind of serious penetration into features and television. In fact, I’d say the 12% figure in this survey is too high. I know exactly one person who is cutting a feature with FCP. Everybody else I know is using an Avid.

    I don’t believe this is because we high-end editors are stuck in our ways. It’s because we have specific needs that FCP doesn’t meet. It’s also because FCP was introduced too early here and in those early days it did even less. There are many editors out there who resist using it based on real world experience. This is very small town and buzz like that can really hurt.

  7. Mike Wright Says:

    I work as an editor for shows that air on stations like HGTV and The Food Network to name a few and Final Cut now seems to be the preferred platform for the production companies making these shows. It’s cheaper than an AVID and more easily upgradable and accessable and many more editors have knowledge of how to use it. But because of this access, the rates of editors not in the union are dropping at an alarming rate. I have watched the rates from the places I either work for or have friends working for go down as much as 10 or 15 dollars an hour less than several years ago, and that is for television work. Final Cut has also opened up a whole new industry for companies who in other times had to go to other places and rent an AVID suite and editor for their one or two projects a year, but now for the cost of renting a couple weeks of an AVID edit suite, they can buy their own Final Cut system and bring in a hungry editor (and there are a ton of them) at a very cheap price. You will notice on many job boards how many companies are asking for “young” editors which basically means editors who are willing to work for next to nothing. AVID editors used to really be a clique – if you were an editor or assistant editor in an AVID suite you more than likely worked hard to get there and that was how we were able to keep are rates up. The market is flooded with editors, not necessarily good ones but then again have you watched the shows on television recently? The companies are more interested in staying above water than making quality shows and it is very disturbing. Quality has gone down, content has gone down, rates have gone down, and I don’t see it getting better in the near future. Buying Final Cut and bringing in cheaper editors allowed more companies to bid lower for shows, hence budgets continue to drop (this is not the only reason, but I believe it is a big one). Also remember that the elimination of post production sound from these shows has also saved them money, for many cable shows use their editors for offline, online, and sound mix and have been doing this for a little over 5 years now. I make more money working on industrials for the major car companies (yes, they tend to still use AVID) than I do with cable television. Final Cut is here to stay and is being purchased by more and more companies every day. Some places have even decided to get rid of edit bays altogether and have editors work on Final Cut all in one room with headphones, even when doing the final mix of the shows! With that said, I think Final Cut is very powerful, but would prefer to be on an AVID any day, but I am forced to know both and be able to move effortlessly between the two to keep up with the competition. Just thought I would give a comment from the other side of the tracks, for this seemed to be a slim survey.

  8. Mark Raudonis Says:

    It’s “deja vue all over again”.

    I remember the exact same arguements from “film vs. tape” based editors. You know, “pry the KEM out of my cold, dead hands”. How many of your film friends still edit on a KEM?

    Here the arguement is more subtle, but some of the same economic factors are in play.

    I’m not debating the “perceived quality difference”… I’m just saying that there’s a major sea change going on and this survey isn’t reflecting the industry as a whole (even the high end).

    mark

  9. czarlos Says:

    I am a big fan of this website, and of the advice and articles on it, but in regards to this survey I think I will have to agree with Mike’s comments above.

    How is a survey of only 60 people who are in the union a “reasonable estimate of the number of feature film and television editors currently working with various kinds of equipment”?

    Perhaps it is a OK survey of Prime Time TV work, and union film jobs, but this probably describes the minority of paid editing work out there, not the majority. What about music videos? Cable? Advertising? Independent films? Documentaries? Infomercials?

    A more comprehensive survey would be of greater value to working editors out there. This one at least gets the conversation going…

  10. Steve Says:

    It’s a survey of a small sample of members of the American Cinema Editors. These people cut dramatic, episodic, prime time television and feature films. They are mostly members of the IATSE. The survey is based on responses from about 5% of those people. A 5% response rate is not all that bad for a survey, but, no question about it, there are many limitations to the information it contains. Take it for what it’s worth. Final Cut is making big inroads in many areas — but not in episodic TV and not in higher budget features. In my experience this is because its editing model has some serious limitations when it comes to cutting dialog (for example, trim mode is very limited compared to the Media Composer).

  11. Harry Miller Says:

    A few points are worth noting: the ACE Equipment Survey that I conduct each year doesn’t attempt to ‘prove’ anything, much less attempt to put a dagger into the heart of all FCP users. Its purpose is to show trends within the American Cinema Editors. And the trends seem to indicate that DI’s are on the rise, MOW post has declined and remains moribund, and that FCP doesn’t have much more penetration than it did three years ago – among members of ACE.

    The faux shock that there were ‘only’ 60 responses also needs some perspective. ACE has about 400 active members. 60 responses, although miniscule to my hopes each year, is 15%. It is self-selective, as Steve points out. But remember the purpose of the survey: to spot trends. To inform the membership of ACE where technology is going. If there had been a rise in the number of FCP users it would point our members to get educated in FCP. As it is, learning about DI is pretty significant in the feature film area.

    As to the wider industry, I’ve been hoping the Motion Picture Editors Guild would keep track of technology trends, and have encouraged them to do so. It would help the membership to know where we are going.

    Finally, editing software is a tool. Each tool has its advantages and disadvantages. I try to know all tools, and would like the ability to choose the best tool for the specific job. And I would like the competition between the tools to spur innovation, which I think it has.

  12. Steve Says:

    Harry,

    Thanks for weighing in on this. Good to have you here.

    Steve

  13. hltr Says:

    Steve,

    Do you think FCP will be showing up amongst your peers in greater numbers given the demo today?

  14. Steve Says:

    Apple keeps improving these products and that’s definitely going to have an impact. But there are still fundamental problems with the FCP editing model. Trimming is terrible, cutting from one sequence to another is awkward, match frame doesn’t work the way we want, media management can be frustrating.

    Meanwhile, Avid lowers prices and makes it possible to use a laptop effectively, thereby taking some of the wind out of Apple’s sails. DNxHD 36 and ScriptSync are both going to appeal to my peers. But Avid doesn’t have a well-integrated suite of products the way Apple does and Avid prices are still too high.

    I think FCP will continue to grow in features and episodic television, and I think the recent announcements were important, but I don’t think you’re going to see a major sea change here as a result of what was shown at NAB.

  15. Chi-Ho Lee Says:

    I found this site last night and have been reading through the previous posts and I really enjoy the tone of this site. Though you are a long time Avid editor, I don’t sense the same die hard Avid loyalty that I encounter of often from others.

    I find it interesting that there is a perception that the only way for FCP to be a “real editor” is for it’s penetration in Hollywood while how many thousands of hours of broadcast and theatrical content have been edited on FCP for the past seven years. FCP is almost the de facto editor for any indie documentary filmmaker.

    I think if Avid wants to really compete – kill Xpress Pro (as your posts suggest), make MC soft $1299 with the studio package and kill the dongle. That would be a good start. But I bet that won’t happen for another 3 years. That would be too bold for them.


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