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The Age old Debate: Avid versus Apple

By Kevin McAuliffe

No, I'm not talking about which came first, the chicken or the egg, or who the greatest hockey player ever was, Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky.  I'm talking about who has the better editing program, Apple or Avid.  Any time I talk to an editor or producer, I usually hear the same types of comments, and most of them favor Avid, and slam Apple, but as an Avid Editor who made the switch recently to Final Cut Pro, I'm hoping to bring a fresh perspective to an age-old debate.  I think the best way to do this is to look at Avid's pros and con's and then look at Apple's pros and con's.

As I had mentioned before, I was an Avid Editor for 10 years (I still edit on a Media Composer from time to time), and I was a purple-bleeding Avid supporter who thought they could do no wrong.  One thing that I love about the Avid, and the Media Composer specifically, is that inside of the Media Composer program, no one makes a better editing application.  The software is (more or less) rock solid, with very few bugs or glitches to hinder you from finishing your projects on time, and every possible editing tool you could need or want is at your disposal.  For a long time, Avid was the editing standard, and with that, they began to purchase other editing/graphics/compositing companies, such as Softimage, Pinnacle and Digidesign.  With that, they began to convert and release newer versions of the applications with the Avid name on them, which all essentially do the same thing.  Did you know that Avid offers approximately twelve different editing applications that all more or less do the same thing?  Edit.  Don't get me wrong, some programs do other things as well (DS - compositing, Symphony - Color Correction), but more or less, they all do the same thing. 

Xpress Pro's timeline

Starting at the bottom, you have the Avid Liquid Family - Avid Liquid, Liquid Pro and Liquid Chrome HD, you have Avid Xpress Pro, Xpress Pro with Mojo and XpressPro Studio, then, Avid Media Composer Software Only, Media Composer Software Only with Mojo SDI, Avid Media Composer Adrenaline, Media Composer Adrenaline HD, and finally don't forget about Symphony Nitris and Avid DS Nitris.  Wow.... that's a lot of choices, and unless you have a PH D in computer science, or have been freelance editing for 10 years, you will most likely have no idea what all these different programs do, or which one you will need if you are unfamiliar with the post production world.   I think they need to keep it simple, and not bog us down with all these different programs.

As I said earlier, no company makes a better editing application than Avid's Media Composer, but unfortunately, what Avid still fails to realize is that in most cases, no editor is just an editor any more.  Editors are graphic artists, sound people and compositors as well, and we need our edit programs to be flexible and versatile enough to take this into account.  I can't think of the last time that I did a promo where I didn't use Adobe After Effects, and getting my media to and from the Media Composer is always a painful task (unless you are using Automatic Duck's Pro Import AE).  Avid says it themselves. . . "Don't settle for less than a complete suite", and I think that Avid is moving in the right direction with Xpress Studio Complete, and I think that they need to expand on this idea to include some kind of motion graphics program (along the lines of After Effects or Motion), because let me tell you that if Avid was to release a half decent motion graphics program that they included with every version of software they released, I can almost guarantee you would see XpressPro and even Media Composer Software editions flying off the shelves.

One last thing that I want to mention about Avid, and this is a strong selling point in their favor, is that when you buy a system from Avid (we'll use an Adrenaline as an example), they supply everything from the breakout box to the drives array and anything else.  It's even a good idea to just buy the CPU and monitors from them, as they know better than anyone what CPU's qualify for their different software/hardware configurations.

Avid's Pro's

  • Exceptionally strong editing applications
  • Moving files between Avid Applications and platforms (Media Composer, Protools, Avid DS) is made to be smooth and simple
  • Extensive plug-in packages and AVX effects available

Avid's Con's

  • Too many options can make it difficult to make a decision
  • Upgrade paths can be expensive
  • Stringent system requirements

With version 5 of Apple's flagship editing application, Final Cut Pro, Apple has poised themselves to give Avid a real run for their money.  Recently making the switch to Final Cut Pro, I have been extremely impressed with what FCP can do at version 5.0.  One thing I like about Apple is that as opposed to Avid, you have two choices for editing, Final Cut Studio and Final Cut Express.  The main difference between the two packages is one, the price, and two, that you are missing some key programs included in the Studio Bundle (Motion, DVD Studio Pro, Compressor, Cinema Tools), and for the money, I would say to just put down your $1300, grab the bundle and start editing.  I have to admit that I was quite surprised when I sat down in front of a FCP for the first time, as I had heard horror stories about how I would have dropped frames all over the place, and the application would be crashing all the time, but if you spend your money wisely, and don't cheap out, you will have a good, strong editing system.  

Another thing that I find is a big plus on the Apple side is that Final Cut Studio is supported on every Intel based machine except the Mac Mini and the MacBook (Final Cut Express is supported on all Intel based machines including the Mac Mini and Macbook). That doesn't mean that it won't run, but it runs really slow, Motion does not support the Graphics card, and Apple won't help you if you run into problems. You won't be editing Uncompressed HD (except on the higher end MacPro Towers), but you will have a great edit system that will be able to edit DV and, depending on the system, HDV.

Apple Pro's

  • Excellent Toolset for a cheap price
  • You can build the edit system you want for a great price
  • Quicktime based

Apple Con's

  • If you're not careful, you can build the edit system you DON'T want
  • Companies developing plug-ins/programs for Mac as an afterthought (Boris Blue, etc.)
  • Not all programs are Universal Binary (After Effects, Photoshop)

One thing that works as a big plus, but also a big minus for Apple is the fact that I can build the system that I want right from the ground up. I can pick my CPU, my capture card, my storage, my fibre card and essentially configure my system right down to the smallest detail.  This is an excellent selling point for the Mac, but can also be its biggest flaw.   If you don't know what you are doing, and decide to go with price over power, you could be setting yourself up for big trouble down the road.  A perfect example of this is when I was looking at capture cards for an HD edit system, the Kona 2 was available, but the Kona 3 was about a month away.  I was told that the Kona 3 was a huge setup from the Kona 2, and so I sat down and did my research by reading quite a lot of material, and calling people who were using the Kona 2, and in the end, I decided to wait a month for the Kona 3, and it was probably the best decision I could have made.   Since I have started using the Kona 3, I have had no problems with it what so ever.
Finally, one thing that I love about Final Cut Pro is that it is Quicktime based.  Once my footage is digitized, there's no need to export to different programs to use the files (like on the Avid).   All I have to do is minimize FCP, go into my capture scratch, and there are all my QT files ready for Shake, Motion, After Effects, or compressor.  Quick and easy, just as editors like it.
I hope this article sheds a little light on some differences between Avid and Final Cut.  People may read this and think I'm Apple biased, but don't get me wrong, Avid make's an excellent edit system.  But, Apple makes an excellent edit system as well, and we as the consumers need to start pushing these companies to give us what WE need as editors. If there are not features included that we need, we need to start bombarding these companies with e-mails, or we need to call our local Avid or Apple resellers and tell them what we want, or enhancements that we need to do our jobs. 

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at

Related Keywords:Apple , Avid, avid editing, Final Cut pro editing, video editing

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