Seeking Perfection

Recently, at the Supermeet at IBC in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, I was asked by the show organizers to discuss: “Is Final Cut Pro X Ready For Professional Use?”

In thinking about this topic, I realized that this answer is more complex than simply describing what the software does technically, or to showcase who else is using it. Upgrading software that we use as the foundation for our business is much more fraught than simply downloading a new game.

So, in this blog, I want to share a portion of my speech with you. This is not a perfect transcript of my talk – though it is close – but, rather, a detailed write-up based on my outline of the talk.

[ Here’s a link to the SuperMeet speech, itself. ]

= = =


Larry Jordan –
IBC Supermeet – Amsterdam
Sept. 15, 2013


First, I want to start with a disclaimer. My presentation is not sponsored, sanctioned, reviewed, or approved by Apple. I don’t work for Apple and I am not speaking for Apple. Mike Horton and Dan Berube, the producers of the SuperMeet, invited me to speak, and I said “Yes!”

My goal in this presentation is not to sell you a product, but to enable you to find and keep a job by working more efficiently, while creating better results. My business is training. Training in both Adobe and Apple products. I earn my living by helping you earn yours.

I don’t particularly care what software you choose – but I want you to choose the software you use for the right reasons. Because it is far more important to me that you are able to earn a living by telling the stories you want to tell, than that you are using the “right” software.

As it says on my business card, my goal is to “help you find work, improve your skills, and keep clients happy.”


To begin, we need to define the word “Professional.” For me, it is someone who expects to get paid for their work. A hobbyist may enjoy the process of editing, but making money is not their main motivation. For a professional, it is.

In order for us to be paid, we need to deliver our projects on deadline, on budget, and with quality to meet or exceed client expectations. The order of these three is important: creating the highest quality program in the world won’t do you any good if you miss the deadline, or exceed the budget.

Quality is not the gating factor in our work. Business “details” like deadline and budget are far more important. Submit a program with less than ideal quality and that client will probably still hire you in the future. Miss the deadline and you’ll never work with them again.

As editors, all we really have to sell is our time and our talent (and our ability to deliver on time and on budget). Most jobs these days are freelance and most are quoted as a flat-rate, rather than hourly. This means that anything we can do to save time without sacrificing quality puts money in our pocket.

There is only one reason to purchase any new software: The new software enables you to complete a task faster, better, cheaper, or more easily than the software you currently own.

Consider that list: faster, better, cheaper, and more easily.

The “religious wars” of fighting over which is the “BEST” editing software may be great for starting a bar fight, but insufficient for making decisions that affect the life of your business.

I’m reminded of the Miller beer commercials from years past where two groups are arguing that it “Tastes Great,” or is “Less Filling.” As if either reason was sufficient unto itself for deciding what beer to drink. Shouting for one side or the other does not make the beer taste any better.

This is the core of our dilemma: we are making a decision about software that determines whether our business will grow and prosper or shrink and die. This is not a trivial decision and it is not an easy decision.


First, you need to accept that Final Cut Pro 7 is dead and it is never coming back. The technology is too old, the hardware too advanced, the engineering investment too large, and the potential returns too small.

Whether you decide to migrate now, or later, at some point, Final Cut Pro 7 will stop working. Which means, at some point, you need to decide what to do next. You can delay the decision, but you can not avoid it.

Deciding which software to migrate to has three elements:

By references, I mean whether anyone else is using the software in a professional setting. In a show of hands at the beginning of my speech, fully half the room was already using Final Cut Pro X in their work.

By technical, I mean whether FCP X does what we need it to do. And this is NOT the same as “Does it work the way I have always worked?” It is foolish for us to expect software from any developer to grow and evolve, yet work exactly the same for every version.

By personal, I mean answering the question: “Why should I change?”


At the beginning of my speech, Mike asked for a show of hands indicating how many people were using Final Cut Pro X in their business. Fully half of the people in this room raised their hands. Clearly, just in this room alone, there are hundreds of people using FCP X in a professional environment.

Earlier this year, Apple told me that more people had purchased Final Cut Pro X than purchased Final Cut Pro 7.

However, since I wanted to look at the high-end of our industry, I talked with a lot of people, some who wanted to remain anonymous because their projects were not announced, and others who were happy to go on the record.

There were two people I want to mention specifically who shared their thoughts with me for this presentation:

Sam is currently working on an unannounced feature film with about a $100 million production budget. The producers, director and editorial team spent six months researching what software to use for post-production. They choose Final Cut Pro X, because of some of the tools I’ll show you later in this presentation.

Mike is the head of an editorial team running 24 edit bays. They do production for NBC programs and promotions, with their most popular show being “George to the Rescue,” for which they won an Emmy. The entire group uses Final Cut Pro X.

So, starting with the evidence in this room, to broadcast network television, to massively budgeted feature films, Final Cut Pro X is clearly being used for professional work. Then, again, so is Avid and so is Adobe.

Never before have we had such a wealth of tools to choose from. All excellent. All highly recommended. All being used at every level of post-production.


Final Cut Pro X, like its earlier versions, has a well-developed eco-system of developers that are extending the program with plug-ins and utilities. While we are all familiar with the legions of effects and transitions that are available, you may not know about all the incredible utilities that extend FCP X.

NOTE: During my speech, I demoed a number of new utilities for FCP X. Since the speech is over, I created a webinar that showcases these tools. You can view it here:


It is easy to get trapped in the search for the “perfect.” The perfect camera, the perfect microphone, the perfect editing software.

Recently, I needed to buy a new hard disk. I spent two days researching the web for the prefect drive. Two days! In spite of the fact that I knew as soon as I brought it home, it would be full. That within another six months I would need to buy another drive and that within four years, it would be totally obsolete.

I didn’t need the “perfect” drive, I needed a drive that was good enough to meet my needs for the next year. Once I realized that, the drive was purchased and installed in about an hour.

I am a firm believer that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” The more we strive for perfection, the less likely we are to get anything accomplished. Most of the time, good enough is good enough.


However, while it is nice to know other people are successfully using the software, and that there is lots of additional software available, these are not at the heart of the problem. Rather, I think, the issues are personal. And this is what I want to focus on for a few minutes.

We all hate change. I hate change; especially when it involves how we earn our living.

The first time I saw Final Cut Pro X, which was shortly before it was released, the first thought that came into my mind was: “I am not smart enough to learn how to use this software.” The thought of learning something this new and this different was enormously scary.

Fear paralyzes us from moving forward. In fact, I was afraid of this new software and, for a while, I avoided even thinking about it.

Michael Cioni, CEO of Light Iron and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, recently wrote that “Behavioral changes are more important than technical ones.”

As I was talking with Mike Fernandes at NBC/Universal, he said that “the biggest element in training my staff on FCP X was in overcoming their fear.”

Final Cut Pro X is different, significantly different, from Final Cut Pro 7. And differences are frightening.

After a bit, I realized that the only way I could get past my fear was to take the time to learn the software well enough to teach it. And teach it in such a way that acknowledged how different the software was, to enable the people watching my training to overcome their own fear and learn something knew.

Mike Fernandes went on to say: “One thing I’m very proud of about my team was that during and after training we didn’t lose one person. No one gave up.”

This reminds me of an example from history. In March, 1933, America was in the depths of the Great Depression. Tens of millions of people were out of work. Desperation was in the air as the country elected Franklin Roosevelt to his first term as president. In his inaugural address, three paragraphs in, Roosevelt stated: “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Yes, it is scary tackling something new.

Yes, it is even scarier switching to something which supports our entire business.

But sitting still is not an option. It wasn’t in the Depression and it isn’t now.


But, you say, Apple wounded me with the launch of Final Cut Pro X!

Yeah, they did. They screwed up that launch. It was probably the worst launch in Apple history, with the possible exception of Mobile Me. So, now what? Apple can’t go back and re-launch the product. That train has left the station.

Do you remember the hue and cry in 1999 when Avid said it was leaving the Mac? Yet, shortly thereafter they came back and have supported it ever since.

Remember the outrage when Adobe switched to all-subscription pricing? Yet, since then, they have lived up to their promises of more frequent updates with more substantial features.

Every company screws up. We need to judge a company by what they do AFTER making a mistake.

Look at what Apple did. In the slightly more than two years since the release of the first version of Final Cut Pro X, they have upgraded the software – for free – NINE times!

No other developer – not even Apple’s operating systems group – has been more aggressive. And Apples wasn’t just fixing bugs, they were adding significant new features.

But, you ask, why can’t things stay the way they were? Because the technology behind Final Cut Pro 7 is too old.

I came up with an analogy. Updating Final Cut Pro 7 would be like putting lipstick on a caterpillar. (Stay with me here.) Yes, it might look a bit better. And it would make me feel good, because I know everything about caterpillar management: how to get it to crawl along the stick, how to get it to change direction, I even know its favorite foods.

But, imagine how much better it would be if I let the caterpillar continue to grow and turn into a butterfly. Caterpillars are nice, but butterflies are amazing! Imagine a world filled with caterpillars and no butterflies. Think of what we would be missing.

But, you ask, why can’t we have just one editing tool?

Think about the last time you hired a carpenter to repair or remodel something around the house. Did they bring just a single hammer or screwdriver? No! They brought a whole tool chest in order to have the right tool at the right time to do the job the right way in the shortest possible amount of time.

We are long past the time where a single tool is sufficient.

But, you ask, why doesn’t Apple just build all these features into the product?

Think about everything inside an auto parts store. If a car manufacturer built in every possible option and accessory for their car, the car would never be built and, if it was, I couldn’t afford to buy it.

Developing the “best” software is just like developing the “best” car: developers are always making choices about which features to include and which to leave out. They have to; even companies as large as Apple don’t have unlimited resources or engineering teams.


Change is inevitable. Like it or not, we are in an industry that defines itself by change. Cameras change. Video formats change. Distribution technology changes. Technology defines itself by change. Even worse, we are competing with younger folks who have no knowledge of “how things used to be done.”

We must accept – like it or not – that change is an inevitable part of telling stories with pictures; otherwise, we will be left behind — filled with great stories but without the technical tools we need to tell them.

If you are a hobbyist, you can use whatever tools you want – for as long as you want. But if you are a professional, accepting change and growing with it is the path for survival.


All software – regardless of the developer – has flaws. Rather than search for perfection, we need to look for software that will keep up with our speed of working, grow with us into the future, and evolve with us as our needs change.

Avid makes world-class software. Adobe makes world-class software. And Apple makes world-class software. Yet none of this software is “perfect.” Perfection isn’t the issue.

Is Final Cut Pro X ready for professional use? Of course it is. I edit with it every day. It is an amazing tool. But you knew that already. In fact, that isn’t even the right question.

The real question is what do we do to overcome our fear of the new? And the answer is that the best way to overcome fear is to acknowledge it and move forward in spite of it. And, suddenly, you’ll realize the fear is gone.

The future does not stand still. Neither should we.

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6 Responses to Seeking Perfection

  1. Matt says:

    Great article, Larry. I agree with much of what you say. Final Cut Pro X is certainly a competent application now. However, a lot of anger and confidence issues remain and in my opinion, justified. When it was around 10.0.2, I used it while in Thailand to log and transfer the footage from a feature length documentary I was directing. So much I love about it and I’m certainly not afraid of new things. To this day, I have recommended it to many people. I love the interface and feature like the magnetic timeline. But there were serious deficiencies even at the 10.0.2 version I was hopeful would be corrected. As you point out, the rollout was a major screw up. I think a lot of the emotional issues regarding the software revolve around that release, in that Apple should have known better. From what I hear, Apple was truly bewildered about the response of how FCP X was received. So it’s hard to have confidence in a company that claims to know how to innovate a pro application and releases something that was so diffident, then be cause off guard by the anger. As I said, I continued to use it, but while they added features, the actually also started REMOVING features. I think it was version 10.0.4 that was the railroad tie that broke the camel’s back for me. It used to be you could send out a render job to compressor and have it distribute to other machines to distribute the load. It was there in 10.0.0 and I think was there up until 10.0.3. Then they removed it. No reason, no announcement, no apologies. I updated as I usually do one day and it was just gone. While you can RE-send an already rendered job via compressor to a distributed processing render farm, you can’t from within FCP X anymore. That made the Mac minis I bought just for that purpose in the theater-bound films I was working on useless. The entire point was to send out a full cinema quality job from within FCP X without grinding my main production computer to a halt. So while the software itself has a lot going for it and features that I absolutely love (although it is STILL lacking any serious color grading like Apple’s old ‘Color’ application), it boils down to a company that I have little confidence in when it comes to their Pro applications anymore.

    I switched to Adobe CS6/CC for my main production work and I have tools there do what I need and in the way I need it. You are very correct on that. I still have FCP X and use it from time to time on certain jobs, but it simply can not do what I need it to do for my high-end jobs. If they add something back like their “Color” and “Sound Track” applications could do, I’d reconsider. But Premiere and the accompanying suite does everything I need it to do (minus the magnetic timeline I would give someone else’s right arm for), so I’m sticking with it. I know you mention above there is someone with a $100 million film project using FCP X. Emotional issues completely aside, for my Indie film in Thailand, I simply could’t make it with FCP X and can with Adobe CC. So as you say, put the emotional issues aside and use the tool that has what you need and that can work with.

  2. Hi there,

    relating to the 100 million dollar movie – I’ve been carping on about it on a forum: can you clarify FCPX’s role in the film? Are you referring to it’s role in the production in Bulgaria? Or are you referring to another completely different 100 million dollar film that mestman related to you? Which production’s editor spoke to you?

    it seems as though FCPX is producing below the line EPK marketing materials for the film in bulgaria – in your conversations, were you talking to a different editor on another 100 million dollar film related to you by mestman?

    my takeaway from your supermeet presentation was that FCPX was directly selected for post production editing on a hundred million dollar film after extensive six month negotiations –

    was this in relation to the film mestman cited in bulgaria where it was doing marketing EPK’s, as he clearly stated, or am I an idiot, and there is another one hundred million dollar film that he has been involved in that FCPX is, in fact, the nominated edit system for film post production as you stated at the supermeet? where you had direct conversations with the film editor?

    super confused – and apologies in advance for being an idiot here!

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Great questions and you are NOT an idiot. There are two films involved here.

      The film I mentioned in my talk is different from the Bulgaria film. I have spoken to the editor, who is not Sam, who prefers to remain anonymous because the studio – one of the “Big 6” Hollywood studios – has not authorized him to discuss the film. I don’t know it’s actual budget, but, given the stars involved, 100 million dollars seems in the ballpark.

      FCP X is being used for all editorial on this film, and was selected after six months of testing and strong initial objections from the studio.


      • ok sure –

        but when you cited a hundred million dollar movie FCPX movie in amsterdam, referencing sam mestman and his experience, (who I never thought, to be clear, was the editor, he clearly stated he was involved in workflow for the article) – you basically were in no way referencing his post on the hundred million dollar film involving X at when you repeatedly talked about the hundred million dollar film?

        as in to say – you were actually discussing a completely separate second project, that he basically has said nothing about, where you spoke to the other film editor, and you were of the understanding that it was – conversationally ball park – a 100 million dollar film as you related to the supermeet? that it coincidentally amounted to the same 100 million dollar film he posted where he was providing FCPX for epk’s?

        I’m only looking to be clear because the publicity surrounding sam’s post is directly related to the bulgaria project and the 100 million dollar price tag that you referenced a few times – in that project, FCPX is cutting marketing materials –

        again to be an idiot – you are referencing a second possibly 100 million dollar film, unconnected to his post, that he has not referred to with that dollar figure, that i can find no post of his about, where you have spoken directly to the film editor involved -so this is a say, let’s say high double figure millions studio release being edited on X? and this is how you arrived at the exact match one hundred million figure you repeatedly referenced in amsterdam?

        if so great – X deserves the light of day, and, well, you don’t have to rent the thing.

        I’m just – finding it hard to understand that he didn’t want to write his article about that other 100 million dollar project.

        do you understand why he did that? given they are both unnamed projects from unnamed studios?
        what’s the difference? Why did he write the article about making mere EPK’s, when he could have talked about what you were talking about ?
        a maybe hundred million dollar – totally different – film, that he set up the editing apparatus for, where X is actually cutting the film?

        why did he write about marketing EPK’s in bulgaria? surely the other story is way better?
        surely that’s big news?

        oh, this is all so very odd.

        • Larry Jordan says:


          Correct. Sam worked on the Bulgaria project. He is also working on the new movie, but in workflow support, not as the editor. Both Sam and the editor are under non-disclosure for this new project for a few more weeks yet.

          And, the reason no one is talking about this new movie, yet, is they don’t have permission from the studio to do so.

          Soon, but not yet.


          • So this is actually happening. You are doing this.

            So You have spoken to the second editor, from the second grassy knoll 100 million dollar film, that was signed off for X months ago, that mestman was intimately involved in setting up, where you don’t really know its a hundred million dollars, but its good luck you arrived at the same number, based on your estimation of the actors involved.

            Can i get a shrug shoulders please.

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