In my last post I talked about what hardware I use to work on video and photo projects. Now I will cover some of the software tools I use to create with.
Most of my working adult life as been as a video editor in one form or another. In that time I have used many different pieces of post-production software. This has taught me that adaptability in this industry is a crucial personality trait. That being said, the list of tools I talk about today may not be the exact list I make in a month or a year. On a related note, once you see my list of tools, you’ll notice a set of tools from one specific company is missing. This has been a conscious choice lately and I will write a completely separate blog about that soon. For the record, I’m a huge fan of that company but this is my current situation.
Let’s start with the 2 main apps I use to edit video.
Final Cut Pro X
Let’s not even start with the FCP X drama here. It’s almost as volatile as a political debate. The bottom line is that it is a great tool to edit with and many people make awesome videos with it every single day.
I love the fact that I paid for this app once, 7 years ago and still get free updates. Those updates have been massive. I love the speed of FCP X. It’s not just about rendering speed either. It’s about how fast I can put together a rough cut with my footage. When I’m in my groove with FCP X I’m faster with it than any other NLE when building a cut. When I have taken a break from it and come back it takes some readjusting. Editing with the magnetic timeline is great once you learn how to use it to your advantage. It’s when you try to make it act like a traditional track based timeline that you get to the point of wanting to throw the computer out the window. Adapt to the tool you are using and it will fly.
FCP X is far from perfect. I still have a of features that I wish it had. Some of those things have been on that list for the entire 7 years since its release. I’ll readdress those things another day.
My second NLE…
As much as I love Final Cut Pro X, it can’t do everything. But that’s unfair to ask an edit system to do everything right?
Well, Blackmagic Design seems to be aiming at building that unicorn of a tool. The true all-in-one system. I know that just because it can do everything doesn’t mean you should make it do everything. In most professional workflows there will still be a separate colorist, sound mixer and designer, etc. The independent filmmaker or YouTube creator often needs to be the editor, colorist and sound mixer. DaVinci Resolve has evolved into a tool that offers a wide feature set so that these tasks cannot only get done in the app but can be done at a pro-level.
I won’t get too deep into workflow in this post but what started out as a coloring tool for me has turned into a legitimate editing tool. Resolve has some of the same quick edit tools that FCP X has as well as some features from my FCP X feature wishlist already in there.
I love how it contains great tools for importing and managing media. The timeline is as traditional as you want it to be with multiple tracks yet as forward thinking as anything out there with quick edit tools similar to FCP X.
Besides the edit and color tools. It now has an advanced compositing tool, Fusion, built in as well as Fairlight audio tools for mixing and sound design.
I have so many good things to say about Resolve that maybe I’ll dedicate a blog post or a few on it soon. By the way, if your system can’t run it, you should check it out. There is a free version and it rocks.
On to my current tools for motion graphics, compositing and VFX.
For motion graphics that I can’t achieve from within FCP X I go to Apple Motion.
Although Motion has been updated with a refined design and enhanced with a few new features, the basic function and layout has essentially stayed the same for well over 10 years. This is not a bad thing. It is functional and performs really well for what I ask it to do.
Just like with FCP X I have a handful of features I hope Apple will add to Motion someday.
Now that Blackmagic Design owns Fusion this is becoming a viable option for me. I always admired higher end compositing tools like Fusion but I never had access to them personally.
I don’t have many details to share about Fusion at the moment other than to say it’s refreshing to have such a powerful free tool for motion graphics and effects work (there are Free and paid versions).
Fusion is a node based compositor which is common for high end VFX software.
Whether I’m prepping a photo to include in a video or converting a logo to a more video friendly format, I need a photo editor. Right now I bounce between two depending on the purpose.
I really need to write a separate blog on Luminar to do it justice, and I will. For now I’ll give a brief description of what makes me love this for a photo editor.
It processes RAW files beautifully. It has all the of the standard photo filters and processing tools I look for in a photography tool and more. Nearly everyone of these tools can be painted on with masks using a Wacom tablet which is fantastic.
I treat Luminar like a digital darkroom using it almost exclusively for photography which it is great at.
For advanced photo comps and graphics I utilize tools that are more expansive. The company Serif delivers with these tools.
Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer
Just like with Luminar the Affinity apps deserve a separate blog. I have a feeling they will get a handful of blog posts from me over time.
It feels like it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have many professional options for vector and raster based graphic creation and editing. Times have changed drastically. There really are too many options to count now. I could try to list them but I’m sure I would miss some cool ones.
For me the Affinity apps fulfill most of my still graphic needs, actually all of my still graphic needs. Between them I can create logos, vector images for motion graphics, website mockups, text treatments, photo comps, etc. I could go on.
The two apps work very well together and run very well on my MacBook Pro. Now that Affinity Designer has been released for the iPad I can now start a project on my computer and then pick up that same project on my iPad Pro and not miss a beat. Using iCloud storage, the same file can transfer seamlessly between the desktop and mobile apps with very little compromises.
That’s the summary of my software tools! This was a very broad look at the top level of my tools. I will spend time diving deeper into each one eventually. Is there one tool that you want to learn more about specifically? Let me know so I can start planning that blog post.
Did you notice I did not mention that certain creative software company once? That was a personal challenge to not compare these tools to theirs. This is another subject I will elaborate on soon.
Thanks again for reading! Please let me know if you have a request for a blog subject that’s relating to filmmaking or photography.