Film editing is arguably one of the most essential aspects of filmmaking, and the system that an editor uses will help determine how long a project will take to complete as well as the ultimate quality that is produced. As with most issues in entertainment, there will be a host of opinions about what constitutes the best bang for your buck when it comes to edit systems. The major issue here has to do with budget.
Establish your budget for your edit system
Let’s face some serious truth here. If you need to tighten your belt, then you will be limited in what kind of edit system you can afford. If your budget is too tight, then you may want to consider renting a system, if possible, or outsourcing your editing work. These are considerations that should be made before setting out to find the right edit system and bang for your buck.
How comfortable are you with tinkering?
If you’re one of those invaluable technology nerds who loves to dig into the guts of computer systems and is comfortable adding or removing hardware or reconfiguring programs to suit your demands, then you may be able to get a better system for less than someone who shies away from anything not inherent to the edit system itself. For the purpose of this discussion, we’re going to assume that you simply want the best system right out of the box, ready to go.
Time versus money
The question about what is the best bang for your buck comes down to time versus money. The less money you have to spend, the more time the editing process will actually take you, on average. This has to do with the available technology to conduct what is known as ‘real-time editing’ on specific edit systems. Most systems that offer ‘real-time editing’ aren’t always advertising full-disclosure. Many of these systems only offer that editing option for sampling, or previewing on diminished resolution, but need to be rendered before they can be fully viewed.
For anyone who knows about rendering, then they know that the entire process can take precious time away from the actual editing process. The more expensive a system is, the more likely that it has the hardware, software, and other capabilities to actually edit in real-time. Some of these systems will cost in excess of $10,000. For some filmmakers, this isn’t an issue, but for many, it takes a considerable bite out of the budget.
Some of the best edit systems on the market
If you want the best bang for your buck, then it all starts with the computer system that you use. While many people in the industry prefer Apple computer systems for editing, they can be somewhat pricey. However, the graphics resolution of the monitors, and the graphics cards used, are some of the best in the business. PC-based systems have come a long way, as well, and are an option for any die-hard Windows-based user.
What it comes down to then is the program that you use. There are many different players in the arena, but the three biggest names are Avid, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe’s Premiere Pro CS5. While Avid and Final Cut Pro come in at a slightly higher price, they have been in the game for a long time and have mastered many of the pitfalls that once hampered the editing process for thousands of users.
Hardware technology certainly makes a significant difference in how each program operates from top to bottom. Using either of these systems can get your project underway in no time, though there is a learning curve to them. If you wish to switch from one platform to another (for example, you’ve been using Final Cut Pro for some time but are interested in switching to Premiere Pro CS5), it may take some time to get used to the layout, tools, and basic operations. Different editors will prefer a different set of tools, so it’s best to sample several before making a commitment to purchase one.
This is not a sales pitch for either Avid, Final Cut Pro, or Premiere Pro CS5 in any way, but when looking for the best bang for your buck when it comes to edit systems, then these rank up there as the best.