I’ve always said that I don’t care about software competencies, I just want the best editors. Most editors can pick up the basics of a new NLE in a day and have a strong command of the core functionality in a few weeks. But most hiring managers don’t think that way, especially for freelance jobs. You need to fit into their workflow and they don’t often have time for you to learn on the job. The industry won’t bend for you so you need to bend to the industry. Since most software offers a free version or at least a free trial and since it does only take a few weeks to learn a new NLE, there is no excuse to be unprepared. Here is the software that is likely to be most beneficial to know in the future:
Adobe already has a huge market share and isn’t slowing down. The flexible, intuitive controls make the software easy to learn for beginners, a major benefit to gaining new users. The last few versions have shown that Adobe is listening to editor feedback and adapting, something other NLEs have neglected to do (looking at you, AVID). Unless a new contender enters the marketplace, we can likely expect Premiere to continue to lead in professional settings.
AVID Media Composer
The big, the bad, the immovable AVID. As much as many people would like to see AVID go the way of the leg warmer (pretty much dying off and only making brief reappearances for nostalgic or ironic purposes), the intractable software continues to have a strong grip on the highest echelon of the industry. Premiere and even Final Cut managed to loosed AVID’s death grip and seemed poised to make even more progress as AVID editors age out of the industry. As recently as 6 months ago, I would have said that AVID would continue their death spiral into oblivion, but then they released a free version. One of AVID’s major problems has been introducing young editors to their prohibitively expensive software, so a free version changes the game. It’s unlikely that they’ll ever regain the kind of position in the market they once had, but they’ve probably bought themselves another decade or 2 as the go-to choice for national TV and studio film post production.
With the consolidation of post production budgets fewer and fewer editors are getting the luxury of passing off finishing work. So it should come as no surprise that Resolve, the perennial leader in color grading, made the list. Since the in-program options for color in most NLEs are, quite frankly, bad, it’s best to learn the proper tools for the job. In addition, Resolve has NLE functionality that grows more useful with each new version. Before long it may be helpful to know Resolve as both a color grading tool and an NLE.
As Zach Arnold told us, nowadays you don’t get to just be a picture editor. After Effects is necessary for most post production positions. Even if you have no design skills and are, what I call, a ‘utility user’ of the program, it’s enormously beneficial to add motion graphics to your skills list. There are innumerable functions of after effects that require no real design skills and add considerable value to a project. The depth of the software can be intimidating to new users, but if you don’t already know it, it’s time to at least splash around in the shallow end.
Pro Tools (Or at least Adobe Audition)
Once again, editors need to adapt to the change expectations of the industry. Along with color, audio is a part of the finishing process that has been increasingly pushed onto editors. Audio is the bane of many editors because it’s not flashy or impressive, it’s often more of a science than an art, and it can get enormously complex. But, like with many things, once you start flexing that audio muscle and working with functionality outside your NLE, you won’t believe you ever neglected the processes.
You’ve probably noticed some major players that haven’t been mentioned. This doesn’t mean that knowing them will hurt, but it’s unlikely that you’ll need to know them to have a fruitful career in post production.
- Final Cut– Final Cut X keeps adding new features and has made significant strides since it’s first, poor reception. However, I believe the brand took too big a reputation hit among professional editors at launch and will never fully recover. I expect the FCP market share will continue to slip and rarely be found in major shops.
- Sony Vegas, Grass Valley– You’ve probably never used either of these brands unless you’re a news editor, local TV editor, or work on something else that requires live switching. There has been no indication that these types of software will expand their market share to include other industry segments.
- Cinema 4d, Maya, Smoke/Flame– While a bit of motion graphics knowledge will become increasingly useful, high end VFX and animation software likely won’t be necessary to land most editing positions. If it can’t be done in After Effects (and in a decade, who knows if there will be anything that can’t be done in after effects) it’s time to bring in an expert in the position. If you’re interested in and/or have any aptitude for higher end VFX and animation, though, focusing on that portion of your skills and software competencies will likely pay off, as more and more productions involve such elements.