Green Room

Geek bleg: What video editors work best in Mac?

posted at 2:17 pm on March 1, 2013 by

After having been in the Mac world for a year, I have to report that I like it more than I thought I would.  I spent over 25 years exclusively in the PC world, and I thought the transition would be horrible, especially when it came to working with new software for video, photo, and audio editing.  Actually, most of the transitions have been very easy … except for video editing.  I find that iMovie is just too clunky an interface to make it worth my while, and I dread the thought of doing anything but the simplest tasks in it.

So for those readers who live in the Mac world, what do you use as a video editor? Or, what tips might you have for iMovie that I just haven’t grokked at this point?  Feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments, or drop me an e-mail if that’s handier.

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I heard from Mac users that the new Final Cut Pro editor is to be avoided like tick infested rats.

I use Adobe Premiere on the PC, it is also available for the Mac.
A lot of people swear by Avid, but I guess you would want to be beyond hobby level to really notice.

LoganSix on March 1, 2013 at 2:37 PM

I use iMovie to make video “comps” when we do company video projects. It lets me anticipate the titles and captions needed (which I prepare) and give the folks who produce the video a visual storyboard. They use FinalCut Pro to edit but are in the process of switching to Adobe Premiere Pro. Looking forward to learning it myself because I have advanced Illustrator and PhotoShop skills, I’m very comfortable with Adobe programs, and there’s a lot more interface among the programs now with CS6.

I’m self-taught on iMovie and a total novice so I was very happy to find a series of YouTube videos by Matthew Pearce under the heading of Matt’s MacIntosh. There’s a whole slew of “how to” videos that enabled me to do what I wanted to and made me look way more competent in iMovie than I am.

jix on March 1, 2013 at 2:38 PM

PS— The reason our office is switching to Premiere Pro is that our video geek was told that Apple is ending its commitment to FinalCut with FinalCut X. Premiere Pro also lets the user see the filters applied in programs such as Red Giant (vignettes, effects, etc.) in real time in their project and FinalCut Pro doesn’t.

Don’t know enough about it to know whether this is true or if you’ll be using after effects but just thought I’d throw that out there.

jix on March 1, 2013 at 2:46 PM

I would make a snarky comment like, “Huh didn’t realize I clicked on Buzzfeed, or I heart Macs, or,” but I’m feeling nice.
Glad you like your Mac Ed.

LincolntheHun on March 1, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Final Cut used to be the go-to editing system for a number of television stations and edit houses that I worked for. It was much cheaper than Avid and came with a suite of popular programs.

When Apple rolled out Final Cut X – they pretty much sent a signal to professional editors that they were no longer interested in their business – although they have made tweaks that have placated some in the business.

You’ll find that many editors use a variety of other programs like After Effects for a majority of their work, and programs like Final Cut, Premier or Sony Vegas to lay down their final timeline.

Hill60 on March 1, 2013 at 3:26 PM

I’ve been editing on the Avid for ages — since version 2. It’s complex, but a lot less so now that it’s gone software only. And it’s expensive, but only compared to hobby-level junk like iMovie.

I’ve also used Premiere Pro. Since Adobe redesigned it a few years ago, it’s excellent. Autodesk also just released a new version of Smoke that looks fantastic, but I haven’t used it and it’s even more expensive than Avid.

If you want to spend less than a couple grand, go with Adobe Premiere — it’s a no brainer. I’d stay away from Final Cut X. Good luck!

Brundlefly on March 1, 2013 at 3:31 PM

Morrissey’s using a Mac? RINO.

InterestedObserver on March 1, 2013 at 3:48 PM

Stick with iMovie, Ed. The more you work with it, the more you’ll discover how brilliant (and stable) it is. I didn’t warm to it until the second year.

Once you’ve imported your movie, select with the yellow box the parts you want to move to the editing board. Use the right mouse button to split clips into more manageable chunks. All of your needs are in the bottom pull down at the beginning of the clips. Clip speed, reverse, audio, cropping, exposure, tint, Ken Burns effects and more.

John the Libertarian on March 1, 2013 at 4:04 PM

Final Cut Pro X is amazing and intuitive.

BigWillieStyles on March 1, 2013 at 4:37 PM

I too, just got a new mac (haven’t switched away, just adding to my skillset).

I am having a hard time not tossing it out the window every time I edit text and it wants completely different key combinations for simple stuff like copy and paste.

WitchDoctor on March 1, 2013 at 4:40 PM

I’ll add my vote for Premiere, although I haven’t used any of the competitors. After Effects is lots of fun for creating effects, but it’s not suited for editing interviews and such. On the other hand, Adobe’s Creative Cloud license gives you access to everything, on both Mac and PC. It’s not a bad deal at all.

I got a new Mac four months ago, after not having one for about 10 years. It’s been better than I expected. I divide my time between Mac and Win8 running virtual under Parallels. Key combinations are a bear sometimes, though, when filtered successively through Mac, Parallels, Windows, Visual Studio, and Resharper. Maybe I should get one of those ergonomic keyboards that has a foot keyboard for switching keystroke programming.

NeighborhoodCatLady on March 1, 2013 at 4:55 PM

Love the Heinlein reference. 🙂

ButterflyDragon on March 1, 2013 at 5:02 PM

What?? No check-ins from the backroom at MSNBC ??
You’d think, if ANYBODY would know ..


CaveatEmpty on March 1, 2013 at 5:06 PM

I’ve used the mac now for almost 20 years, and I feel ya on iMovie.

I use Premiere to edit documentaries and do commercial work. It’s great, easy to use, and can handle pretty much anything you can throw at it. You can download a fully functioning copy for 30 days and try it out at I cut this last doc on it and it will be in theaters in April:

Final Cut X is not for everybody, but if you want to pick up something new, you can always give it a shot. I heard with the new updates it’s a reasonable editing suite, just a different way of thinking about things.

Avid is fairly standard on the west coast. It relies on a lot of key shortcuts, so it can take a little bit to pick up if you’re new.

Stay away from Smoke. It takes awhile to really pick up and is more for people who edit high end commercials who have a client sitting over their shoulder.

lesreaper on March 1, 2013 at 5:11 PM

iMovie is really pretty great. Final Cut is definitely the ‘professional’ choice, though.

If you haven’t already, get this book by David Pogue. You’ll enjoy iMovie more when you know it really well.

thinkingthought on March 1, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Ed, I’ll agree with the others that you should dig deeper into iMovie before you toss it. There’s lots of power hidden underneath that interface (to keep things simpler & less intimidating for the 90%+ that don’t need the advanced features). There are several good books available on Amazon (including Pogue’s).

I’m a long-time Avid & Final Cut user, but that’s way more power (and complexity) than you need. If you end up determining that iMovie can’t cut it (ha), Premiere Pro is probably your best bet.

Splashman on March 1, 2013 at 6:37 PM

Since I am a professional “vidiot” working in television for 26 years and a Mac user, I have to confess that I’ve always liked final cut pro for editing. Now in my career I have edited on avid (media composer, news cutter and just about any other avid product out there) and have worked on media 100, adobe premier, after effects and lord knows what else, but I have always found that FCP is so intuitive. I am also a producer and songwriter and find that FCP is great for editing pic and sound. Since the availability of video production software has exploded, you can always find a program that works great for a good price. I do like iMovie, but I prefer Final Cut Pro to edit with hands down. The caveat is, I still use a PPC G5 so I haven’t used FCX (yet). If it were me, I would find a version of FCP “pre-X” and use it or I myself would buy FCX and give it a try.

Slayur on March 1, 2013 at 7:49 PM

I’m with Slayur.

You’re still on a PPC G5? WOW. Mine died a year or two ago.

FCP pre-X is very prosumer. FCPX has some nice features, but it’s much closer to pro-amateur in overall function.

Premiere is very good, but as Spalshman said, iMovie is really about all you’re going to need.

If you go beyond that, the learning curve may not be worth the time.

Don’t go into After Effects. Compositing is a different animal.

budfox on March 1, 2013 at 8:27 PM

I should add I went the opposite direction. From Mac to Windows, but that’s because I build my own rigs now. My station is better than most Mac’s at a quarter of the cost.

budfox on March 1, 2013 at 8:29 PM

What’s that? The myth that Mac’s are so awesome for graphics and video isn’t true? Who knew? (I did. I’m a PC.)

HopeHeFails on March 1, 2013 at 9:40 PM

iMovie and Final Cut X are animals of the same breed. One’s just allegedly more “professional”.

I use Final Cut Pro, and when it no longer works I will move back to Premiere, where I started.

Apple used to have its mind around making software that fit intuitively with the task. It gave you a handful of different ways to accomplish a task, while being powerful and intuitive. You could find your own way, build own workflow, sloppy or clean, and have fun while doing it.

Apple is now on this side of mobile devices and everything they do is becoming more cute, boxed and pre-fab in its workflow. After having used Premiere and FCP for almost 15 years, I open the latest version of iMovie (a supposedly simpler piece of software) and think… WTF? It’s suffocating. I haven’t even touched X.

Yes, I agree, with training anyone could become fluent in their use, but if you want something that’s robust, without feeling like the manufacturer is forcing your head under water, go with Premiere. Not cheap though.

somewhatconcerned on March 1, 2013 at 9:52 PM

What?? No check-ins from the backroom at MSNBC ??
You’d think, if ANYBODY would know ..


CaveatEmpty on March 1, 2013 at 5:06 PM

Are you kidding?? They’re edits are so obvious I wouldn’t be surprised to find they’re using razor blades on tape!

CurtZHP on March 1, 2013 at 10:40 PM

They’re s/b their.

CurtZHP on March 1, 2013 at 10:56 PM

Hi Ed,

Adobe Premiere Pro (at least CS6) lets you edit H.264 files natively, so you don’t have to convert to ProRes or some other format first.

Most non-super-pro video or DSLR cameras use H.264 codecs, so it makes Premiere Pro a logical choice.

This is a big deal if you are concerned about picture quality and workflow. It’s the reason a lot of pros like Philip Bloom switched from Final Cut to Premiere.

Also, the stuff like Red Giant as was previously mentioned, is really nice to have.

Lastly, not to start a flame war, but if you haven’t gotten a camera yet and are considering the DSLR route, get a Canon as they are far superior for videos.


Hot Gas on March 2, 2013 at 12:42 AM

People who use Final Cut Pro 7 and have long-standing workflows with it will tell you to avoid Final Cut Pro X.

If you have never used FCP7, this advice is irrelevant. Go ahead and use FCPX.

ebrawer on March 2, 2013 at 1:57 AM

ebrawer on March 2, 2013 at 1:57 AM

Exactly… this is why our station won’t be making the change to X (and will probably migrate back to Avid), but if you’re starting from scratch, it may not be too bad.

Hill60 on March 2, 2013 at 10:47 AM

iMovie is fine for amateurish homey stuff, but Adobe Premiere Pro is what you should be using for more professional grade finished material. It’s very stable, intuitive, and fairly easy to learn (check out for great video tutorials), although a bit memory/CPU intensive. With a good machine, you’ll be fine, though.

Welcome to the world of Mac, Ed. You won’t regret it, especially for design/media work.

patricius on March 2, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Wow, there are a lot geeks here.

My take is final cut 7 was the last “real” non linear editing package from Apple. Final cut X is really iMovie pro. It won’t even open previous versions of final cut projects.

I paid over $1,500 for final cut 4 plus all of the subsequent upgrades. X is significantly cheaper.

Apple has made a lot of apologies and upgrades but it’s still not a professional editing suite, and the rumors are Apple is bailing on this. Many editors are moving back to Avid. Personally I think this is due to the success of the Arri.

I now pay Adobe $60 a month for CS6 which includes premiere, after effects, photoshop, dreamweaver, etc. They put out upgrades every six weeks, included in the price.

We’re shooting on Red at 4k and premiere has a native workflow so I’m married to this anyway. Anyone who has used FCP can use premiere, the commands are almost the same.

danielreyes on March 2, 2013 at 11:37 AM

I edited this video with FCPX.

Sure there are some things I miss from FCP 7.
I am using a 27′ iMac upgraded to 32 gigs RAM.

There is a lot of plug in development being done for FCP X.
It’s only $300 – I have used Premiere but now upgrading Adobe products
is a real pain and expensive as well. Adobe has made the process
of upgrading too complicated and kludgy. But I still love After Effects.

redguy on March 2, 2013 at 11:49 AM

I guess it depends on what you’re making.

I’m running iMovie on my iPad; iMovie, FCP 7, FCP X, and Premiere cs6 on my laptop. I also have Motion, After Effects, etc.

Whenever I need to make something fast and good I use FCP 7. Complicated and good, Premiere (thanks to After Effects).

I’ve tried iMovie and FCP X, but they won’t do what I want.

That said, FCP X is still a really good program, and adding Motion for $50 really does expand the things you can do. Neither of them have huge learning curves, unlike FCP 7 and Premiere. Learning these packages can take some time. They’re not difficult, but they have a lot of features you may never use.

If you’re using iMovie and you like it but find it limiting, moving to FCP X makes more sense than going to full blown editing suite. Unless of course, you love making movies.

Here’s a question, does anyone here remember editing film with a razor blade and scotch tape?

danielreyes on March 2, 2013 at 12:13 PM

Here’s a question, does anyone here remember editing film with a razor blade and scotch tape?

danielreyes on March 2, 2013 at 12:13 PM

I’ve never used it professionally, but that’s how I learned to do it in my college “film making” class (along with the other dinosaurs). We used Super 8 film, cellophane tape, and a splicer like this. You had to be careful not to make too many edits because the tape added bulk and if it got too built up it wouldn’t roll through the projector. LOL.

jix on March 2, 2013 at 12:34 PM


Super 8. I remember when my parents bought a Super 8 camera from Bell & Howell. The film came in cartridges. They supplied a little splicing device for when the film would break. This had to be around ’68, maybe ’69.

danielreyes on March 2, 2013 at 1:35 PM

it seems like most of the people complaining about final cut proX aren’t even listing why they hate it.. just regurgitating what other blogs have posted about it. And most of them are just used to final cut pro 7. Granted, I can see how Final cut pro X does seem like a “dumbed down” version.

I use it and imovie and both have easy learning curves and are very effective at editing.

And I remember still editing with tape (1995).

johnnyboy on March 2, 2013 at 2:46 PM

There are things about FCPX which are nice, such as the magnetic tracks.

But, here’s the deal – this ain’t Ed’s day job.

For most of us, it is. I’m not going to recommend Premiere, FCP or certainly Avid, to anyone who is not going to invest serious hours learning the innerworkings of the program.

Telling Ed After Effects or Motion is a great add-on is idiotic. He’s not going to achieve a prosumer level in a few weeks.

iMovie, Ed. Unless HA is looking at expanding it’s video aspect and you’re looking to do it yourself instead of tapping your audience.

The only guys on the right that are doing quality work are at PJMedia.

budfox on March 2, 2013 at 6:29 PM

We’re all so caught up in our own expertise that many things might appear idiotic. But they’re not. Re-reading Ed’s post makes me want ask one question; what software were using on the PC to edit? From there I’m sure about a dozen people on here can point you to something comparable.

danielreyes on March 2, 2013 at 9:29 PM

Well, Ed, you could buy parallels and run a real operating system under the covers…

unclesmrgol on March 2, 2013 at 9:36 PM

Final CutPro, despite what has been written here will enable you to edit anything from a home movie to a multi camera feature film. Before the Obama administration put us out of business (F-22 program) I was part owner in a businesses that did training/promotional films/videos for the defense industry. We used Final cut because it was so versatile and easy to learn.

V7_Sport on March 3, 2013 at 2:19 AM


Film class was circa 1974 – 75.

jix on March 3, 2013 at 2:29 AM

I’m going to be using AVID and Premiere…Started with AVID moved to FC7, now Final cut is being replaced.

I’m kind of manic. When I’m editing with AVID or FC I’m complaining I want the other.

tomas on March 3, 2013 at 8:17 AM

I will say…if you know how to edit…it makes learning any of them easier.

tomas on March 3, 2013 at 8:45 AM

I will say…if you know how to edit…it makes learning any of them easier.

tomas on March 3, 2013 at 8:45 AM

That’s important. Concentrate on telling the story rather then the tools you are using to do it. The best editing software can’t make you a gifted storyteller.

V7_Sport on March 4, 2013 at 2:09 AM

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