The most-used video editing software by Hollywood and professional filmmakers is Avid Media Composer. It has been used to make some of the biggest Hollywood movies, including Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X are also popular video editing packages that have been used on movies such as Deadpool and The Social Network. However, they are less frequently used for big-budget Hollywood films and more often by independent studios.
When bringing your video projects to the next level it is often a good bet to look at what the professionals are doing. An while I often say that software is just a tool and your own skills and creativity are way more important, the right editing software can actually make a world of difference. In terms of workflow, efficiency, plugins or just being the industry standard it can definately make a difference.
So I thought it would be a good idea to see what editing software is used to make professional cinematic Hollywood movies. Making yourself familiar with the tools that Hollywood will not only up your production level but also can open up more jobs or project opportunities within the industry. In short, we will look into what movies have been created with these editing tools, what are their standout features and how you should use them yourself as a non-professional video creator.
What Is Avid Media Composer?
Avid Media Composer is a high-end video editing program intended for professional filmmakers. Almost every major movie, television program, and advertisement commercial is edited using Avid. Some of the most recent Hollywood films edited with Avid Media Composer include Wonder Woman, The Dark Tower, Alien: Covenant, Dunkirk, and Spider-Man: Homecoming, Oceans 8, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Hotel Artemis
Avid comes packed with professional video editing tools. You can fine-tune the look of your video with advanced color correction features or easily add titles. However, Avid Media Composer remains the top choice, thanks to its audio editing tools.
Editing and syncing audio is often a challenge when using Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro X. Avid simplifies the process, as it is designed to allow editors to send the audio to a sound engineer. Avid offers a free version of their Media Composer. You can start editing and become more familiar with the software without spending anything.
The free version allows you to edit up to four video tracks and eight audio tracks. However, it lacks some of the more advanced features, such as color tweaking tools and pro audio tools. If you want the full features, you need to pay for a subscription.
The subscription is a little pricey compared to the subscriptions for Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X. The price is one of the reasons why many amateurs use one of the latter options.
Movies edited with Avid Media Composer:
Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe Premiere Pro is used by everyone from amateur filmmakers to the top directors in the world. Movies such as Gone Girl, Deadpool, and Hugo were edited using Adobe Premiere Pro. However, it is used less frequently compared to Avid Media Composer.
Adobe Premiere Pro has several advantages over Avid Media Composer that may appeal to amateur filmmakers. Beginners may find it easier to learn how to edit using Adobe Premiere Pro. There are many tutorials and guides available online and from Adobe to walk you through any of the features.
Adobe Premiere Pro also costs a little less compared to the paid subscriptions for Media Composer, unless you choose to subscribe to the full Adobe Creative Cloud. The full package includes access to other Adobe products, such as After Effects. While Adobe Premiere Pro is relatively affordable and easy to use, it still lacks the full depth of Avid Media Composer.
Movies edited with Adobe Premiere Pro:
Adobe Premiere Pro is available for Windows and Mac computers. However, you can no longer purchase Adobe Premiere upfront. You need to pay for a monthly subscription. The base subscription is $20.99 per month for access to Premiere Pro with a one-year contract. You can also pay $31.49 per month for the monthly plan or $239.88 for the year.
Final Cut Pro X
Final Cut Pro X is the direct rival to Adobe Premiere Pro. It offers many of the same features as Adobe Premiere Pro but is only available on macOS computers and laptops. As with Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X is occasionally used for big-budget Hollywood releases. It was used to edit The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, John Carter, The Social Network, and many other films.
While it is sometimes used to edit major Hollywood movies, Final Cut Pro X is more often used for smaller productions. The base subscription price is comparable to Adobe Premiere Pro. However, Apple also allows you to pay for the software with a one-time payment.
Paying for the software up front provides the most cost-effective option. The subscriptions for any of these three programs will exceed the up-front cost of Final Cut Pro X in a little over a year. The price is a great selling point, but the main advantage of Final Cut Pro X is the streamlined interface. Beginners can easily navigate the menus and workstations without spending hours reading instructions or tutorials.
Movies edited with Final Cut Pro X:
The base subscription price is comparable to Adobe Premiere Pro. However, Apple also allows you to pay for the software with a one-time payment. The full cost of Final Cut Pro X is $299.99. The same amount covers about 15 months of an Adobe Premiere Pro subscription making it more cost-effective in the long run.
What is editing software/NLE?
Non-linear editing (NLE) software revolutionized the filmmaking industry by allowing editors to edit footage offline without modifying the source. In the past, editors relied on linear editing, which involved physically splicing film strips together. This method was inexpensive but had major limitations. As linear editing involves using the original content, mistakes are difficult to correct.
NLE video editing software preserves the source material and provides greater flexibility. The video, audio, and other elements are digitally imported into the software. Editors have complete freedom when editing. Instead of working from the beginning to the end, they can start in the middle or instantly jump to another scene.
The use of NLE software made it easier to work with multiple camera angles, audio tracks, and special effects. Over the years, software developers have increased the functionality of NLE software. The latest options, such as Avid Media Composer, come with advanced tools for adjusting the color, editing audio, or adding transitions.
Along with NLE software, professional filmmakers rely on other tools. While video editing software often includes audio tools, Hollywood often uses dedicated digital audio workstations (DAWs), such as Avid Pro Tools or Apple Logic Pro X. For 3D compositing, filmmakers may use Adobe After Effects or The Foundry Nuke.
What to consider when choosing?
The most important factors to consider when choosing your software editor are:
- Features and Plugins
Some things to consider are your amount of experience and what you are already used to in terms of software. People that have zero experience might find it overwhelming to have all these features and options at hand. There are other basic editing software programs such as iMovie that offer fewer features and might therefore suit beginners’ needs, however, these are also quite limited and will not provide the production level needed for a professional video. Overall Avid, Adobe and Final Cut all can be learned fairly easily if you stick to the basics of editing just video and sound, special features require a bit more effort.
What can help when starting out is if you are already familiar with similar software. If you have any experience at all with editing software you will find that most are not so different when it comes to their main features, all have a timeline with tracks, media player and media library. The differences are in the details such as shortcuts, plugins, option menus, etc. What can help is having experience with any ADobe program such as Photoshop or InDesign when starting out with Adobe Premiere Pro. The same goes for Final Cut Pro X if you already have worked in iMovie or Garageband.
A big reason why you don’t see professionals using free editing software is the lack of features and limiting producing quality. For example, free video editors may not support every video format or source. The same goes for video output formats where some can only output up to 1080p video at 30 frames per second (fps) in MP4 or AVI formats while the tools featured here offer 4K and 8K video editing. It might be overkill now but it also means everything is future-proof.
All three video editors mentioned in this guide are packed with editing tools and features, from color correction to frame cropping and special effects. These might be things you might not need right now but they sure can be handy when you do want to use them in the future. From experience, there is nothing more frustrating than running into a problem you need to fix but the feature is not there within your application of choice. You will not only have to get a second application but you will also need to deal with exporting and importing specific scenes between two programs.
Setting a budget helps shorten your list of video editors however keep in mind that video production can be an expensive endeavor. Often video hardware is the most expensive part of video production with lighting, cameras and a powerful computer. Make sure that your computer can handle video editing as it can be a tough job for your processor and ram.
Your budget should be based on what on the level of video production you are pursuing. If you just want to make some family videos a smartphone and free editing software are the way to go but if you are a YouTuber, hobby video creator or a professional video producer a great editing program is always worth the cost.
Upgrading, later on, is always an option but keep in mind that new software takes time to get used to and that buying software packages twice is pretty inefficient. Therefore I recommend going for a future proof editing package that will suit your needs for years to come.
So which editing software should you choose?
As we described above Avid Media Composer is still the top pick by industry professionals. Not only because it offers a great set of features but also because it has become a standard within the industry where editing professionals are expected to be able to work with it. So if you want to work within the professional movie and TV industry Avid Media Composer might be your best choice.
At the same time, Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X are winning market share since they are slightly more affordable and user-friendly. Especially Adobe Premiere Pro is gaining ground with more Hollywood movies being edited within it every year. It comes within the Adobe subscription bundled with other Adobe apps. Creative professionals that have used their other applications such as Photoshop might find it really intuitive and easy to use.
The same can be said for the hardcore Apple user that might have already worked with other Apple programs such as iMovie, Garageband and Logic Pro. The people might have the most pleasant experience with Final Cut Pro X within their Apple ecosystem. Both Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro have a lot of options and a selection of extra tools, allowing you to apply special effects or edit the audio from a single workstation. The ease of use is a big reason to consider using Adobe’s or Apple’s software.
So overall, we recommend all three software packages as they are market leaders fo a good reason. It comes down to personal preference, what ecosystem you are used to and what types of projects you will be working on.
I did my bachelor’s in Film and Television at the University of Amsterdam but in the end, decided not to move into the industry myself. However, I still try to keep up with the latest trends in photo and video production. I have used all of the tools mentioned here either within a hobby project or within my daytime job. I look forward to guiding you having been in the creative industry for all of my career.