How Final Cut Pro Works

"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," starring Gwyneth Paltrow, was edited using Final Cut Pro.
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," starring Gwyneth Paltrow, was edited using Final Cut Pro.
© Alessendra Benedetti/WireImage/Getty Images

Every Hollywood movie, from the biggest blockbuster to the smallest indie film, begins on a humble computer screen. Editing is the process of cutting down hundreds of hours of video footage into a cohesive, entertaining final product. This process used to be done by hand, physically cutting and pasting film together with editing tape. Now it's done with nonlinear editing software like Final Cut Pro.

Nonlinear editing means that a filmmaker can jump around his project, adding and cutting material as easily as cutting and pasting text in a word processor. There's no need to work chronologically from beginning to end. Everything is digital, which means it can be dragged, dropped, trimmed and altered wherever, whenever.

In recent years, as computing power has steadily improved, there has been an increased emphasis on real-time editing. In the past, adding effects, transitions and graphics took a lot of computer processing time, even when using powerful video editing systems like AVID editing machines. It was also time-consuming and expensive to work with large files like high-definition video.

Now the latest versions of Final Cut Pro and AVID Media Composer can handle high-definition video and complicated effects without bogging down the editing process. Software engineers have figured out how to compress file sizes without sacrificing image quality and to preview effects without long rendering times.

Avid has long been considered the industry standard for video editing software, but Final Cut Pro is catching up. More and more professional editors have figured out that Final Cut can do everything AVID can do faster and for less money. Roderick Jaynes, who won the Oscar for Best Editing for "No Country for Old Men" used Final Cut Pro as did the editors of effects-heavy productions like "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" and even "The Simpsons Movie."

The nice thing about Final Cut Pro is that it's powerful enough to satisfy the most demanding professionals but easy enough to be enjoyed by high-end home users.

How do you use Final Cut Pro? What are some features of Final Cut Pro? How does it stack up against Avid? Read on to find out.