If you’re interested in making your first film, you might be wondering what kind of editing software the pros in Hollywood use. Take a look at our list of the popular editing programs (NLEs) that Oscar-winning films were cut with.
What is an NLE?
An NLE or Non-Linear Editing software is any program used for video and audio post-production with the goal of importing, organizing, editing the original digital media like footage or audio.
NLEs offer the so-called non-destructive editing capabilities. This means that the original material (footage, for example) remains unaltered while you make changes in your project’s timeline. Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro are among the most popular NLEs out there.
What is film editing?
Film editors are responsible for putting together all the footage shot by the film director and making it all into an engaging and cohesive film. So film editing involves everything from cutting shots to adding visual effects, sound effects, and music.
How is film editing different from regular video editing? While video editors may work on short pieces like corporate videos, film editors work with many more scenes. Video editing positions are usually available at agencies or media production companies. Film editors work for film studios or companies to which studios outsource the editing part.
Hollywood film editors use different NLEs depending on their needs and preferences. Some Hollywood movies many programs and tools during different stages of post-production. In the end, it comes down to what works best for the project and budget.
Most popular filmmaking software in Hollywood
We will not keep the cat in the bag anymore! Many big movie productions use different video editing software, Avid Media Composer stands as the most popular in the industry. The other notable options are: Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve.
Avid Media Composer is so popular among film editors for several reasons. It has robust and professional-level features, an intuitive and customizable interface, and is reliable and stable in the demanding post-production environment. Avid also has integrations with other tools in the Avid Media Enterprise platform, such as Pro Tools for audio editing and Interplay for media management. But most of all it’s probably because experienced film editors were trained to use Avid and continue using it by habit. Here is a proof to that:
When it comes to special effects, illustrations, montage, and animation, there are a ton of software options available too. Adobe After Effects is a popular choice for special effects, while Autodesk Maya is used for 3D animation. For illustrations and storyboarding, some filmmakers prefer Toon Boom or TVPaint (alongside these other storyboarding choices).
Even though Avid Media Composer is a popular NLE in the film industry, Adobe is present in the post-production process with Premiere Pro, After Effects, and even Photoshop.
Films made using Avid Media Composer
Here are several films that were made with Avid:
- Life Is Beautiful (1997)
- Crash (1996)
- Mystic River (2003)
- Million Dollar Baby (2004)
- Gran Torino (2008)
Films made using Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe Premiere Pro also has a long list of films made with it:
- Deadpool (2016)
- Monsters (2010)
- Mindhunter (2017)
- Sharknado 2 (2014)
- Terminator (2019)
Films made using Final Cut Pro
- The Social Network (2010)
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
- No Country for Old Men (2007)
- 300 (2007)
Films made using Davinci Resolve
Well, Davinci was used in these films mostly for color grading, where this tool is unsurpassed.
- Alien: Covenant (2017)
- Avatar (2009)
- Deadpool 2 (2018)
- Jason Bourne (2016)
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
Which editing software to choose
If you want to use a specific program for your film projects, your choice will depend on your specific needs and certain factors that we outline below.
- Platform: Consider if you’re working on a Mac or PC and whether the software is compatible with your system.
- Budget: Some NLEs are free like Lightworks, while others require a monthly or yearly subscription fee. Luckily, all the above mentioned editing programs have free trials, which will allow you to see whether the NLE is for you.
- Features: Check the features offered by each software and determine which ones are essential for your needs.
- Workflow: Consider how each software fits into your workflow and whether it integrates well with other tools you use.
- User-friendliness: See how intuitive and easy to use the editing software is. Also, do some research to understand whether you have access to educational resources for learning the software and problem-solving. Adobe Premiere Pro comes first in terms of available free tutorials, for example.
What does a film editor do?
If you are starting off as a video editor and you plan to transition into a film editor as your career path, you also need to know what film editors do.
A film editor assembles and polishes the raw footage into a final product. They work closely with the director to create the intended pace, tone, and style of a film. So the responsibilities will include, but will not be limited to:
- Assembling shots and sequences
- Trimming and shaping shots to create seamless cuts.
- Incorporating special effects, sound, and music to enhance the storytelling.
- Collaborating with the director and the editing team.
You can see the full list of the responsibilities of a film or video editing pro here
How to edit a movie?
Let’s also talk about the basic stages happening in a film edit.
- Pre-production: You review and get familiar with the script, storyboard, and shot list.
- Importing media: You transfer the footage from the camera to your computer and organize it into a project.
- Rough cut: You create a rough cut of the film by assembling the shots in a basic linear order, following the script and storyboard.
- Refining the cut: You continue refining the cut by trimming shots, adjusting the timing and pacing, and experimenting with different sequences.
- Adding sound and music: You integrate sound effects, dialogue, and music into the film to enhance the storytelling.
- Color correction and visual effects: You adjust the color, brightness, and contrast of the film, and add visual effects to enhance the look and feel of the film. Big studios usually have specialist colorists that do this part of the project.
- Final cut: You assemble the final cut of the film, incorporating the changes and revisions that you got during the editing process.
- Output and distribution: You export the final cut in a format suitable for distribution, such as a digital file.
In conclusion, being a film editor is a challenging but rewarding job. If you have a passion for storytelling and a drive to bring stories to life, this might be the best career for you. To achieve this career goal, gain more editing experience, keep learning and growing, you might find yourself at the forefront of the next big film hit.