The great editing debate: Premiere vs Final Cut

Two editing programs enter the ring. Only one leaves.

Add Premiere vs Final Cut to the list of rivalries for the ages.

Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro are arguably the two foremost competitors when it comes to professional video editing programs. Premiere is distributed by Adobe, the creators of Photoshop, and Final Cut is a Mac-only program made by Apple.

When I was about 12 years old, I learned to edit on a simple, Movie Maker-esque program on our family’s old PC. When we switched to a Mac I edited videos with iMovie, which is very similar to Final Cut in many ways. When I went to college we used Avid Media Composer at the TV station, so the transition from iMovie to Avid was quite a shock, as any editor can probably imagine. Eventually, I got serious enough about editing to start using Premiere on my PC. (Yes, I edit on a PC.) Although I’m a relative newcomer to the professional editing scene, I’ve kind of come full circle in terms of programs, and Premiere has been my personal weapon of choice for the past three years. I love it and personally have no desire to switch to anything else any time soon.


Since I’m surrounded by budding young editors at the Mizzou journalism school, I was intrigued by the ferocity with which some people defended their choice of editing program. I was interested in the reasons behind their choice— was it simply the only one they had ever learned? Had they tried other ones and made a decision based on experience? Some other reason? If you’re a newbie editor, the conventional wisdom is that Final Cut is a bit more intuitive to get started with, while Premiere gives you more choices once you’ve mastered the basics. But I wanted to learn more.

I set up an informal survey conducted via Google Forms and distributed it to as many journalism students and young journalists I could. I asked them which editing program they preferred to use to edit journalism-related videos, and to explain their choice. The breakdown of responses is as follows (based on 64 responses).


I thought the breakdown of responses was interesting, and the range of written responses even more so. Here are some of the most common responses, edited, condensed, and tallied:

  • Premiere
    • Learned it first (4)
    • Only one I know how to use (2)
    • Easier to use (5)
    • Gives you more options, control (2)
    • It has the Adobe Suite with it (2)
    • Cheaper to buy
    • Learned it in school/class (2)
    • More people use it
  • Final Cut
    • Learned it first
    • Had to buy it for class
    • More intuitive/simple (10)
    • Gives you more options than Premiere (3)
    • Doesn’t crash as often (3)
    • Faster to edit on
  • Avid Media Composer
    • The only one I’m good at
    • The ability to share projects
    • More capabilities than the others



Editor Justin Brown offers a very thorough comparison of the two programs in this video on YouTube. In it he lists the 6 things he loves about Final Cut and Premiere respectively. I don’t necessarily want to copy his style, but I did want to offer a few points about why I like Premiere and prefer to use it over Final Cut.


  • Compatibility across Mac and PC. Final Cut is a Mac-only program, whereas Adobe works just as well on both platforms. I like my PC and being able to edit on both- and even transfer project files between Macs and PCs- is a big plus. Which brings me to point 2…


  • Project files and linked media. With Final Cut it’s sometimes hard to tell exactly where your project file is saved, so transferring projects between computers can be a huge pain. With Premiere, all you have to do is transfer over the project file and the video clips associated with your video, and you can edit seamlessly on another computer. I like how it feels a bit more tangible than Final Cut, which just kind of saves its projects to the ether. 



  • More control over your workspace. It’s a lot easier in Premiere to move the panes around to put them exactly where you want them, so it’s easiest for you to edit. You can even choose which panes you want to see and organize them with tabs.




  • Effect controls. In my opinion Premiere’s Effect Controls are a lot easier to navigate than Final Cut’s inspector. The attributes of each effect that you apply to a clip are easily accessible in a drop down menu.


  • Keyframing. To go along with Effect Controls, keyframing on Premiere is very effective because all the keyframes are laid out right next to the controls, instead of on top of the clip like in FC’s “video animation.”


  • Non-magnetic timeline. Some may disagree, but I find the non-magnetic timeline a lot easier to work with, especially since I tend to drag clips into my sequence and just let them sit there until I need them later. 


  • Links to other Adobe programs. When you get Premiere, you get an entire suite of tried-and-true programs, such as After Effects and Audition, which are great for creating graphics, editing audio, and much more.


  • Easily searchable effects. I like how you can search through all the effects and transitions at once, as opposed to Final Cut where it’s a lot more difficult to quickly find the effect or transition you need, in my opinion. 


  • More output presets and the ability to export small parts of your timeline. This is a killer feature, especially for someone with my editing style of dragging clips into the timeline and just letting them sit there until I need to use them. You have the ability to export in almost any format you need and export little pieces at once, if you choose to.


I realize this is shaping up to be a rather biased article, but I should mention that Final Cut does definitely have its benefits. In Columbia I work at Newsy, a news company in the business of creating those short, pithy social media videos you often see on Facebook. For their purposes, Final Cut works great because it allows them to easily save special presets and transitions for all their editors to use, so their video brand stays consistent. Plus, the magnetic timeline makes editing one-minute videos pretty fast. Another thing I like: the fact that it renders video in the background and does so pretty quickly and seamlessly.

All in all, each program has its benefits and downsides. You can buy Final Cut for around $300 outright, but the Adobe Suite (which includes Premiere, Photoshop, Audition, Illustrator, and more) will cost you $30-50 a month. Is it worth it? Let me know in the comments!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s