The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

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This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

ilona zonnenfeld

Hi all,

Im a producer/editor and working on directing/editing my first feature doc. I edit my own film as well as client projects using FCP 7 on my old mac book pro and i need to replace computer. Question is whether to get a new Mac Book Pro or an imac. The Retina doesnt seem to be a good option for me bc it doesnt have firewire ports and all my footage is on LaCie drives w/Firewire ports (no thunderbolt port). Retina also lacking a dvd drive – so not gonna work for me. I love the portability of my macbookpro which is why im tempted to get a new one – w faster processor, more RAM, etc.... But the imac is tempting bc processor is SO much faster, more RAM, higher graphics card, than the MacBookPro. specs on macbookpro are as follows:

2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
8GB 1600MHz memory
750GB 5400-rpm hard drive1
Intel HD Graphics 4000
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory

Whereas specs on imac are:

3.1GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5
2560 x 1440 resolution
4GB (two 2GB) memory
1TB hard drive1
AMD Radeon HD 6970M with 1GB

BC Im not a full time editor – i do a lot of producing – can I go w MacBookPro or would it be a mistake? Also, is FCP7 going to be extinct soon? I need to finish cutting my film on FCP7. How will this effect me? For new projects, should I be cutting on FCP10 instead? Are bugs worked out?


Chuck Fadely

In reply to ilona zonnenfeld's post on Sun 5 Aug 2012 :

Ilona, you might look at the Apple refurb 17" MacBook Pros. The express card slot, which was only on the 17", lets you add additional firewire or ESATA connectors. I don't understand why they discontinued the 17" – it's a great editing platform. I think the October 2011 model was the last one before being discontinued.

In general, an i7 processor is faster than an i5 processor so don't go by the Ghz rating of the processor – you have to find independent speed tests. And even then take them with a grain of salt. Disk access speed is as important for video than raw processor speed (as long as it's a reasonably fast computer.)

I don't think you can buy Final Cut 7 any more, but it still works fine if you've already got it. FCPX can be useful for short web work but is not what you want for a feature film. I don't think you can get by anymore with just one editing program....

ilona zonnenfeld

In reply to Chuck Fadely's post on Sun 5 Aug 2012 :

Thank you Chuck! Very helpful feedback!

When you say, " I don't think you can get by anymore with just one editing program...." what programs are most editors working on these days? And would you say most editors are working on a desktop or laptop?


Miranda Yousef

In reply to ilona zonnenfeld's post on Mon 6 Aug 2012 :

Hi Ilona,

In terms of the programs editors are working on--I'd say that in my experience, up until the introduction of FCPX, the vast majority were on FCP7. But now that Apple has stopped supporting FCP7, we are in a weird in-between stage where there are still a lot of projects cutting on FCP7, but there is a sense that as the OS continues to get updated, at some point you just won't be able to run FCP7 anymore. So I think a lot of people are transitioning to Avid or Adobe Premiere (in my experience, mostly Avid).

Also, I am not sure that 5400rpm will be fast enough--I've always done 7200.

Right now I am cutting an HD project (FCP7) on a 2010 15" MacBook Pro, and it is working fine (although I should note it is a short, and I'm able to do it using one FW800 drive). If I were you, since you have to finish on FCP7, I might look into getting (or borrowing) a used system, possibly a desktop. My top concerns would be connectivity and drive speed. Because desktops have more connectivity options, and they are just more powerful than laptops, I'd say that usually a desktop model is preferable for cutting features.

Hope this is somewhat helpful.

Tom Dziedzic

In reply to ilona zonnenfeld's post on Mon 6 Aug 2012 :
I'm currently on a 27 inch iMac running Avid Media Composer 6. I'm a big AVID booster as it has been and remains a robust and reliable editing platform for over 20 years. You can download a trial version of Avid off their web site. Having the i7 top iMac 2011 model makes editing easy with all the different versions of HD out thee today.

Olivier Uwayezu

Hello to everyone,
I see Apple stopped to support final cut studio, Most professional editors use Final cut studio since many years ago, why don't we bring our voice up to tell apple our wishes (and now we are suffering into other software) ? I suggest the host of D-word can help us to gather our wishes and voice. May be Apple thought we don't need it any more.

Waiting to hear from you

Marcus Torrez

I'm sure this question's been answered several times: What's the best way to secure permission to film a documentary? On screen Ok's. Since mine includes a lot Veteran Support groups, I'm running into an issue.

I'm documenting my experience getting help/lack of help. But the moment I call mention I'm making a documentary, they roll out the red carpet. The Military has always been like that. If it's going to go public, you're the star Soldier.

Can I just shoot first ask later? No pun intended.

Andy Schocken

You don't need permission to film a documentary, unless you're on someone else's private property. You'll need permission from the people on screen if you want to distribute it. To get distribution and the E&O insurance that's required for it, you'll need to have written release forms from your subjects. Google "appearance release" or "talent release" and I'm sure you'll find some boilerplate versions. On-camera releases may be better than nothing, and they're probably fine if you don't have big distribution plans, but I doubt they'll be sufficient to get E&O for a broad distribution.