What is a professional?

Storm clouds over the Blue Ridge Parkway
Storm clouds over the Blue Ridge Parkway

Apple created an uproar in the professional video community this year when it released a new version of its Final Cut Pro editing software that many pro editors considered a step backwards.

Critics quickly labeled Final Cut Pro X nothing more than “IMovie Pro.”

Final Cut Pro — up until the latest upgrade — dominated the professional video and film editing market.  Many top line filmmakers used the software to make movies.  George Lucas produced his last three Star Wars films with Final Cut Pro.

Now documentary filmmakers, videographers and others are switching to “professional” editors like Avid Media Composer or Adobe Premiere Pro.  Angry users flooded online forums with invective-filled posts comparing the new version of Final Cut Pro to New Coke and the Edsel.

Professionals in any creative field are a finicky bunch.

They don’t like change.

They also may be a dying breed.

In today’s YouTube, social media-driven, blog dominated environment, the lines between amateur and professional are disappearing. Consumer and professional have merged into “prosumer.”

CNN encourages viewers to send in videos of news events.  The Roanoke Times features reader photos right alongside the work generated by its staff shooters.  If you click on “export” from a  “professional” level video editor like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro you have the option to produce a final product for YouTube, Vimeo or CNN’s citizen journalist service.

I’ve used Final Cut Pro since 2001.  I’ve also used Adobe Premiere Pro since version 1.5 but I’ve also cut full-length documentaries with iMovie and other so-called “consumer” video packages.  While most current video projects are shot on “professional” level cameras like the Sony Z1U or Panasonic AG-HMC80, I also shoot and produce videos using a Sony 560V Handycam or a GoPro HeroHD.  Each produces good, usable and editable video.

Legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola once predicted that someone with a consumer-level video camera and the free “iMovie” software on an Apple iMac would one day produce a feature film.  In 2004, Jonathan Caouette received rave reviews for his documentary “Tarnation” at Sundance Film Festival.  He edited the film on an iMac using iMovie at a cost of cost of $218.32 for materials.

Tune in the Documentary Channel (Channel 267 on DirecTV) and you will find many good, thoughtful films produced by young videographers with no professional training or film school experience.

Some old pros find this democratization of filmmaking, photography and other creative endeavors threatening.  As an old pro about to turn 64, I find it exciting and refreshing.  Turn to the sports page of The Floyd Press and you will find excellent photos by students and proud parents of student athletes.

As I get older and slower, I can’t make all the games in a busy high school sports season.  I don’t have to.  Others are producing good photos for the paper.  Most of the high school and college students that I mentor are fantastic photographers and videographers.  They see things visually far better than I do or ever will.

At an area high school recently, a young girl showed me the rough cut of a video she is shooting about her grandmother who is dying of cancer.  Tears rolled down my face as I watched it.  It was moving and well done.  She shot it with a flip video camera and cut it using the free VideoMaker software that comes with Windows.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work — for most of my life — in a creative profession that I love.  But as my so-called “professional” career winds down, I haven’t lost my love of shooting photos, writing about life or creating video vignettes of the world around us.  I hope I never do.  I also hope that I can encourage that passion in others.

You don’t have to be a “professional” to be creative.  You just have to do it.

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© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse