Has Apple’s shift to Final Cut Pro X last year, and the dissatisfaction of a legion of editors with it, created a market opening for PC-based nonlinear editing systems? PCs are demonstrably less expensive than Macs with the same computing power, and programs such as Premiere, Sony Vegas and Avid have already made their appeal to editors on a budget.
In about a week or so, on May 28, 2012, a new competitor enters the market. And at a price that’s hard to beat. Lightworks for Windows, which will have a free version and a $60 “Pro” version, will be released to great anticipation. Filmmaker Chris Jones noted, “Using it feels very logical, like editing film back in the day. Plus it has all the bells and whistles of many new digital tools. It is a professional tool, not a semi pro or domestic tool that has been dressed up. So expect to invest time in learning how to use it.
Lightworks is not new in itself. It began in 1989 as OLE, then went through a variety of owners before EditShare acquired it in 2009. Lightworks has been used to edit narrative films such as The King’s Speech and Hugo. EditShare’s plans to develop the product as open source did not materialize, but the beta was made free to download. It’s now been downloaded by 250,000 users.
The official release boasts support for AVCHD, H.264, AVC-Intra, ProRes, RED R3D, DPX, XDCam HD 50, XDCam EX, DVD and BluRay. Paired with a 64-bit PC, it creates a perfectly serviceable setup for nearly all the kinds of editing a documentary filmmaker would need. (One disappointment for Mac users is that while EditShare is working on a Mac version of Lightworks, there’s no definitive release in sight.) Features of the system are here
The Pro version will support the DNxHD codec and such features as file sharing, a titling system and stereoscopic editing for 3D filmmaking.
The Pro version also includes the codecs. Lightworks offers a $140 dedicated keyboard, but users can import their FCP or Avid preferences so they don’t have to re-learn their way around the workflow. While the comments out on the web from beta users are favorable, and the program seems to be quite fast on the latest generation of PCs, we’ll know more in the coming months. It seems unlikely anyone who is seriously going to use the program isn’t going to fork out the $60. It’s more than likely that the free download will serve as a proving ground for a lot of editors looking to see what it’s got.