Total Training for Final Cut Pro 5: the Essentials

Total Training
2 DVDs - 11 hours, 48 minutes

Learning software can be fun and it can be a chore. It often depends on the circumstances that have brought you to the point of requiring to learn a new application.

I was raised on Adobe Premiere version one and had used it for years. For the last few years I have been telling myself that I really need to move over to Final Cut Pro, primarily since there had not been a new release of Premiere for the Mac in many moons. I kept hearing the stories of how great it was but every time I opened it up to look around, I quickly found myself saying maybe later and would be back in Premiere.

Reading software manuals is strictly for sissies and to be done only under the covers with a book light and the curtains drawn, and then only if you have a shrink wrap machine so you can re-seal the book back in its original untouched condition for the shelf where all software manuals are proudly displayed. Reading tutorials and following along on the computer is a painful task and not the most convenient method of delivery.

In the distant past I tried a Total Training tutorial with a VCR. Juggling a TV remote, VCR remote and a mouse is tricky business. Going forward and backwards trying to see “what did he push?” was very frustrating. I must admit that the tutorial worked. I learned Adobe After Effects pretty easily but wanted to throw away the VCR immediately afterward. I was very pleased to see that the newest versions of Total Training products come on DVD. What an improvement! I no longer had to position a TV VCR in view of my computer, I didn’t have to make room for a book on my computer desk, I could just sit at my computer and learn. Things were looking up.

The approach that the Training uses is excellent. Presenter Brian Maffitt starts off with a touch of humor and then launches right into the basics of the program. He does a very good job of explaining the user interface and how it is laid out, and even throws in some tips on your own organization of the workspace and files.

The instruction tells you how to do something and why. It’s often more important to know why you are doing something rather than how to do it. My pet peeve in tutorials is when they give you numeric data to input into a pop up box without telling you why or what you are really doing it for. In the Total Training Final Cut Pro tutorials, they give you numbers to put in but tell you the why and what you are doing. They tell you what you are looking for along with the numbers so you can change them and know what will change when you do. In other words, you actually learn how the tool works rather than just how to input numbers into a box.

What I liked best about this tutorial (other than the fact that it gave me a very strong foundation in Final Cut Pro) is the layout of the tutorial itself. Total Training has learned a lot over the years. The lesssons give you an overview and then go deeper in a logical, well planed path through all the elements of the program. All along the way, they point out alternative ways that things can be accomplished and why you might choose one way over the other. They also explain when one portion will be explained in further detail later and where to find it if you want to know now.

It is this flexibility that makes the tutorial (and Final Cut Pro) so strong. In Final Cut Pro, you have many ways to accomplish most any task, so you can pick and choose what works best for you and your style of working. Total Training does the same thing. If you want to sit down in an afternoon and hammer your way through a top notch tutorial and learn Final Cut Pro, you can do it. If on the other hand you want to learn a specific thing, you can go right to it without any problem.

Final Cut Pro was not made for the beginning computer user, and neither was Total Training for Final Cut Pro. It has been very well crafted so a person new to digital video can learn without problems or feeling inadequate while someone migrating from years on Premiere or Avid can learn what they need to be up and running quickly without the embarrassment of having to remove the shrink wrap from the manual.

– Sven Anderson

Sven Anderson is assistant professor of computer art and print making at State University of New York College at Oneonta. He was honored as an Apple Distinguished Educator in 2000-2002.

Copyright ©2006 by Sven Anderson. This review appeared in the September 2006 issue ofNewsbreak, the newsletter of MUG ONE - Macintosh User Group of Oneonta, NY.