Over the past 30 years, Full Sail University has trained tens of thousands of students for careers in film, broadcast, and media. The school has always focused on addressing the real-world needs of the industries it feeds, adjusting its courses and tools to match. And since a new class of students begins at Full Sail every month, the university has frequent opportunities to update its curriculum.
For the 6,000 students currently at the school’s 212-acre suburban Florida campus, as well as the 11,000 online degree students, that means opportunities to learn the most modern techniques in filmmaking, sound mixing, and game development using the most current technology. To that end, Full Sail created Project LaunchBox, which lets incoming students purchase at discount a 15‑inch MacBook Pro with all necessary software installed — including Final Cut Pro X for professional courses that involve film and video.
Rick Ramsey, director of the visual arts programs at Full Sail, says switching the LaunchBox programs from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X was less a standard software upgrade than a significant strategic tack. “We focus our efforts on providing the right tools and skills that will help our students be competitive in the job market after they graduate,” says Ramsey. “And digital media is changing those industries ridiculously fast. We now have to teach students to prepare for a range of digital inputs and outputs — not just how to shoot digital video but how to edit and deliver it properly.”
Ramsey believes the new editing model of Final Cut Pro X answers many of those challenges: “I see a definite industry shift towards the new modern file-based editing model in Final Cut Pro X. To turn out students who are really current in media development, we absolutely have to teach it.”
What makes Final Cut Pro X so easy to teach, says Isis Jones, chief information officer and executive director of education at Full Sail, is that it’s so easy to use. “The technology really can’t be what the students are here to learn. It needs to be just part of the fiber that facilitates everything else they’re doing as artists and engineers and storytellers. We want technology to disappear for the students so they can focus strictly on craft. The simplicity, speed, and flexibility of Final Cut Pro X has made that possible for all of our students.”
Says Ramsey, “It’s a much faster editing tool, because we used to have to spend lots of time going through and picking the shots. But now we can just skim through video footage to preview it. It makes editing a lot more streamlined.”
While acknowledging the advantage of speed, program director for digital cinematography Bob Truett notes other features that help student editors: “The software has a lot of flexibility. The Magnetic Timeline frees you to do things that you couldn’t do before, like moving clips around without constantly worrying about sync. But it also lets you decide whether to go auto, manual, or both, depending on your workflow. It’s really about how you want to edit.”
Course Director for Intro to Editing and Visual Effects Will Cobble, who has been teaching Final Cut Pro since it was introduced, says the new software has created a practical classroom advantage. “Final Cut Pro X has made it easier to teach in less time,” he says. “We’ve been able to nearly double the time we spend teaching editing theory because we spend less time actually teaching the software.”
“I see a definite industry shift towards the new modern file-based editing model in Final Cut Pro X. To turn out students who are really current in media development, we absolutely have to teach it.” — Rick Ramsey, director of visual arts programs, Full Sail University
Cara Landon, who teaches introductory editing, identifies several new Final Cut Pro features favored by her class: “Our online students use a Sony FS100 camera, and Final Cut Pro X works seamlessly with those files. Students can just read them right away, which makes importing super quick.
“Many students use the built-in titles, which they then tweak to make their own. And they love the ease of marking Favorites and Rejects, because it makes it so simple to categorize shots. I’m all about organizing a project from the start, and I tell them that if they don’t know what they have, they can’t edit a good project.”
Creating Media Entrepreneurs
To develop students for industries still being changed by digital technologies, Full Sail encourages them to leverage their proficiency with Final Cut Pro X to broaden their skills and heighten their value.
“I think that we have to look at how our curriculum addresses the independent or the entrepreneurial side of media creation,” says Ramsey. “It’s a big trend. About 40 percent of the students we place are freelancers, who might be asked to do anything on a small production. It could be editing, it could be lighting, and it could be camera. We’re finding that we need to drive a variety of skills because there are a lot of companies out there that want the multiplicity.”
It’s an issue Truett is already addressing with his cinematography students. “A lot of companies have scaled down,” he says. “They’ve gone to a boutique style, where it’s a one-man show. So an editor might be asked to also shoot and do the mixing. Our students are ready because they can shoot camera, pop a card into their MacBook Pro, open it up Final Cut Pro X, and start selecting what clips they want. They have the skills and the tools they need to thrive in that environment.”
Full Sail film student Jake Kalafut is doing everything he can to prepare for what he hopes will be an eventual job as a first assistant director. After exploring Final Cut Pro 7, he got trained in Final Cut Pro X in his video editing course. “Final Cut Pro X was so easy to use, right from the start,” he says. “With background rendering, I’m able to really think about my edit, while the process just keeps going. It makes everything so much quicker.”
Kalafut credits new Final Cut Pro X features like the Magnetic Timeline, color correction, and built-in motion graphics with making him more proficient. And he believes his developing editing fluency will pay off on the set. Already it’s helped him create a video compilation of his projects, which he uses to line up freelance editing work. “Our industry’s constantly changing, so I have to adapt and learn," he says. "If I don’t, I’ll get left behind.”