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Lightworks: here today and here tomorrow

3 minute read

P. J. TaylorPatrick Jong Taylor

Lightworks user Patrick Jong Taylor gives a personal view on how the Hollywood-strength NLE should claim the crown in the editing industry


In advance of the new Lightworks’ official release, over 370,000 people have downloaded the public beta, and that number continues to rise.

Aside from a few high-profile editors and seasoned veterans, many of whom cut their teeth on the first hardware-based systems of the early 90’s, the rest of us are platform-switchers. Whether we worked in Media Composer or played around in Windows Movie Maker, we at least know the basics of editing, have opinions about how things should be done, and want to see if Lightworks measures up to (or surpasses) our previous standard.

Some combination of features, price and curiosity has brought us here. We all have some dissatisfaction with the other options: the radical revamp of a platform without backward compatibility, sky high price points, byzantine upgrade paths and exorbitant fees for .5 releases, instability, and lack of professional features. Those that put the public beta through its paces were rewarded with a wonderfully robust, efficient editor and the promise of more features and workflow improvements in the future. Of course, we’ve just taken a stick and poked the elephant in the room.

The future

In fairness, EditShare should be lauded for not only releasing this professional-level program as a free beta download, but also its openness and communication throughout the process. Contrast its approach with Apple’s botched roll-out of FCPX; shrouded in secrecy, teasing a lower price, and releasing a not-ready-for-primetime editor to the dismay of professionals everywhere. As Lightworks development experienced delays, the assurance of a roadmap still existed. We saw, in order, what EditShare intended to do, even if the timeline was pushed back a little.

Yet, there’s a question that strikes fear in the platform-switcher. Despite all efforts to the contrary, it remains, dogging the minds of those steadying themselves to take the plunge.

Will Lightworks be here tomorrow?

One of Lightworks’ biggest advantages also poses something of a perception problem, namely price. The low cost of entry entices people to try the editor, but also raises red flags. Personally, prior to downloading the beta, I had serious doubts as to whether it could possibly be as good as advertised. Like many of you, over countless purchases throughout the years, I had become indoctrinated in the principle that a product’s worth scales with its price. After downloading and tinkering in the program, most of my concerns faded away, replaced with genuine appreciation for the powerful, professional tool before me. But, I do still wonder, even with revenue streams from professional/educational memberships and support contracts, is the Lightworks pricing model sustainable?

The only true answer is, well, it depends. The decision to switch editing platforms doesn’t come easy. It involves people changing their behaviours and routines. Sure, students and advanced hobbyists often jump in with both feet, but the rest of us will dip our toes in, then pause and ask ourselves if we really want to get in the pool. Or we won’t go near the pool at all.

The investment in time (and for some, money) to switch to the Lightworks editing platform requires a fair bit of trust. It’s something of a social contract, between the product’s managers and its user base. To that end, EditShare and the Lightworks development team are more than doing their part. They gave us an extraordinary product at an unbelievably low price, with a clear, articulated vision for the future.

However, make no mistake about it: Lightworks isn’t free (or even $60/year). Our ability to enjoy this fine editor in the future is dependant on its success, on growing the user base and enriching the overall community experience. We have a collective stake in the deal. I would even go as far to say that the social contract extends to one another, from user-to-user. Everybody reading these words stands to benefit as Lightworks ascends back to its rightful place as the industry leader.

It’s time for us to do our part

If you love Lightworks, let people know! Explain the benefits of the platform and allay any doubts. I’ve told my fellow disgruntled (former) Final Cut editors to give it a try. Many have, like what they see, but are waiting until the official release of the Linux or OSX beta to make a decision. Hey, it’s a start...

If you work at a company that uses a different platform, enquire about setting up a Lightworks station for testing. Presently, all it takes is an open seat and the ability to access the Internet. Just think, if they do switch to Lightworks, you’ll be the resident expert, which is a pretty good thing to be when it comes to job security.

Likewise, if you’re a film student, tell other students, and start a department-wide grassroots petition to investigate making the switch. It usually only takes a few impassioned, vocal people to get the ball rolling. (Bringing up the long list of Hollywood features cut with Lightworks doesn’t hurt.)

And, by all means, participate in the forums! If you already contribute to the Lightworks boards, contribute more. Help out those that downloaded the program, haven’t watched any tutorials, and feel a little lost. Be respectful of the noobs and patient when they ask questions you’ve answered a hundred times before. Remember, we were all noobs at one time.

In short, encourage anyone thinking of a platform change that Lightworks is a fantastic choice. Take active steps in strengthening our community. Be a Lightworks advocate!

We’re the best resource EditShare has in ensuring that Lightworks is here to stay. I look forward to a not-so-distant future when the download numbers reach the millions and job sites burst from postings for Lightworks editors. On that day, we can all share in the satisfaction of knowing we helped make it happen.

Tags: Post & VFX