Which NLE should students learn?

An interesting thread about which NLE is best for students to learn  popped up over at the Creative COW and I decided to summarize my thoughts on it here.

Since the goal is to introduce students to the art of editing I think a basic, no frills NLE (like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker) will have the lowest learning curve as well as fewer potential distractions.  Even if you tell students to ignore all the effects, transitions, filters, etc., the more advanced NLE’s have students will inevitably spend time (possibly lots of time) exploring the program instead focusing on editing.  It’s just human nature to explore a new ‘toy’ even if you only need 10% of what it offers.

After students have gotten their feet wet I think more advanced classes should expose them to tools they are likely to encounter out in the ‘real world’.  Though the students are still learning the art of editing it makes sense for them to get accustomed to the options and flexibility professional level apps offer.  A few years ago my suggestion would’ve been FCP or Avid though now it’s Avid and FCPX or Adobe Premiere Pro.  The post production world is so varied and vast that I think everyone, not just students, should get used to having working knowledge of multiple NLEs.

It seems inevitable that any discussion about the tools of the trade will result in someone saying that talent and skill is more important and that the tool shouldn’t matter.  It’s the artist not the brush, so to speak.  Fundamentally I agree but how many editors use iMovie professionally?  No tool is going to transform a laymen into a skilled professional but tool proficiency could be the deciding factor between two skilled professionals looking for work in an over-saturated job market where budgets, deadlines and already established workflows factor into the editing process.

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