If you are trying to break into the industry, it would be wise to know who uses what.
Avid is the brand favorite just about across the board...it's been around a long time, so if you're trying to get a job, being fluent with Avid systems will be very attractive in most places.
Final Cut Pro is used more and more by various people, often times as a companion suite to Avid systems. It's Mac only, which is not true of Avid or Premiere Pro, so that could come into consideration for you. FCP is used frequently by smaller, "independent" videographers and filmmakers because of the relatively cheaper price point when compared with some Avid systems (although many or all of the Avid systems are dropping in price lately because of competition).
Premiere Pro isn't used nearly as often by the big studios, although that also is changing with the increased integration with the other Adobe products (particularly After Effects, a major player all its own). I don't have hard figures to back this up, but I would guess Premiere Pro is used more by smaller studios, web production studios (primarily streaming video and other online media), event videographers and the like. It is priced similarly to the Apple/FCP offerings, and has similar capabilities, so often it is a difference of system...if you have a PC, you go Adobe. If you have a Mac, the tendency is more toward FCP.
Your very best bet is to figure out who you're trying to work with and then find out what they are using. Interoperability is huge. Also, if a studio is FCP and you want a job there, telling them that you are familiar with FCP but are primarily a Premiere Pro user isn't going to meant diddly when they start hiring.
If you're like me, and you run the show, then pick whichever works best for you. The differences between them all is more on style of editing than feature support. They are very similar across the board in terms of format support, editing tools, panels, effects, etc. Notice I didn't say "identical," but similar. I learned on Final Cut but moved to the Adobe solution - meaning Premiere Pro for editing - years ago, and I've never been able to match my speed/efficiency and overall happiness with Premiere Pro.
EDIT - something else to consider...many people I know who are purchasing Final Cut Studio are ALSO purchasing Production Premium suites. Here's the deal: Photoshop and After Effects are considered essentials for most people - even if they have the FCP studio, with Motion and all that jazz. Purchasing a copy of Photoshop and a copy of After Effects costs MORE than just buying the whole suite, so people are ending up with both Premiere and FCP (or Avid) on their machines anyway. The flipside is not nearly as often true (that is, most people primarily working in the Adobe production suite do not need FCP studio or Avid, and in a lot of cases, Premiere Pro users are on a PC anyway, thereby prohibiting FCP as a secondary purchase option). So if you can choose, and Premiere Pro suits you best (check the trial for CS4 when it's available soon), then you may save money by making it your primary platform and not bothering with the Apple suite.
To play somewhat of the devil's advocate, I've spoken with some of my FCP peers recently about the native vs. intermediary stuff, and while the communication on it all is still a little muddy, they're claiming that however it is ultimately accomplished, they are still able to stick in a P2 card or AVCHD media and edit immediately in FCP, without delay (ie - the format isn't being transcoded to an intermediary, or if it is, it doesn't affect their workflow). Somewhat telling of the general Mac "it just works" mantra...these guys don't have any clue what's happening, it just magically appears for them. Po-tay-to po-tah-to I guess.
I've yet to see it for myself, but that being said, I know they still have to deal with rendering HD assets before preview, regardless of how the material is ingested, whereas PPro users don't have that particular hassle. We just ingest and edit, previewing as often as we want without delay.
The ProRes 422 solution on the Mac is nice, though, since converting to a higher quality intermediary on PPro requires third party support (Panasonic's free solution or the NewBlueFX Upshift solution). So for those who would rather edit a higher quality I-frame intermediary than the GOP MPEG files, the FCP solution is "in the box."
I think we need more information. Are you a Mac user or a PC user? If you are a Mac user I would absolutely go with FC. If you are a PC user go with Premiere or Avid. Are you a beginner? Why not try Final Cut Express on the Mac. It will give you flavor of FCP without the expense. You can always upgrade and not have to learn everything over again. Also with PC, get a copy of Premiere Elements for $69.00 and give that a spin. You will more than likely have to upgrade your hardware whether you go with FCP or Premiere/Avid.
A year ago I would have said go all Mac and learn FCP but I think things have changed, especially for long time PC users. That being said, I am a long time Mac/FCP user who always hated Premiere and still can't make heads or tails out of Premiere Pro. But that's my problem.
Hope this helps.
I have only used Premiere seriously, although I have dabbled with the others.
I make documentaries for BBC DVD release. Mostly talking heads and clip shows. I've recently gone full time (it was a spare time job before) so am now looking to pitch for TV documentaries.
In terms of the software itself and actually making the programmes, my choice would be to stick with Premiere, especially now its integration with After Effects and Soundbooth is so good.
In terms of going to production companies to get work, Premiere is easily the worst choice. The industry is still not taking it seriously enough. Avid has around 60% of the market and FCP has 35%. Premiere is no longer laughed at, but I am seriously thinking about switching to Avid, even though I suspect it will be a weaker editing platform, because I will be taken much more seriously as a programme maker.
Sad but true.
So my advice is, if you just want a good editing programme and don't care about the reputation stuff, Premiere is a good play. If you want to be taken seriously in the TV industry you might be better off with one of the others.
Well, generally speaking with FCP your paying out the *** for a system that will lock you into the apple format. Great if all you ever intend on working on is apple based projects with other apple based post people, but once you get involved with PC based project you will feel a world of hurt. Avid is not bad except it has an archaic interface and lacks features, but its been around for alot longer so all those aging dinosaurs that compose the dying film industry will prefer because it reminds them of the good old days. Premiere has its share of flaws, namely its mpeg2 support and its apparent need to deinterlace your footage if you work in a non native project (60p in a 30i project, dont ask my why anyone would want to do that, but it has been reported to cause problems). And like any program, premiere crashes from time to time, but thats what the save function is for.
Really it comes down to trying each one for a period and seeing which one screws you the most. For me it was apple, and apparently im the only one in existence that has had the problem i have had on an apple G5, but the whole hardware/software/content synthesis is so much a system of chaos that its up to chance to guide you in one particular direction.
Well, I have a question, and it's based on my utter frustration with trying to get on the Pro side of the industry...
I use Premiere CS4 as part of the Master Collection (which is pretty awesome) and can't afford to buy Avid just to play around with.
Anyhow, I am running into brick walls trying to get a foothold in the Industry since, as mentioned, every posthouse prefers only Avid or FCP users.
My question is - how far off base would I be telling them I am an Avid or FCP user just to get a foot in? (Assistant Editor, or some such bottom-level position)
I figure software of all kinds out very quickly - and most all of the terms used cross-over so navigating menus would become a snap after an hour. I know shortcuts would take some time, but I could get one of those keyboard templates for Avid if needed.
Is it realistic to say "Yes I used to use Avid, but switched to Premiere" and be able to pick it up fast enough to not be a huge bother to them? Or is that just a pipe dream?
Thanks all, I would hate to be deceptive like that, but without forking out more cash, I don't see another way...