BTTF: Linear vs. Non-Linear Editing

September 1, 2014 Tags: ,
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Over this labor day weekend break, Videomaker (via Creative Cow) serves up a true blast from the past, a preview of the at the time revolutionary new non-linear editing systems. These days with all the fervor over Final Cut Pro X and whether it’s professional enough compared to other NLEs it’s good to look back and recall what the world of non-linear editing was like just 20 years ago. Some choice quotes:

Video Tape Editing

After making your edit decisions, the computer transfers each scene from your original master tape to the record VCR. Hence the final product is never actually digitized. This system offers the speed and flexibility of non-linear editing and the uncompromised image quality of analog tape.

At this point, tape is the archival format you might pull up some stock footage from or an older camera someone is shooting. But really, have you actually seen a tape deck in years? DV or Analog?

When the register finally rings, the average price for a basic non-linear package comes in between $5,000 and $10,000. For stand-alone systems that approach broadcast quality, expect to spend twice that much or more.

Final Cut Pro X is $299 from the Mac App Store and you can get a pretty decked out Mac Pro starting at around $4-5K that’s capable of cutting 4K footage at feature film quality. “Broadcast quality” as a term is rarely even thrown around any more because it’s just an assumption made with most NLEs. You can still work ‘offline’ say if you’re cutting proxies for a feature film to be finished on 35mm film negative. But these days the workflow easily exists to cut 4K or 5K or 6K original media throughout your edit and print out to DCP.

What if your work will never end up on videotape, but instead on a computer hard drive or CD-ROM? Non-linear is certainly the best option. Find a system that records video and audio files supported by your distribution format. Many non-linear software packages can export either Microsoft’s Video for Windows or Apple’s QuickTime formats.

Wow, some terms in there we still use but just barely. Video for Windows was shuttered into several other APIs and initiatives for Windows over the years (ActiveMovie Anyone??) while the .AVI container somehow refuses to completely die off.

To read more about the history of the future of non-linear editing, please visit Videomaker’s original piece here.

And if you want to go even further back in the past check out this 1990 video from the Computer Chronicles show on the Video Toaster:


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