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Last week I discussed the evolution of cameras from pro to consumer, and how the technology has changed. This week  I thought I would follow up, and discuss the evolution of the edit suite.

Editors have long worked in “ caves”, working tireless through hundreds of hours of footage, to put together a story that the audience finds engaging. The very first editors actually edited negatives manually. They often used a tool known as a  “ film slicer ”. This was an incredibly difficult process, and it was extremely time consuming.  This is also where I started my career as a neg cutter. I found it quiet rewarding, similar to when I used to shoot with old 35mm photography. The most exciting part was for me was spending endless hours in the darkroom.

As the craft became more modernized, the introduction of a “flatbed” or Steenbeck was an unbelievable fast tool. Steenbecks were first introduced in 1931 and are still used today. Although not as widely used today because of digital media, and NLE’s like Avid, or FCPX.  The Steenbeck allowed one to feed the negative through a series of gears and rollers , for greater speed and efficiency.



Then jumping on to the scene, came digital acquisition with introduction of DV and it’s various formats.  This spawned a new type of editing known as the non-linear editing system. They are based on computers and are used widely today. Some of the main programs include:


Popular NLEs


These programs initially ran on very large computers with cumbersome monitors. These Macs or PC’s were exceptionally slow by today’s standards. They were also confined to the “cave”. There was no real way to have an editor in the field, or on set to assemble edits for the director. If there was… it would have been a crazy contraption similar to this.

As computers got faster, they also got cheaper and smaller. This changed post-production in many ways. We still have large edit suites. However, now with smaller and more powerful computers, mobility and freedom has been gained. Editing can now all be done on small laptops such as an Ultrabook connected via Thunderbolt to external hard drive. We can now be on set with the director, or in the field.

Broadcasters have also adapted to this change as well. Reporters, and the media can now shoot a live event, have it edited in the field, and post it up within minutes. No longer are we waiting for the 6 o’clock news.

Technology has helped and push post-production forward making our jobs easier, and more complicated. ( how many codecs do you have installed?) . But I am simply wowed with what I can accomplish on my Ultrabook, or Macbook Pro, It was not to long ago my edit suite was the size of an entire room.



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