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Video Editing Terminology
aka: Non Linear Edit

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Video editing comes in various forms, and this page focuses on some of the methods used, such as continuity editing and variants thereof.

Important Concepts:

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    Continuity Editing 
The way almost all film and television is edited together. The best continuity editing is the kind you can't even notice.

The core of this style is the careful timing and use of cuts and other transitional effects. Deciding when to switch from one shot to the next can be crucial, as a mistimed cut will be very noticeable to the viewer.

The defining characteristic of Montages is that they don't follow the rules of continuity editing.

    Online Edit 
The Offline Edit is where the movie is created. However, one wouldn't really want to cut up the camera negative straight away, as it could lead to damage, plus risking changes (of which there are many in editing). Instead, you edit with copies of the negative, with the timecodes noted. Once a movie is decided upon, the editing is "locked". From here, no more changes will be made to it. Then comes the Online Edit. The movie now goes over to scoring, with the composer creating the music of the film based around what the director wants (often with input from the temp tracks, which have provided rhythm and mood). Writing the score comes before the edit is locked, but the finished score is added afterwards, as otherwise there would be major syncing issues. Sound editing and mixing is done as well. Visual effects are added fully into this stage. After this, it is time to create a master print from which all other copies of the film is made. Now the edit is done from the original negative (as it yields the best quality) based around all the timecodes marked during editing. This master then goes out to creating duplicates that go out to the cinemas and is then stored at the studio.

With the rise of digital, the workflow is slightly different. Digital can in theory be made from the original files, as it is "non-destructive". But as most films are still done on film, it will first need to be scanned, which creates large and heavy files for editing. Same goes for many digital cameras, shooting on large, hard-to-edit files. As such, most material is transcoded into proxy files, the standard formats being Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD codecs, which are used for editing. When the edit is locked, these will then be replaced (using a linking process) with the originals. The film also goes into color grading. When working with analogue film, some work was done in the lab to control the look, but in digital the possibilities are very big. Today's film stocks and cameras like the Arri Alexa and RED cameras all shoot with very big dynamic range, resulting in images that look rather "flat" but gives detail in both shadows and highlights. On set, these will be previewed with a LUT (Look-Up-Table) with some more color and contrast and then during grading the final look is created. After this, the film is mastered to digital files and then either sent to a negative for film releases, or converted to DCP (Digital Cine Package) for digital projection and prepared for DVD or Blu-Ray releases.

    Offline Edit 
The offline edit is the main process of editing. When editing on film, they would use a "dupe" (a copy of the negative) with timecodes added to the negative to edit. This is the reason it is called "Off-line": It is using lesser quality copy to edit, as this will not produce damage on the negative. This is where the film is essentially created, with all the major decisions being made. They would mark out the timecodes, write them down, splice the film together and watch the sequences. The most common tools then were either the so called Moviola and later the Steenbeck table. The first part of an edit is often known as an "editor's cut", as it is an edit comprising all the scenes of the film, as written in the script. This often creates a film longer than what will be released. This is then screened with the director (who often joins in on the editing) and producers present, who discuss on how to move on. After this stage comes the fine trimming stage, where sequences are shortened, removed or re-edited to work better. Oftentimes some material is re-shot to better work with what now is a new version of the film (as a scene might be deleted, meaning info learnt from it is put into another scene). When it comes to music, the director and editor will edit to so called temp-tracks which is temporary music adding the rhythm and mood one would want in the sequence. After a new, more complete version is assembled, it is known as a workprint, which will then be screened again, now for more people and sometimes even the public. The state of workprints can differ greatly, with some being the finished film in all but name, to some having unfinished effects and temp-tracks. Eventually, the last decisions are made and the film is finished and then goes to the Online Edit for finishing.

On today's digital workflows, the work itself is not that different. The major difference now is now more technical, with the editing not compromising on working with timecodes, but instead editing files directly, allowing faster speed and simplicity. This form of editing is also called non-destructive as it doesn't alter the original files. In theory, this means that it could be made without the need for an Online Edit, but most films are still shot on film (then being scanned) and many digital formats are very processor heavy, instead leading to the use of proxy file which are files that are down converted to easier to edit format (the industry standard being Apple ProRes and Avid DNX).

    Linear Edit 
The most basic form of video editing. The video and audio to be assembled are played back, and another tape records it.

The most basic form of linear editing can be done with two VCRs. Just hook one to the other, press play on the first and record on the second. More decks and equipment can be added to mix audio, synchronize control tracks, and add transitional effects and keys.

Mistakes can kill this type of editing, so having an extensive plan made up from the Offline Edit is essential. Until sophisticated digital platforms came around, this was really the only game in town for footage shot on tape. Film has always had the advantage of the Non-Linear Edit — tape, glue, a razor blade, and some skillful hands are all it takes — so even after tape was invented many pre-recorded shows were (and are) still shot on film.

Because of the limitations of linear editing, shows that were made on videotape, such as I, Claudius or Upstairs Downstairs tended to be shot one whole scene at a time using multiple cameras, which tends to explain their theatrical look.

Live production is a form of linear edit, except instead of a tape the output goes directly to the transmitter.

    Non-Linear Edit 
A form of editing in which footage can be assembled, inserted, rearranged and re-edited. Possible for video when the footage can be stored in a random access storage device, like a computer hard disk.

In order to perform a non-linear edit, the footage to be edited must be recorded to the hard disk. If the footage is analog (i.e. VHS, Video8, Hi-8, Betamax), it must be digitized. If the footage is already digital (such as MiniDV or Digital8 cassettes), it must be captured. If the digital footage is recorded onto an internal hard drive or flash memory within the video-recording device or a memory card, the footage files can simply be imported into the computer via drag-and-drop. Next, appropriate software is used to trim and assemble the footage, add transitions and graphics, mix the audio, and render the visual effects. Then, the footage is "printed" back to a tape, uploaded to the Internet, or reformatted to a digital video file and stored on DVD or a video server.

To allow maximum efficiency when dealing with the large video files, most non-linear systems use hard drives running in parallel to store their footage (RAID arrays).

Non-linear systems revolutionized video editing, and with the falling price and increasing power of personal computers it is available even to the amateur video producer. Since many DV camcorders recorded directly in digital form and had direct digital output (via Firewire), and modern consumer and prosumer camcorders often record directly onto memory cards or internal memory storage that simplifies the import process (usually via direct USB connection or an SD card reader/slot), home computers can do what was impossible even for broadcasters as few as twenty years ago. It's even gotten to the point where simple-to-moderate video editing capabilities can be performed on Smartphones and tables, thus enabling shooting, editing and sharing video all within the same device!

In film, non-linear editing is accomplished by physically cutting the film up (with a razor blade) and gluing it back together. This is an advantage that tape doesn't have, since you can't see the frames on a video tape to accurately cut them. (One can assemble tape in this way, but it is crude at best. Nonetheless, some audio editors do it as a matter of course.)


Popular Non-Linear Editing systems:

  • Magix Vegas Pro
    • Magix Vegas Movie Studio (the consumer version of Vegas)
  • Adobe Premiere Pro
    • Adobe Premiere Elements (the consumer desktop version of Premiere)
    • Adobe Premiere Rush (an even lighter cross-platform version designed for use on both computers and mobile devices)
  • AVID Media Composer
  • Cyberlink PowerDirector
  • Media 100
  • Apple Final Cut Pro X for Macintosh
  • Apple iMovie (Like a consumer version of the above)
  • Pinnacle Studio (comes in regular, Plus and Ultimate versions)
  • Windows Movie Maker (a basic editor that came with Windows ME, XP and Vista)
  • DaVinci Resolve
  • Corel VideoStudio
  • Kino
  • Kdenlive
  • Cinelerra
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Please do not add examples to work pages; this merely defines the term.


Alternative Title(s): Offline Edit, Non Linear Edit, Online Edit, Linear Edit, Continuity Editing, Video Editing Glossary

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