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October 1997, Week 2


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Dave Trautman <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 14 Oct 1997 09:11:44 -0600
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Jayna Neagle <[log in to unmask]> asks;
 >what is linear and non-linear editing?  what is off-line, on-line
Linear editing.
Taking selected shots from a stack of videotapes and assembling them one
after another according to an Edit Decision List (EDL) written by someone
who decided these things beforehand.  Linear is also vernacular for
tape-based editing in which a set of tape machines are linked together to
play the tapes in tandem and the visual layering is done in "real time"
by people actually pushing buttons and pulling levers.
Non-Linear editing
Taking selected shots from a hard drive and arranging them into order one
after the other according to an EDL written by someone who decided these
things beforehand (insert smiley here - : ).  Non-linear is also
vernacular for computer based editing processes which allow the operator
to select from any one of hundreds of shots without having to spool up a
tape and find the shot.  The random access nature of large capacity
storage devices allows a producer / director to change their mind much
more often in non-linear editing situations.  The undisciplined producer
will spend much more time assembling their program than an experienced
one.  Non-linear editing also requires special effects to be done by the
computer.  Layering images, titles, and transitions are all composed on
the computer system and then "rendered" to the finished edit.  In early
systems this rendering time was ponderously slow and allows for much
drinking of coffee.
Off Line editing
This process involves taking all the shots which were taken for a
project, scene, or act and working out all the cuts and transitions to
tell the "story" of the scene.  Decision making during this phase
produces an EDL which is then handed to the On Line editor for mastering.
Off Line editing is where decisions are made regarding pace, action,
reactions, close ups, continuity, mood, and effects.  The amount of time
for offline is usually a multiple of the time spent in Online editing.
On Line editing
This is the final composition stage of videotape editing.  It usually
involves a system with many playback machines chained together and
controlled by the edit computer.  All the shots have been selected and
identified in the EDL and the online operator must follow this "score"
and orchestrate the many elements together into a "seamless" viewing
experience.  Not for the faint of heart.  On line editing is also some of
the most high pressure work in television because it is the last chance
for the producer or director to make subtle (or catastrophic) changes to
the program.  Where Off Line may not deal with titles, layers, or effects
(except to mark the shots involved and time the transitions for them) On
Line must accurately produce these elements and make them look "pretty".
If I may be permitted an indulgence here, I've found that the best
editors I know learned their chops either handling film or dealing with
handwritten EDL instructions.  Although they are extremely adept at
working the machinery, they understand their role in the process of
storytelling.  The most confounding editors I've worked with are married
to their machines and have little else in their lives.  Editing, for
them, seems the pinnacle of acheivement.
In my own work I begin the process of editing before I start shooting.
Dave Trautman
Media Specialist for ATL
University of Alberta
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.