Paul Macklin
March 3, 2021

The evolution of non-linear editing and why you need it in 2021

In the media industry, NLE is known as a “Non-Linear Editor”. In Vimond we also think of NLE as a Non-Linear Evolution. Why? Because the art of editing has been through several crucial changes and are still in an evolving state becoming better, more efficient, and user friendly - everyday. This blog post aims to showcase what has happened to editing since its early beginning and what a non-linear editor has become in 2021.

At the dawn of cinema in the late 1880s and early 1900s, the film and camera came first. What followed after was the tools to splice those segments together. New film formats were made and with them more sophisticated tools, like the early Moviola in the 1910s. As the ability to record audio in film was developed, more tools were developed to take advantage of this additional content and unleash creativity to tell stories with sound and vision.   

In the 1940s, television developed and became a mainstream and standardised form of communication. Initially, this was produced and transmitted with film using tools such as the Steenbeck. However this was an adaptation of the film production process which could not sustain the demand from content hungry television audiences or fast turn around times required for current affairs producers.  In the 1950s Ampex developed magnetic tape recordings the Ampex quadruplex videotape machine became the editor of choice. This made it possible to increase the speed of output for production, removing the need to wait for developing time. Videotape recordings and their reusability also lowered the cost of television production, with smaller budgets per programme enabling more production.

When Toshiba introduced Helical scanning on magnetic tape in 1959, with it came the ability to produce still frames and lowered the complexity of the recording and playback machines and in turn the editing process. Leveraged further by Sony and Ampex with reel to reel Type-C and Type B videotape formats and machines in the 1970s. 

In 1969 Sony developed a video cassette releasing it commercially in 1971, this innovation provided a cartridge to hold the tape rather than spool from reel to reel with the introduction of U Matic. Now the videotape could be transportable from camera to player and recorders. The cost of production again decreased and companies began innovating new tools to enable even greater creativity with increasing access to edit systems to control the source tape players and edit frames accurately to a recorder.

Sony further strengthened its position and introduced component recordings on Betacam SP in the 1980s. This created the start of more affordable and sophisticated effects into linear editing suits that produced millions of hours of content in the 80s and 90s. During the 1980s and 1990s, computers were introduced to create special effects. As the cost of HDDs lowered and CPU speeds increased so did the complexity of the software. 

Moving from analog to digital

The 1990s saw broadcasters shift from analog to digital, ahead of cinema which would follow 10 years later. This shift to Digital Betacam and the less expensive DVCam opened up the opportunity to work with non-linear editors as companies sought a more flexible digital workflow. Non-Linear editing went from novelty to mainstream between 1990 and 2010.

In the 2000s, broadcasters left tape behind and went tapeless, and editors were able to run using Common Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware. This made video creation available to more people than ever before, while the internet created more distribution platforms than ever seen in the past. 

At this time, we are clearly at the exciting start of a new age in post production. 

From 2000 to 2020, non-linear editors became firmly established. Tapeless workflows became commonplace, and now cloud workflows have become viable and in today's world, arguably they are essential. 

Welcoming the cloud

In Vimond we see the shift to the cloud as the recording and storage mechanism, as well as production and distribution, as an inevitability. This is why we have made Vimond IO, and for our customers it is a chance to get ahead of the game by using the next generation tools designed to develop on the innovations of previous generations of post production tools. 

Because Vimond IO is built in the cloud, it gives it all the limitless capacity for the server side options carried out centrally and remotely from the operator. 

We not only built the editor to run in a web browser, but we built a tool that makes working with live content easier, taking in streams that are already being distributed using cloud infrastructure, tapping in to those existing remote workflows and enhancing them. Publishing to social media with metadata and thumbnails and back to the wider broadcast workflows at the same time.  Being cloud-based and available from a browser creates this light-weight and operating system agnostic approach that allows users to work anywhere on the planet where they only need a 5Mbps internet connection. 

If 2020 has taught us anything in the Broadcast and Media Industry, it’s that the old adage in show business “the show must go on” is as true today as it ever was. While a global pandemic forced every human on the planet to change the way they lived their day-to-day lives, content still found a way to get produced. 

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