History of nonlinear editing

[Update: A site visitor has mentioned he uses Camtasia software: “I’m also trying out Camtasia to help me prepare online software tutorials. Great to prepare training videos for students who missed one of my classes.” This is also great to know about.  The 2011 text (see below) lists Camtasia Studio as one of a number of proven Screen Capture Software choices. Of Camtasia, the text notes: “This is a cross-platform solution that writes very small files. It can then write out to virtually any video format.”  End of update]


I’ve spent hundreds of hours in recent years amassing a large quantity of video and sound files – related to local histories and stories – with the intention of learning to edit this great material.

I’ve also begun to focus upon editing such material on my own rather than relying upon the outsourcing of the process.

I’ve chosen Adobe Premiere Pro and associated Adobe Creative Cloud programs as the editing platform.

I’m delighted that many resources – including courses such as one I’m taking at Ryerson University – are available to help a person become proficient in professional video and sound editing.


I’m also pleased that I learned some years ago that getting a separate sound recording using good quality equipment such as a Zoom H4n recorder is essential when doing video interviews rather than depending upon a built-in microphone on a video camera.

The sound you pick up with an internal mic is helpful for later syncing of picture and sound but as a final sound track usually – that is, except in exceptional circumstances – it doesn’t work.

I also learned that it’s handy to record interviews with two video cameras so that – when you edit – you can vary the camera angle while maintaining the same sound track, to make it more interesting for the viewer.

History of nonlinear editing

The purpose of the present post is to highlight briefly an item on page 131 of Professional Web Video (2011) – a book I learned about from another book I’m reading: An Editor’s Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro (2013).

The 2011 text notes that the first nonlinear editing system was the CMX 600 introduced in 1971 by CMX Systems. Only six units, at close to $250,000 USD each (not adjusted for inflation), were put into use.

Many others tried to develop nonlinear systems in the 1980s including the EditDroid system invented by Lucasfilm. Twenty-five of them were produced according to the 2011 text. The company producing the system was sold to Avid Technology in 1983.

The Avid/1 was introduced in 1988. Originally, Avids were an offline tool; the final edits were reassembled in a linear editing suite.

In time, many industries started building programs on their Avids, then releasing them directly to broadcast. In 1993, industry experts at the Disney Channel built the Avid Media Composer with access to over seven terabytes of digital video data. In those years feature films began to be edited nonlinearly.

Among the tools that subsequently emerged was Adobe Premiere. A late entry was Apple, which began working with a project called Keygrip developed for Macromedia by a group of engineers that had left Adobe. Apple Final Cut Pro was unveiled in 1999.

Which way is the software market heading?

From other sources I have the sense that Final Cut Pro including Final Cut Pro Seven made a big splash – but the more recent Final Cut Pro X version has not, generally speaking, impressed professional video editors. For the moment, Adobe Premiere Pro is in favour and is taught at many film schools that until recently were teaching Final Cut Pro Seven. Of course, Final Cut Pro is still around – including among journalists at The Globe and Mail, using the FCPX version, as I understand – and let’s see where things are a year or two from now.

From what I have gathered to date, the Avid platform may be in a challenging situation with regard to keeping up with technological advances in competing platforms. It will be interesting to see how the platform fares in the next several years.

Back stories of interest include – with reference to video editing platforms: What is a consumer; what is a prosumer; what is a professional.

Relevant back stories also include: What business plans related to editing systems are in place at Adobe, Avid, and Apple respectively? As well: With changes in technology and content delivery platforms, in what direction is market share for video editing software evolving?

How much content are you working with?

I began with a focus on learning Apple iPhoto and iMovie but quickly realized I’m working with massive amounts of materials including video, sound, and photographs. That being the case, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Bridge – included in the Adobe Creative Cloud package – are the programs that I’m working with for basic file assembly purposes.

One of the features of Premiere Pro is that, because you can easily move back and forth very precisely when working with an audio file, it’s a useful platform for the transcribing of interviews.

On the hardware side, meanwhile, Apple remains clearly the choice for the video and sound editing that I have described.


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