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Video Editing: Past, Present and Future


Video editing refers to the process of selecting and combining short motion picture films commonly referred to as shots into comprehensive narratives that are eventually used in creating a finished film. A video is a sequence of still pictures that are used to represent scenes in motion. Video editing has been considered by some people to be an art, while to some it is an important technique in video making when it is considered as a technique, video editing then is used to mean the actual process of joining two video clips physically to create a sequence which has a particular meaning attached to it.

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The reason why video editing is considered art is that it involves creating a comprehensive meaning from two or more shots that could not be bearing the same meaning. Others regard video editing to be all the processes involved in arranging shots to come up with a whole product.

Digital editing is now the dominant technology being used in video and film editing. This is so different from the way editing was initially done when nonlinear editing systems were not developed. One of the greatest impacts of digital editing has been the transfer of many of the responsibilities involved in film editing to a few people unlike in the past when aspects like pictures, music, and visual effects were handled by different people. Today, unlike in the past editors together with a few assistants can handle most of the work required in editing. The use of digital editing technology has become an important cost-cutting tool especially for films that have lower budget allocations.

The main purpose of video editing is to add different elements to the motion picture. These elements for example include bringing out the emotional part of a performance, helping the viewer’s mind to connect with the images, create illusions like urgency, sorrow, or danger where some do not exist. Editing also is used to create excitement, shock and even arouse the viewer’s emotions and curiosity to discover more. The way a film is edited also serves to create pace and direct how the narration of the story is done.

Knowledge on how editing has evolved in the making of videos and film is of great importance in helping editors to make informed choices about particular aspects of their work. Film editing has been very important in the past and will continue to occupy an important position in the creative evolution that is taking place in the video and film industry today and sometimes shorter. This paper explores how video editing techniques have changed from the past to the present day. It finally explains how video editing systems are likely to change in the future owing to advances in manufacturing and computer technology.

Video editing in the past

The first videos did not have a soundtrack and were commonly referred to as silent movies. Silent movies were dominant during the years before1920. Some of the notable producers during the silent cinema era include the Lumiere brothers, George Mêliées and Pudovkin. The editing techniques used for making the movies were relatively simple and involved setting a camera before what was considered to be the object of interest and shooting the event or object.

The movies made around 1895 were not edited and were shorter in length for they usually did not run for more than a minute.they were very simple and mainly included single shots which progressively increased in length as time went by. The editing of silent movies is thought to have begun with the works of George Mêliées whose later movies lasted to a quarter of an hour. Editing was necessary because the movies are composed of more than two shots. Mêliées incorporated various theatrical devices in his movie-making to make them more dynamic compared to those produced by the Lumiere brothers Video editing gained more prominence with the works of Edwin Porter who began to use visual continuity to enhance his video making.

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Editing efforts at that time were concentrated on the single-shot but Porter was able to edit more than one shot and merging them to create longer movies. By doing this porter was able to compile a video comprising of 20 shots titled “The life of an American Fireman “in the year 1903. The movie runs for six minutes. Porter used newsreel footage of r a real fire and specially prepared interiors to show the viewer how the woman and her child trapped within a burning building are rescued. Scenes within the interior of the building were intercut with those captured from the exterior to create dynamism within the film. Intercutting was also used to heighten tension in the rescue scene.

This effect was also enhanced by the use of close-ups which showed images of a human hand pulling the lever of the alarm box. Porter used juxtaposition to create new realities from shots got from different locations. In addition; he was also able to make his films appear more authentic compared to other videos made earlier. Porter successfully used the editing techniques described above to create another successful video running for 12 minutes in length titled “The Great Train Robbery” in 1903.

In this particular video, Porter frequently presents the viewers with midstream shots (halfway shots) to avoid the lengthy narrations commonly used in the film to indicate changes in location and time. A midstream shot was effective in informing the viewer that time has passed while using an exit shot before an action ends was used to communicate to the viewer that the location has changed. A new shot at the beginning of action was also used by Porter to communicate a change of location. These techniques besides informing the viewer of the changes in location and time greatly improved the narration of the story and enhanced the viewer’s understanding of how events unfold in the film.

Videos that have a soundtrack began to be produced at the beginning of 1920. The first movie with sound to be widely distributed in American is titled “The jazz singer” and was produced in the year 1927. However numerous movie reviews differ that this was the first sound film because the movie by John Barrymore titled Don Juan and produced in the year 1926 is cited in some reviews as containing some musical sound which was performed by the New York Philharmonic and sound features created using the vita phone system.

Sound editing was done using sound on disc systems. They were not so effective and a decade nearly passed since the first sound films were produced in 1900. The editing of sound using sound on disc c systems involved recording sound using a phonograph and playing back the sound and synchronizing it with the motion pictures projected using the movie projector. The introduction of sound in film generated a lot of excitement in the public and drew more people to the Cinema. At about this point in time, broadcasters began to record sound and film images and used them to relay news stories as they happened. At first, the sound projected with the motion pictures was not edited. Commentaries were later added to make the sound in films livelier.

This progressed to a new technique known as doubling/dubbing which mainly involved mixing the original sound and verbal voice over’s to create a new mix of sound that was then recorded in a new soundtrack, other sounds were also recorded on the different soundtrack but they would be synchronized with the original soundtrack to create the desired effect for film or news broadcast.

The design of new machines like the synchronizer, the Moviola editing machine, and the Steenbeck during the early years of 1930 made it possible to run different soundtracks together with pictures at the same time. The availability of these machines also made it easier to insert video shots at any point the editor desired the increased use of these editing techniques is what is known as Nonlinear editing.

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As time went by, the remixing and recording of sound was done in specially built dubbing theaters. Dubbing and rerecording of sound were not smooth either in these theaters. Poor sound quality and background noise would distort the dubbed sound and consequently result in poor dynamic and frequency range. To handle these problems, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and sciences set up a common standard that ensured that dubbing in theaters and cinema was done using the same variables.

The Dolby Corporation was also able to reevaluate the standards set up by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and sciences during the 1970s. Generally, during the 1930s many techniques used for editing sound in the movie industry were well refined to effectively facilitate the editing of sound in film. Some of these techniques continue to be used today although in a limited way.

It is also important to note that there was a common editing practice that involved replacing sound recoded while shooting images with the refined sound that was refined in a dubbing studio because of its better quality. Post synchronization editing also became an important practice because the sound could be re-voiced and then used to translate the finished video into several different foreign languages.

This editing technique also enabled actors to rehearse the written script until the editor could get a perfect match of the sound. This technique of replacing dialogue automatically is still being used today in video making. A Hollywood wood sound engineer named Jack Foley was able to create sounds of footsteps and other sound moves as well which are greatly used in movie recordings in holly wood video-making studios.

The sound was also later introduced in stereo videos during the 1940s and this led to the development techniques used to spread soundtrack across a wide area. This technical advancement formed the basis on which modern multi-channel designs like Dolby surround, Dolby Digital, and DTS (digital theatre systems )are based. Mixing in stereo became automated during the 1980s. Earlier before, the mixing was done manually. Editing of sound using magnetic recording techniques came to replace optical sound recording and editing. The quality of sound was better compared to the sound output developed through optical technologies.

Magnetic video editing has been used for film editing and sound editing throughout1980s until the introduction of digital technology which has been in use till today. The use of digital technology in sound editing has made it possible to use waveform editing which enables the editor to cut or correct very fine sound files that could be imperfect. Later the editor can then proceed to edit the final sound sequence the way they desire. Through waveform editing, it is possible to change the name of the audio file being edited but still be able to save it in the same folder where the file was stored before it was edited.

Video editing in the past faced similar problems like sound editing. The editor was required to cut the recorded tape physically. This editing practice however changed with the introduction of linear editing which made it possible to copy and edit video shots from the source to the record VTR (videotape recorder ) editing machine for linear progression. Tape recording is still used today although its application is very limited. The standard videotape used for video editing measured at one inch.

The release of highly portable videotapes late in the 1970s made it possible to record both sound and picture at the same time. When the Sony beta camp was launched in 1986, the use of videotapes formally ended. The Sony beta cam SP continued to be used for making films, dramas, and documentaries. Changes in the use of the Sony beta cam SP as the industry’s standard started at the beginning of the 1990s.

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Video editing today

Greater innovations and developments in video editing also came with the works of D.W Griffith who is still regarded as the pioneer of film editing in a modern sense. His work had great influence in the editing of holly wood and Russian films. His contributions to film production and editing span different areas like variation of shots to create impact, the extreme long shot techniques, close-ups, and the cutaway together with various shot tracking techniques.

He is also recognized for introducing techniques to vary the pace within video and films. Besides these contributions, Griffith also introduced parallel editing and this can be regarded as his greatest contribution in film and video editing.pararell editing enables the editor to run two or more sets of actions within a single film sequence.

Parallel editing is frequently used to link two or more related sets of simultaneously occurring actions though these actions often take place in different locations.this editing technique has been useful in creating tension the developing the plot or storyline in the video, creating multiple points of view, and creating dramatic irony. Dramatic irony involves presentations in which some of the characters in the video are unaware of some unfolding events that are hidden from the main action.

Griffith frequently used juxtaposition of shots to achieve more dramatic effects than most of the editors whom he came to succeed within the film industry. In 1908, Griffith began using scene fragmentation as an innovation on the visual editing techniques during his time. In his work titled “The Greaser’s Gauntlet”, Griffith makes cuts from long and full body shots and proceeds to mix them to heighten the emotions of the viewers and also brings them closer to the scene where the action is taking place (through the screen)

Griffith continued to experiment with different techniques to increased emotional arousal among the viewers by using close-ups taken at very short distances from the object and the camera. A good example of where this technique is explicitly used is his film titled “The Enoch of Arden”, produced in 1908 and which tells the story of a woman separated from her husband. At one point, Griffith uses a close-up of the woman’s face as she grieves for the return of her husband; this scene greatly arouses the emotions of the audience and serves to increase their involvement in the film.

Many video makers today still use scene fragmentation to create long shots, medium shots, and close-ups so that they can draw the audience to the emotional parts of the video. Griffiths’s editing innovations continued to dominate and influence filmmaking till the period ending shortly after 1918. Vsevolod Pudovkin went ahead to innovate on previous editing techniques started by Griffith and is particularly noted for scene construction in the editing process.

The main outcome of scene construction was that conveying ideas related to the storyline became easier. Video editing was taken a notch higher by Sergei Eisenstein, a Russian filmmaker who was highly involved in filmmaking in the 1920s. His contributions to video editing are contained in the theory he developed which has five major components namely; metric montage, rhythmic montage, tonal montage, over tonal montage, and intellectual montage.

Metric montages refer to editing about the length of the shots, editing mainly involves shortening the shorts to create tension, rhythmic montages involve editing processes to ensure continuity of visual patterns by matching them with actions projected on the screen. On the other hand, tonal montage refers to a series of editing actions meant to create changing emotional patterns for characters appearing on the screen. Intellectual montages refer to editing decisions introducing creative ideas into sequences with high tension (e.g. emotional tension, conflict). Over tonal montage refers to the use of metric, rhythmic and tonal montage together. These editing techniques make it possible to vary the pace, emotions and integrate new ideas that may not have been thought of when shooting a film.

Digital technology is the main application used for video editing today. The production of digital videos began during the early 1980s and this followed the introduction of video camcorders by two companies; Sony and Panasonic. In the following years so the introduction of different digital editing technologies. the introduction of the high-speed firewire by Apple in the year 1995 perhaps made the greatest impact on video editing for it enabled camcorders to be directly linked with computers making it possible to download and edit videos from a computer into fine quality video.

Digital systems make the editing process faster and the quality of the output is better when it is compared with that got through using the earlier editing systems. Digital systems are more flexible and allow the editing of sound and picture simultaneously. Digital editing has been increasingly used in both and television industry because the process of editing using digitally is faster. Besides reducing the time needed for editing, the use of digital editing is also known to be very effective in editing complex tasks consistent with the desired technical quality.

After the video has been captured, it is transferred to the computer using specially designed software. Digital editing is anon linear and the main requirement a person needs is a computer hard disk and video editing software. Examples of these video editing soft wares include Adobe premiere, Apple final cut pro, Windows movie maker, and Ulead video studio. After files have been transferred, they are sorted according to type and then individual clips are edited, these are then added up together to create the final product. Most digital video cameras store files in the DV format and it is therefore important that the editor uses a computer with high memory capacity.

Future Developments in film editing

The future direction in which the digital revolution is headed is not very clear. However, there are indications that people will not be relying so heavily on the current digital facilities to do video editing.

According to Anderson the revolution been seen in video editing does not stop with digital editing as we know it now. Factors like faster advances in digital circuitry and computer technology will bring many changes in the video post-production process. Due to these advancements, the available digital editing facilities and devices being used now are likely to become redundant just like the early editing techniques which involved shot cutting. It is most likely that in the coming years, there will be full digitalization of the production, post-production, and broadcasting processes.

Anderson further notes that the number of industrial, commercial, and cable outlets for video editing continues to increase day by day. Owing to this development, there is greater anticipation that there will be the development of new video editing programs tailored to suit the various needs of the diverse audiences that these cable outlets serve. In the future, production in television may record significant production increases but this is likely to come with a corresponding decrease in the size of the audience for particular programs. The gross effect of this likely situation is reduced costs for production, post-production (editing), and broadcasting without any significant alteration on the quality of sound and picture.

Digital equipment that will be used for video editing in the future will be designed to provide producers and editors with the advantages of fast setup time and high reliability. For producers, the equipment may enable them to record components and not mere television signals. The component approach in recording allows light and color information to be recorded differently hence reducing the problems frequently associated with poor signals commonly experienced when video signals are transferred for editing in post-production processes.

There is a greater possibility that shortly, most of the projects done for television will be shot and edited entirely using the video format. This will also make it possible to convert the video into the standard video format if there is a need for this, for example, the need for broadcasting the video and playing back the video.

Editing systems of the future are likely to be able to provide instant access to previously store audio and video files and thereby reducing significantly the need to conduct time-consuming g searches for important video or audio information that is normal for most of the video editing systems in use today. A device with these capabilities has been developed (the CMX 600 offline editing system) but its large-scale use in the film and video making industry was limited by high cost and the necessity to store small audio and video files on relatively large computer hard disks.

Instant access to stored information will make a significant change in the way video editing will be done in the future, editors will for the first time b able to alter the length of a sequence by either making it short or a bit longer without having to cut out some sequences.

Advancements in editing systems wail also enable editing of programs in real-time. This, for example, means that an editor can edit a video program that runs maybe for an hour using a little time of the total amount of time allocated for the program to run. Similarly, there is a greater possibility that future editing systems will make it possible to transfer audio and picture files on tape directly to videotapes hence doing away with the need to transfer such information using telecine techniques. This possibility can be realized by connecting specialized scanning machines to a computerized editing controller to enable the production and editing of video from the film.

Editors now can use both video and film editing techniques together due to the increasing number of video editing controllers that utilize microprocessor-based electronic technologies to increase processing speed and ensure flexibility. In the past decade, there have great efforts by researchers and equipment manufacturers to modify video editing applications so that they can be used in film editing. Some of these efforts have for example been directed towards developing computer software that can be used together with normal video editing hard wares or modified video hard wares or a combination of both video and film hard wares. Such a solution was developed by consolidated film industries which designed sophisticated software that was able to convert SMPTE time codes into short film counts.

CMX/Orrox Corporation has also developed similar software named FLM-1 to be used in video-assisted film editing. The system works by connecting a video processor to a special micro-processing machine which is in turn connected to any normal sound or film editing device.


Despite the changes that have taken place in the way video editing is done, there remain some important facts that are not likely to change fast as the technology used in video editing has been changing. The first is that editors will continue to follow the basic steps involved in video editing. These steps include preparation; offline editing and online editing.technological changes will have very little effect on these three steps. The second fact is that video editing is a process that must be must follow a logical sequence so that the final product can be of fine quality. Editing will also remain a creative and technical undertaking. This means that good editing is based not only on the knowledge of video editing equipment and technologies but also requires creativity (artistic skills) to make the scenes meaningful.

Another important fact about video editing that is not likely to be influenced by technological advances is that video editing will remain a cooperative process in which different people will have to bring their skills and ideas together. The final product of the video editing process is a combination of efforts in a team comprising of the producer, the director, the associate director, the script supervisor, audio technicians, videotape operators, and the video editor.

Linear editing systems were used first before products like the Adobe premiere were introduced into the market.linear editing often involved the use of numerous high-tech equipment like television monitors. The process of linear editing took more time compared with nonlinear video editing. the editor had to be involved in almost all levels of the editing process. The process involves editing each shot at a time from the beginning t to the end in an orderly sequence. Under this system, editors are required to watch the video clips first then proceed to write notes on paper on what needs to edit before the actual editing process begins. This makes the editing process to be long and tedious.

The editors used a video switcher to mix different videos when editing two or more videos. If it was necessary to add new materials to lengthen the video, the editor was supposed to go back to the inset ion point and then re-edit the whole video. Non-linear editing was enabled by powerful desktop computers that were made during the 1990s. video footage was digitized (changed from sound and pictures to ones and zeros).when clips are downloaded on the computer, the editor can move them the way they like, add or remove shots, shorten or lengthen the video, actions that were not possible to carry out in linear editing. Nonlinear editing also makes it easy to make changes to the edited video without necessarily having to re-edit the whole video.

Nonlinear editing systems besides having the advantages highlighted above are known to produce pictures and sound with high quality compared to analog video formats. This quality can also be retained even when multiple digital copies are made from an original digital source.

Despite the many differences that exist between the two editing systems, they all share some common similarities. Video editing under the two systems begins with transferring data from videotape or film from the source onto the editing medium. In addition, the two processes share a common objective of improving sound and picture clarity so that that the audience can be more engaged in the unfolding events in the video or film. Technological advancements have been progressively integrated within both nonlinear and linear editing systems over the years. It is believed that future technological advances will make video editing faster, easier and improve the quality of the final product.

Reference List

Anderson, G.H, Video editing and post-production: a professional guide, Taylor Francis, London, 1984.

Dancyger, P, The technique of film and video editing: history, theory, and practice, 4th Ed, Focal Press, Oxford, 2007., The jazz singer (1927). Web.

Morris, T& Oakley, S, Premiere 6.5 Power, Cengage learning, New York, 2002.

Nisbett, A, The sound studio: audio techniques for radio, television, film and recording. 7th Edn, Focal Press, Oxford, 2003.

Parsons, J.J&Oja, D, New Perspectives Computer Concepts 2010: Introductory, 12th Edn, Cengage Learning, New York, 2006.

Reisz, K &Millar, G, The technique of film editing, 2nd Edn, Focal Press, Oxford, 1995.

Underdahl, K, Digital Video for Dummies, 4th Edn, For Dummies publishers, U.S.A, 2006.

Wyatt, H&T.Amyes, T, Audio post production for television and film: an introduction to technology and techniques. 3rd Edn, Focal press, Oxford,2005.

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