These days with Vine and YouTube creating internet superstars overnight, we might forget or not even know how big of a deal it was back in the day to just see a moving picture of a train for a few seconds. Today, posting a Vine of a train will probably not garner many subscribers, but in the late 1800s, it inspired awe! As we all know, technology has come a long way since then and it has changed how we do many things, editing film being one. So let’s take a look at how editing film has changed over the years.

In the early days of film, it wasn’t really film. A device such as the xoopraxiscope would display drawings on a glass disc that would spin to make it seem like the object you were watching was moving. It didn’t provide much intriguing subject matter, but it was a start. Then there was the Kinetoscope. The Kinetoscope had a peephole in the top that only one person at a time could view. It had the same idea of subsequent images being displayed in a certain order. Again, it wasn’t video or film by any stretch, but it was only a matter of time. People eventually realized that they could use their own photographs in this way and have motion pictures with actual people.

The first attempts at motion picture only included a stagnant shot of whatever was being shot and each shot basically had to be done in a single take. The idea of stopping and switching scenes just hadn’t been thought of yet. But hey, anyone who had a camcorder and no editing software can relate to having to plan every shot in advance and hopefully not mess up or else risking taping over part of the last scene while you rewound. Ahh, to go back to those days of making fake blooper reels at the end because that was the only way. Well anyway, some people took the locked shot idea and brought it to new levels using multiple exposures, which I talked about in my last Tech Yourself about Green Screening. Eventually though, people started to move the camera. Not to tout The Great Train Robbery again, but Edwin S. Porter was the first one to really edit his shots in a way that suggested that two different scenes were happening at the same time. This opened other filmmakers eyes to the possibilities of their films.

Now we’ve all heard the term, “the cutting room floor.” It means when something gets left out in the final product of a video. Well, the term comes from when film was edited with nothing but scissors and glue. Filmmakers would literally cut their film after determining the right place to cut. That would include having to hold the film up to the light to see exactly where to cut. Anybody that remembers keeping the negatives from their normal camera’s photos know how hard it is to tell what was on them. Imagine looking at hundreds of those frames and deciding which one and at which point is the best choice to cut. Luckily, a machine that was supposed to be used for watching films in people’s homes, called the Moviola, was used by editors to watch their rough films and more accurately find where they would like to cut.

Then, the silent movie era took a big hit when in the 1930s sound was also able to be recorded and edited using flatbed editing tables. The flatbed editor had a flat surface and multiple sprockets in which the film and audio could be guided through. It would also mark every few frames with numbers for easier location of certain frames later on. Also, at some point, the audio and film would obviously need to be synchronized. The editor would simply mark the film roll and audio roll where he planned on matching them up and then switching to interlock mode and from then on the sound and pictures would roll in synchronicity.

These days, editing film is a lot less complicated. There are some directors and editors out there that still like the idea of cutting film, but that’s not the way to do things anymore. Now that cameras are so advanced, everything filmed can go directly onto SD cards that are in the camera. That’s a great advancement because even 8 years ago when I was in high school we were recording onto little DV tapes that were in the camera. Today, the SD cards can be put directly into the computer and the contents of the card can be ingested into the computer and placed right into Adobe Premiere or Final Cut to be viewed and edited all in one place. Here at NCTV, the turnaround times are usually very short. A show can be filmed, edited, and on air within a couple days.

Speaking of editing, I must mention that NCTV is having a workshop on editing using Adobe Premiere Pro on Tuesday, October 13. Come on in now that you can truly appreciate how simple it really is to edit… you know… in comparison to 100 years ago.

AuthorAndrew Barker