History of Film Editing Technology

Before the widespread use of non-linear editing systems, the initial editing of all films was done with a positive copy of the film negative called a film workprint (cutting copy in UK) by physically cutting and pasting together pieces of film, using a splicer and threading the film on a machine with a viewer such as a Moviola, or “flatbed” machine such as a K.-E.-M. or Steenbeck. Today, most films are edited digitally (on systems such as Avid or Final Cut Pro) and bypass the film positive workprint altogether. In the past, the use of a film positive (not the original negative) allowed the editor to do as much experimenting as he or she wished, without the risk of damaging the original.

When the film workprint had been cut to a satisfactory state, it was then used to make an edit decision list (EDL). The negative cutter referred to this list while processing the negative, splitting the shots into rolls, which were then contact printed to produce the final film print or answer print. Today, production companies have the option of bypassing negative cutting altogether. With the advent of digital intermediate (“DI”), the physical negative does not necessarily need to be physically cut and hot spliced together; rather the negative is optically scanned into computer(s) and a cut list is conformed by a DI editor. References : • Dmytryk, Edward. On Film Editing: An Introduction to the Art of Film Construction, Boston: Focal Press, 1984. • Murch, Walter. In the Blink of an Eye: a Perspective on Film Editing, Silman-James Press, 2d rev. ed., 2001


About this entry