CIRCA:Non Linear Editing


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iMovie (logo above) is a nonlinear video editing software program from Apple that comes included when purchasing a Mac computer.

Nonlinear Editing (NLE) depends on the computer. Early generations of this technology were dedicated consoles, but now personal computers can handle video so NLE tools tend to be software programs like Premiere or Final Cut Pro. NLE software has become so popular that free versions exist (like Blender 3D), and a program comes included when buying a new computer (iMovie on a Mac or Windows Movie Making for PC). (Non-linear editing system - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

This was not always the case. As in any developing technology, nonlinear video editing was not a reliable in the early years. In the beginning “…early digital video was plagued with performance issues and uncertainty … [but] the advantages of nonlinear [editing] became so over whelming that they could not be ignored. (Linear vs Non Linear Editing)

The advantages of nonlinear editing allow greater possibilities of use because there is a freedom that does not exist in linear editing. Think of it like a DVD where you can skip forward to different chapters vs. a VHS where you have to fast forward through 20 minutes of tape to get to your favorite scene. The biggest advantage of nonlinear editing is that an editor can access any part of the digital video; they do not have to scroll through the film to edit. This ease at which editing could now be approached meant that it took less time to perform the editing. Speed was a factor when people were switching from linear to nonlinear video editing. One 1989 article said that editors in network television and in film are switching because it got the work done in less time. This is due to their instant access to any piece of footage, which allows more time to cut. (J. A. Stanton and M. J. Stanton, 21) In the late 1980s cost was also driving force behind networks and film companies switching to nonlinear video editing. It takes less people to control the software and so production companies save money on salaries and on the spaces where they worked (linear video editing laboratories). (J. A. Stanton and M. J. Stanton, 21) The advantages that nonlinear editing had did not mean that linear editing was a waste. According to Media College linear editing is preferred when the task is simple (like only connecting two pieces of film together with scotch tape) and that learning how to edit this way teaches you skills that will improve your ability to edit. (“Non Linear Editing”) Linear editing is an tradition that is worth keeping, despite the overall technological and monetary advantages of nonlinear editing.

I challenge you to explore nonlinear editing yourself. Below are links to the history, software, technology, examples and further readings about nonlinear video editing. What can you create with this software?

Related Links


The Upright Moviola is the source of visual video editing.
  • Upright Moviola is a linear editing machine, the first that allowed editors to view the film.
  • CMX 600 is considered the first nonlinear editing machine. It reportedly cost about $250, 000 (this was not when nonlinear editors were considered more affordable than linear editing). (“History on Digital Nonlinear Editing”)
  • Avid/1 was (according to the 1989 press release) “…a new real-time digital non-linear editing system that combines the creative freedom of film editing with frame-accurate digital video technology.”(Avid Technology)


Nonlinear Editing Software


An example of making the viewer a nonlinear video editor
  • Meanwhile is a movie where the viewer chose how they view the film. The nine scenes are available from a menu that is provided after the scene is over, so you are the nonlinear editor.
  • Nonlinear Games: Nonlinear editing is not restricted to only television of the movies. Have you played a game where you chose what you do next? You are not restricted by levels and planned out events, this in nonlinear gameplay.

Further Readings


Avid Technology. “Avid/1 press release.” Web. 25 Nov. 2010.

“History on Digital Nonlinear Editing.” Web. 27 Nov. 2010.

“Linear vs Non Linear Editing.” Web. 27 Nov. 2010.

“Non Linear Editing.” Web. 27 Nov. 2010.

Stanton, Julia A., and Michael J. Stanton. “An Overview of Electronic Post-Production for Network Television and Feature Film Production.” Journal of Film and Video 41.3 (1989): 13-22. Print.

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