Culture and Society

What is non-linear editing?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. If you don't work in the film industry, terms like "non-linear editing" might sound foreign to you. To understand what non-linear editing is, first you need to know what linear editing is. Linear editing is when a film project is put together in an ordered fashion, from beginning to end. It's typically used when working with videotape, because digital video can't be cut and spliced. Non-linear editing means that a project can be altered and arranged in any order, much like you cut and paste within a document in a computer word processing program [source: Loehr].

    Film editing traditionally was non-linear, because pieces of film could be cut and spliced into whatever order an editor chose, which was a slow and painstaking process. Today's non-linear editing world is a digital one, with all images digitized and manipulated with computers. Non-linear editing on computers first began with systems like AVID in the early 1990s, and now film and video material can be organized onto a timeline, where the editor can add transitions, effects and audio, then transfer the edited version to a tape, a DVD or the Internet [source: DiGregorio].

    Today's non-linear timeline technology is especially useful in a process called a "split-edit." A split-edit is the process of combining A-roll and B-roll video. A-roll video is the main raw video footage you shoot of an event, such as a person talking on screen. B-roll video is just about any kind of additional video footage that you may want to add that gives additional meaning or context, like a zoom or close-up. A split-edit involves cutting a clip of B-roll footage into your main A-roll video to add emphasis [source: Collins]. This is a common technique used in documentary films. For example, an A-roll might show a naturalist walking through the woods talking about flowers, and a B-roll showing a close-up of a certain flower might be split-edited in without the audio being interrupted.

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