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DV Filmmaking by Ian David Aronson

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Making the Most of Nondestructive Editing: The Difference Between Project Files and Media Files

Editing systems like Avid and Final Cut Pro did not provide filmmakers with their first introduction to nonlinear editing. Editing reels of 16 mm and 35 mm film has traditionally been a nonlinear process, but unlike digital editing, it’s a destructive one.

Filmmakers often refer to editing as "cutting a project together” or simply, “cutting a project.” To a person working on a nonlinear editing system, the idea is metaphorical, but traditional film editing involved physical cutting and splicing. Film editors literally cut a piece of film to select the segment of footage they want (that’s where the term clip comes from) and splice it into a sequence of other clips. The problem is, after a few cuts, editors quickly find themselves with a room full of very short leftover clips, called trims, that are notoriously hard to manage. If you trim say two frames off a shot, you then have to keep track of those two frames, because you might need them later. Editors who physically cut film knew not to throw anything away, because then they’d be stuck if they tried to reedit. Rather than leaving things on the cutting room floor, editors hung strips of film on individual hooks in large bins to keep them organized. At the end of the day, assistant editors spent hours restoring trims, or pasting very short clips back onto the longer shots they came from (otherwise, you can only imagine where they might ...

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