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Linear vs Non Linear Editing

In the early days of electronic video production, linear (tape-to-tape) editing was the only way to edit video tapes. Then, in the 1990s, non-linear editing computers became available and opened a whole new world of editing power and flexibility.

Non-linear editing was not welcomed by everyone and many editors resisted the new wave. In addition, early digital video was plagued with performance issues and uncertainty. However, the advantages of non-linear video eventually became so overwhelming that they could not be ignored.

In the 21st Century non-linear gained dominance and linear editing headed towards obsolescence. During this time the description "non-linear" was slowly abandoned as it was no longer necessary—almost all editing was now digital and the "non-linear" aspect was assumed. Linear was dead.

Until around 2008 we recommended that aspiring editors still made the effort to learn about traditional tape-to-tape editing, for reasons including the following:

  1. It was simple and inexpensive. There were very few complications with formats, hardware conflicts, etc.
  2. Some simple jobs (e.g. appending one video to another) were much quicker and easier with linear editing.
  3. Interestingly, many professional editors of the time claimed that those who learn linear editing first tend to become better all-round editors.

By 2010 we felt is was no longer necessary for most editors to know how to work with tapes, although we'll never discount it completely. Even for the sake of understanding the historical development of digital media, it's not a bad investment of your time to learn about linear editing.

Related Tutorials: Linear Video Editing | Non-Linear Video Editing