Was looking for a nice, simple video editor for Linux and came across a reference to pitivi that described it as a “non-linear video editor” that uses the Gstreamer framework. I found myself asking, “if this is a non-linear editor, what would a linear editor look like?
Turns out, without my knowing it, I am, or was, a linear video editor. Back in the early 1970’s I got a lot of practice splicing various types of video tape (yes, tape — from one to two inches in width and wound up in plastic or aluminum reels of various diameters). That was linear video editing. Of course we didn’t call it that back then. Still heavily influenced by the paradigms of film and analog audio production, we just called it “editing”.
Sure, random access memory had been around for a couple of decades and hard disks for around about half that time. But those reels of broadcast quality video tape were still played and edited one frame at a time, frame by frame, in order from beginning to end.
Somewhere in the middle of that period we saw the first real electronic editors, but the ones I worked with still got their input from (and recorded their output to) spinning reels of tape. Queuing up a piece of video involved hitting the tape recorder clutch and manually advancing the reel to the spot where you wanted to start the segment. You skipped a section by advancing the tape to the place where you wanted to pick up the action again.
The electronic editor let you make those breaks without having to physically touch the tape (cutting and splicing was a messy business, even using one of the little splicing devices that were ubiquitous just before electronic editors became affordable for small organizations).
Working with digital video files is so much easier. I can’t imagine trying to splice the millimeters wide tape in a mini DV cassette. I’ve still got a couple of cases of those DV tapes lying around, shot when the kids were still little. One of these weekends I’m going to buy a 3 TB disk and dump all that video onto it once and for all. Pretty sure it will all fit, even in raw AVI format.