In the last newsletter we covered the development of non-linear editing to the stage of M-JPEG becoming the standard codec for NLE, and we also covered the Eidos Edit 1, Edit 2, and later Optima systems which allowed the editor to use any Eidos system, rather than being tied down to a particular one, and still keep his/her data secure. The Optima software editing system was closely tied to Acorn hardware, so when Acorn stopped manufacturing the Risc PC in the late 1990s, Eidos stopped selling the Optima system; by this time Eidos had become predominantly a games company.

So let's continue from there. In the early 1990s, a small American company called Data Translation took what it knew about coding and decoding pictures for the US military and large corporate clients and threw $12m into developing a desktop editor which would use its proprietary compression algorithms and off-the-shelf parts. The aim was to 'democratise' the desktop and take some of Avid's market. In August 1993, Media 100 entered the market and thousands of would-be editors had a low-cost, high-quality platform to use.

Inspired by the success of Media 100, members of the Adobe Premiere development team then left Adobe, to work on a project called Keygrip for Macromedia. Difficulty raising support and money for development led the team to take their non-linear editor to NAB. After various companies made offers, Keygrip was purchased by Apple as Steve Jobs wanted a product to compete with Adobe Premiere in the desktop video market. At around the same time, Avid now with Windows versions of its editing software - was considering abandoning the Macintosh platform. Apple released Final Cut Pro in 1999, and despite not being taken seriously at first by professionals, it has evolved into a serious competitor to Avid.

Another leap came in the late 1990s with the launch of DV-based video formats for consumer and professional use. With DV came IEEE 1394 (FireWire/iLink), a simple and inexpensive way of getting video into and out of computers. The video no longer had to be converted from an analogue signal to digital data - it was recorded as digital to start with - and FireWire offered a straightforward way of transferring that data without the need for additional hardware or compression. With this innovation, editing became a more realistic proposition for standard computers with software-only packages. It enabled real desktop editing, producing high-quality results at a fraction of the cost of other systems.

More recently the introduction of highly compressed HD formats such as HDV has continued this trend, making it possible to edit HD material on a standard computer running a software-only editing application.

Avid is still considered the industry standard, with the majority of major feature films, television programs, and commercials created with its NLE systems. Avid products were used in the creation of every film nominated in the Best Picture, Directing, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, and Animated Feature categories of the 2005 Academy Awards. Avid systems were also the overwhelming NLE choice of the 2004-2005 Primetime Emmy Award nominees, being used on more than 50 shows in eleven major categories. Final Cut Pro continues to develop a strong following, and the software received a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award in 2002.

Avid has held on to its market-leading position, but faces growing competition from other, cheaper software packages, notably Adobe Premiere in 1992, and later Final Cut Pro in 1999. These three competing products by Avid, Adobe, and Apple are the foremost NLEs, often referred to as the A-Team.

One of the primary concerns with non-linear editing has always been picture and sound quality. The need to compress and decompress video leads to some loss in quality. While improvements in compression techniques and disk storage capacity have reduced these concerns, they still exist. Most professional NLEs are able to edit uncompressed video with the appropriate hardware.

With the more recent adoption of DV formats, quality has become an issue again: DV's compression means that manipulation of the image can introduce significant degradation. However this can be partially avoided by rendering DV footage to a non-compressed intermediary format, thereby avoiding quality loss through recompression of the modified video images. Ultimately it depends on what changes are made to the image; simple edits should show no degradation; however, effects that alter the colour, size or position of parts of the image will have a more negative effect.

That about sums it up. We hope you found this series on non-linear editing interesting and useful. If you would like the full three part series, please click here.

So, what topic do we cover in the next series? Formats change so rapidly with the advancement of technology that no history of equipment used in the film and television industry will be complete and up-to-date. On of the most changed formats is, in all probability, the methods of recording video signals and information - and this will be our next subject. Were you aware for instance that some of the first recordings of television signals were made on wire? Probably not, but it's a fact and we'll explore this in the next edition.

You can go to Wikipedia and other internet resources for some of the information contained in this article.