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Fun Facts and Dates in Digital Editing ‘Firsts’

Ashley Kennedy

Digital video editing is only 26 years old, and has been mainstream for just over 15 years.  Let’s take a look at some interesting dates in recent history in the exciting world of video editing!

Many younger editors have only ever experienced their craft as a digital endeavor, but anyone who has been editing since before the mid-90s certainly remembers the days of analog — when Steenbecks and Moviolas ruled the post-production world.  As with many computer-related innovations, there have been staggering advancements in digital editing over the past 26 years (which is when the first all-digital video editing and compositing system was introduced by Quantel.)

Digital Editing Firsts: Fun Facts

Let’s take a look at some interesting facts and dates about the beginning of the world of digital editing:

  • 1985: Quantel released The “Harry.”  The Harry was the first all-digital video editing and effects compositing system.  Due to technical limitations, it could record and apply effects to a maximum of 80 seconds of 8-bit uncompressed digital video.
  • 1987: Avid Technology created the Avid/1 Media Composer.  It was designed using the Apple Macintosh II computer platform, as well as proprietary Avid hardware and software.  (Clarification from Avid pioneer, Michael Phillips, in the Comments section of this post:  The Avid/1 Media Composer was actually developed on the Apollo computer, which is where Avid’s founders worked before forming Avid as a company.  It was then built on the Macintosh II, which is what it shipped with in the company’s first official release in December 1989.) The Avid/1 Media Composer was a revolutionary design, but it was not the first NLE that used modern concepts like clip bins and Timeline editing (these were introduced with Lucasfilm’s EditDroid, a computerized analog NLE from the early 1980s).
  • 1989: Avid Technology publicly introduced the Avid/1 Media Composer at NAB to great fanfare.  The codec used for editing on Avid was the Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) codec, which became the primary video editing codec of the early 90’s.  It was not very high quality, but it worked fine for offline editing.

  • 1991Adobe released Premiere 1.0 for the Mac.
  • 1992: First feature film, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers, was digitally edited using the Avid.  Up until this point, only short-form videos and commercials could be edited because of hard drive capacity limitations.
  • 1993:  Media 100 entered the market as a low-cost digital video editing solution.  Media 100 offered steady advancements in compression technology, and continued to develop higher video resolutions focusing primarily via software innovation, rather than hardware.
  • 1994-95: By 1994, only three feature films had been edited digitally, but by 1995, the number had grown to hundreds.  This time has become known as the distinct shift in the digital editing revolution.
  • 1995:  The DV codec and IEEE-1394 (FireWire 400) brought huge advancements to digital video recording, capturing and editing.
  • 1996: The English Patient was the first digitally edited film to win an Oscar for Best Editing (edited by Walter Murch on the Avid).
  • 1999: Apple released Final Cut Pro, which soon became a chief competitor to Avid.  (Final Cut Pro was developed after Apple bought Keygrip, which had been a product designed for Macromedia by several ex-Adobe employees.)

  • 2001: The Rules of Attraction, was the first feature film edited using Final Cut Pro.
  • 2007: No Country for Old Men was the first Oscar-winning film edited using Final Cut Pro.  (Roderick Jaynes was also nominated for an Oscar in best editing.)

Your Digital Journey

Have you always edited digitally?  If not, where were you in your career when the digital editing revolution took over?  What do you miss about the days of flatbed editing?