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What Is Non Linear Video Editing and How It Differs from the Linear One

Non linear video editing(NLVE), as a way of random-access editing, figures prominently in today's editing field. While in the past, film editing was completed in a linear fashion (Surely, we are still using this method). Curious about what NLVE can or cannot do, or its pros and cons from the linear one? Well, you can find the answer from the following parts.

What is Non Linear Video Editing

Non-linear video editing(NLVE), as a counterpart of linear video editing(LVE), is a comparatively new form of video editing. The operation of NLVE requires specialized software and hardware, fabricating an NLVE workstation system.

non linear video editing system
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Non-linear editing(NLE) system stores the input video and audio signals into the computer hard disk through utilizing digital compression technology. Besides, NLE adopts hard disks, instead of tapes, as a storage medium to record digital video/audio signals. Finally, NLE is completed with the aid of a hard disk that is capable of randomly accessing any frame in 0.04 second.

NLE system can make direct access to the source materials saved on computer hard disks and edit them by frame or file. As such, based on a computer platform, NLE features lots of functions owned by traditional video-making equipment and allows you to adjust the sequence of source material at random, optionally shorten or lengthen video clip, as well as add various effects.

Meanwhile, digital storage can ensure no data loss during editing and copy&paste. In a word, NLE can free your imagination from diverse restrictions of linear editing system.

In terms of hardware, a non-linear editing system can be composed of devices including computer, video or IEEE1394 card, sound card, high-speed AV hard disk, special-purpose board, and peripheral equipment.

With regard to software, an NLE system mainly comprises non-linear editing software, 2D&3D animation software, image&audio-processing software, and other peripheral software. With the improvement of computer hardware performance, the software will no doubt figure prominently in video editing while diminishing the weight of hardware. Such being the case, it becomes much important to skillfully use NLE software, such as Premiere Pro.

Non Linear Video Editing Workflow

Despite detailed differences from one software to another, NLVE workflow can be overall divided into three procedures, namely video input, editing, and output. For example, the workflow in Premiere Pro can be divided into 5 steps in detail.

Step 1: Material Acquisition and Input

In Premiere Pro, material acquisition refers to converting and storing the analog video and audio signals into the computer or transporting the external digital video into the computer as pre-processed material. And input chiefly involves importing images and sounds processed by other software into Premiere Pro.

Step 2: Material Editing

Material editing is the process of setting the starting and ending points of material so as to select the most appropriate part, and then assembling different materials by time order.

Step 3: Effects

For video materials, the main special effects include transition, special effects, and video synthesis&overlay. While for audio materials, it mostly consists of transition and special effects. All the stunning video and audio effects are produced in this process. Meanwhile, that's also how we judge performances of an NLE software. With some hardware, Premiere Pro can even achieve trick-play.

Step 4: Subtitling

Subtitling always figures prominently in a show and comprises two aspects: text and graphics. Premiere Pro provides you almost all subtitling effects and numerous templates.

Step 5: Output and Production

After editing, you can transport the edited program back into videotape. You can also release the produced videos to the Internet, or record them as VCD and DVD, etc.

What is the Difference Between Non Linear Video Editing and Linear Video Editing

Linear video editing is a process of editing images and sound in a predetermined sequence. The content must be accessed sequentially. As such, it's rarely used in post-production. In linear video editing, the materials are usually integrated into a new continuous image by means of assembling editing, and then we replace it by inserting a clip with the same length. But it's impossible to remove or shorten any middle clip.

Going forward, we'll have a summary of the pros and cons for both LVE and NLVE, which can help you make the choice.

Advantages of Non Linear Editing

1. Beyond restrictions of timeline

In NLE, you can randomly edit any frame, image or image group in video. That of course beats linear editing.

2. Flexible operation

In linear editing, we must struggle with a forty or fifty minutes of video in order to finally produce a program of about ten minutes. You can see a long list of wasteful repetitions on LE procedures including transition, stunts&special effects editing, and revision. It's quite time-consuming.

While in NLE, you can make random access to any clip in your hard disk at any time without any playback. You can shortly adjust where and how an image suits a show by moving it around the timeline with the mouse. The whole editing process, just like word processing, is pretty flexible and convenient.

Meanwhile, diverse freely-combined stunts and special effects help generate a more colorful show and march video production into a new level.

Disadvantages of Non Linear Editing

The big cost. It's actually quite expensive to build up a NLE system.

Advantages of Linear Editing

Simple and affordable. It requires a lower cost compared to a complicated and expensive NLE system.

More efficient in certain editing productions. For example, linear editing would be much easier and quicker when it comes to incorporating two video clips in a sequence.

Disadvantages of Linear Editing

Can't make random adding or deletion in your video.

If you want to replace a clip in the processed video with a new clip, the new one must have the same length. Because if the new clip is shorter than the former, some additional images in the former would remain here. If being longer, the new clip would cover images in the next clip.

What is the Best Non Linear Video Editing Software

1. Adobe Premiere Pro (Windows&Mac)

Adobe Premiere Pro cover

Adobe Premiere Pro is a popular video editing software developed by Adobe Inc. If you plan to become an editor or edit in a professional manner, Premiere Pro must be the most recommended software. After handling this software skillfully and understanding how it works, all other editing software would be easy for you. Just a few days of habitual migration can enable you to successfully master any other editing software.

What's more, Premiere Pro can smoothly coordinate with other software under Adobe Cloud, such as After Effects, which makes it much more versatile.

2. Apple Final Cut Pro (Mac)

Final Cut Pro is amazing software. Its latest version, Final Cut Pro X, is totally different from old Final Cut Pro 7. Despite their same name, Apple Inc. has actually employed an unprecedented logic to the design of Final Cut Pro X. However, the software cannot get itself fitted into current market yet and many film workers still stick to using Final Cut Pro 7.

Final Cut Pro cover

To be honest, Final Cut Pro X is basically not for professional editors in terms of its design concept. In my opinion, it's more like a software developed for editing aficionados. Many of its functions are professional enough, such as coding, but concerning its operation logic, drag&drop function does make it an easy-to-handle software, while inevitably compromising its precise control.

Nevertheless, Apple, as a company known for its aesthetic choice, has preset plenty of special effects in Final Cut Pro X. If you happen to be a Mac user and a minimalist person, then Final Cut Pro X must be your optimal choice.

3. Open Source Non Linear Video Editing Software - Lightworks (Windows&Mac&Linux)

Lightworks, first published in 1989, was the first professional video editing system at that time. In 2009, EditShare acquired the Lightworks editing platform. James Richings, the general manager, said that the development time of the Lightworks editing system has exceeded 1 million hours. He hoped that Lightworks' open-source transformation could not only change the technology but also change the view on what a professional editing tool can do.

Lightworks cover

Hundreds of films have been edited through using Lightworks, among them, many were Academy and Emmy award-winning films in the past two decades, such as Pulp Fiction, Infernal Affairs / Mou gaan dou, Centurion and Shutter Island, etc.

In April 2010, Lightworks became downloadable and free for all users. From the middle of 2011, Lightworks began to simplify the source code and release it to software developers, and it finally evolved into an open-source software.


Farrah Penn

Farrah Penn has been a copywriter at Digiarty since 2014. Because of the occupational requirement and personal interest, Farrah has carried on broad and profound study and researches to multimedia related stuff, popular electronic devices and multimedia programs in the market.

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