Production & Post Global Viewpoint – January 2018

NLE: Look At How Far We’ve Come

Boston first hosted Macworld in August of 1993 and it was there I bought a $2,500 Radius VideoVision I/O board that worked with Adobe Premiere v2.0. The year was a pivot point for the low-end NLE market as it transitioned from “barely workable” as I describe in this VideoVision review, to “quite practical.”

In 1993, non-linear video editing was just starting to become a cost-effective creative tool, thanks in part to lower storage costs and more powerful personal computer technology.

In 1993, non-linear video editing was just starting to become a cost-effective creative tool, thanks in part to lower storage costs and more powerful personal computer technology.

Today, as we look for solutions to current challenges like proxy verses transcoding for import and editing of 5K, or even 8K RAW media, the industry feels very much like it did when it struggled to find a way to work with NTSC and PAL video. To learn about, or relive, some of the challenges facing the early video editing pioneers, read on. Keep in mind this is a version of the 1993 article, which includes instructions on using that era’s available equipment.

Early Solutions

A new edit technology, non-linear editing, is coming to market. Non-linear editing promises to make video editing fast and far less stressful. Non-linear editing can be performed either on-line or off-line. An off-line edit uses computer technology to create a rough-cut. When the rough-cut is satisfactory, the computer outputs an EDL (Edit Decision List). The EDL then is used to drive a conventional VTR-based editing system.

Figure 1: Radius promotional material, circa 1993. Click to enlarge.

Figure 1: Radius promotional material, circa 1993. Click to enlarge.

This article will lead you through making a movie using a Mac IIci, a Radius VideoVision A/V input and output interface board, a Sony Vbox (used to control a camcorder with a LANC port) and Premier, Adobe's video editing software. (Figure 1.)

Upon starting Premier, use the File>Preferences menu to establish Output Options, Device Control, and specify a Scratch Disk. For Output Options: set Video to 160–pixels by 120–pixels at a Maximum Rate of 15 fps with 8–bit stereo audio sampled at 22kHz. (Figure 2.)

Figure 2: Radius VideoVision card and Junction Box, captured video into the Mac for processing.

Figure 2: Radius VideoVision card and Junction Box, captured video into the Mac for processing.

Video input can be selected from two composite or two Y/C connections. VideoVision supports 24–bit 6.7 million colors using Apple QuickTime codecs and files. A very convenient connector box provides these connections as well as output (composite or Y/C) plus stereo audio. VideoVision provides on-board convolution technology that allows flicker-free, motion graphics to be recorded on videotape.

The Sony Vbox can be connected to either the Mac's modem or printer port and communicates using Sony's ViSCA protocol. The Vbox provides two important functions. First it enables you to control your camcorder or VCR from Premier. Second, if you have a Sony CCD-VX3 camcorder, the Vbox can input the RC time code (H:MM:SS:FF) of the first frame digitized. (Figure 3.) If your Player has only a real-time counter (H:MM:SS) the counter reading will be input, but the resulting EDL will be far less accurate.

Figure 3: The Sony VX3 3CCD Hi8 Camcorder was an early popular video capture tool. Click to enlarge.

Figure 3: The Sony VX3 3CCD Hi8 Camcorder was an early popular video capture tool. Click to enlarge.

If you don't have a Vbox, don't worry because Premier provides an alternative solution. (Figure 4.) Before digitizing each scene, turn on the camcorder Data Screen function. Start the tape playing two seconds before the start of the scene you want to digitize. After the tape has played for one second, turn the Data Screen off. After the scene has been input, Premier will display the first stored frame. Select Clip>Timecode and type in the displayed time counter reading.

Figure 4: Sony Vbox. Note in the text above the control gymnastics required to properly output the camera video into the editing system.

Figure 4: Sony Vbox. Note in the text above the control gymnastics required to properly output the camera video into the editing system.

Transferring Video to Disk

Start Premier and select File>New>Movie Capture. Then specify Record-to-RAM; Video Input, VTR mode, and NTSC. Premier's Movie Capture Window contains a VCR-like control panel (whose buttons are much too tiny), and a small display showing the output from your camcorder.

Because I use a Vbox, I check Auto Record before proceeding. Next, I type in a reel name, and use the VCR transport buttons to locate the scene to record to disk.

At the beginning of a scene, click the IN button. At the end of a scene, click OUT and then click RECORD. Premier will automatically rewind the tape to before the scene's beginning, start playing, input the time code or real-time counter value, record both audio and video, and then put your camcorder into pause.

When the recording (called a clip) has been compressed it will appear in a Clip Window that also has tiny VCR-like buttons—plus a Shuttle-slider (misnamed a Jog–slider) and a Scene–slider. Using the Scene–slider you can move almost instantaneously to any frame in the scene you recorded. Once you have used the Scene-slider you will realize why non-linear editing systems will replace editing VCRs! Moreover, if you are a Hi8 user, you can repeatedly work with all the scenes recorded on your disk without worry of introducing dropouts on your original tapes.

Trimming a Scene

Before giving the scene a name, you can locate the scene's exact in- and out-points and mark them. (No material will be deleted when marking so you can always change these points.) Unfortunately, Premier offers no simple way of dividing a long clip with several shots, into multiple clips—each of which is one shot. I find this to be one of Premier's greatest shortcomings.

Before giving the clip a name, click GoTo>In to display the first frame. Then perform a Save As to give the clip a descriptive filename. You can then continue to transfer all the scenes you believe have potential to your disk. Wild-sound, sound effects, music, and narration can also be transferred to audio-only files.

When you are finished, Close the Movie Capture Window.  Tiny images, called thumbnails of each scene you recorded will be displayed in Premier's Project Window. If you want to review a clip (perhaps to change its in- or out-points) you only need only double-click on the thumbnail and a Clip Window will appear with the first frame of the scene.

Creating a Movie

Premier is a powerful and necessarily complex product so I can present only an overview of its capabilities.  Your rough-cut will be created as a QuickTime Movie and will be assembled in Premier's Construction Window. The Construction Window has a horizontal Time Scale that can be user defined. A one–image per second scale is initially used. (Figure 5.)

A 4–track window contains one video track, one superimposition track (used for titles), and two audio tracks (each of which can carry stereo sound).

You can request a 7–track Construction Window if you will be performing an A/B Roll edit (necessary if you want to employ special video effects such as fades, dissolves, or wipes) or a 4–track window for cuts-only editing.

Here is a sample of the documentation of VideoVision and the wonderful Radius Edit NLE.

Here is a sample of the documentation of VideoVision and the wonderful Radius Edit NLE.

Begin your cut by scrolling through the Project Window to locate the scene that will appear first. Drag this scene's thumbnail to the leftmost-end of the video track. The thumbnail will automatically expand down the track to the right as a series of tiny images—each of which are the frames that appear at one-second intervals on the recording. A fraction of a second is displayed as a proportionally wide image.

If you are constructing an A/B Roll rough-cut, place the scenes in an alternating arrangement in video tracks A and B. If you plan to employ any type of special effects, you must overlap video in the A and B tracks. The scene's audio track will automatically move to the audio track (A or B) corresponding to the video track.

Then scroll through the Special Effects Window to select one of 50 special effects. Drag the icon representing the effect you want to the F/X track that lies between video track A and B.

When audio expands down a Timeline it becomes visible as a waveform. This makes it very easy to see audio events. Premier provides a graphical tool to control, over time, the level of individual audio tracks. By varying sound levels between tracks, you can mix audio and create fades or dissolves.

Simply repeat the drag process for all the scenes you want in your QuickTime movie. Each new scene should be placed at the end of the previous clip. However, it is also possible to move a clip to a specified time (with single frame accuracy)—or align a clip with an event in an audio track when making a music video.

The Mac's Cut, Copy, and Paste functions can be used to rearrange audio and video (with or without audio) segments. Special Paste functions are available. One, for example, will trim a clip's length to fit within the gap between two clips. Using these functions, you can create Video and Audio Inserts. Many special editing tools are also available. These include tools to alter a clip's in- and out-points, or a clip's duration with edit ripple.

Creating Titles

Whenever you need a title, click on File>New>Title and the Title Window will appear. Using a simple set of painting tools, you can create anti-aliased titles and graphical elements. All graphics are PostScript objects so they can be resized, rotated, and even animated.

Previewing Your Movie

Before you can view a preview, select Project>Preview> Options. In the dialog box set Size to 160x120; Maximum Rate to 15 fps; Cache to "nothing"; un-check all other video options; and check "stereo" at 22 kHz with no Audio Filters. To view your movie from beginning to end, simply select File>Project>Preview and it will play in the Preview Window. You can use the window's VCR buttons to play the preview as though it were a videotape.

Exporting and Playing Your Movie

To make a QuickTime Movie, select Project>Make>Movie and give the QuickTime movie a name. A progress indicator will appear while the movie is being made. Since this may take some time you can go make a good cup of tea. To play the movie on the Mac's RGB monitor, select File>Open and enter the file name.

Recording to Videotape

To transfer your movie to videotape, select File>Export>Print to Video. If you have Vbox and a LANC controlled camcorder or VCR (such as a Sony SLV–R5 VHS VCR)—check "Activate Recording Deck" when the dialog box appears. VideoVision will switch to NTSC output and you can now press Enter to start the movie playing to your VCR. (Figure 6.)

Figure 6. Today’s video editors may not realize that digitally-edited video had to still be output onto video tape. The Sony SLV-R5 VHS VCR was a popular solution. Click to enlarge.

Figure 6. Today’s video editors may not realize that digitally-edited video had to still be output onto video tape. The Sony SLV-R5 VHS VCR was a popular solution. Click to enlarge.

Export EDL

You can export your EDL in a variety of formats including CMX 3400, CMX 3600, Grass Valley, Sony BVE, Video F/X, and generic.

Performance Issues

I have not yet mentioned important performance factors such as image size, frame rate, and compression level because the current situation will undergo a radical advance upon shipment, by Radius, of its JPEG-based daughter card. (Figure 7.)

Figure 7. Early circuitry was so complicated, and therefore large, daughter boards were often required to house all the components. Click to enlarge.

Figure 7. Early circuitry was so complicated, and therefore large, daughter boards were often required to house all the components. Click to enlarge.

According to Rich Buchanan, a PowerMac 8100 will be able to input and output video at 30 fps (60 fields per second) with an image size of 640x480 pixels--a resolution perfect for NTSC videotape. The JPEG option should be available by the time you are reading this article.

We’ve Come a Long Way

Readers who made it this far with me in the article may be shaking their heads at the gyrations required to edit video not so many years ago. It’s true, early NLE systems were often more experiments than solutions. But, that equipment and software matured rapidly, leading to today’s abundance of high-end tools.

Even so, today’s shiny new NLE products will look just as primitive some 25 years on as the now antiques I described above. Recognize that some of the powerful techniques and designs we enjoy today rely on technology and methods that were conceived by companies that no longer exist. You can expect the same transitional process going forward.

Steve Mullen

Steve Mullen

Editor’s note: You may enjoy these other Steve Mullen articles, listed below. A full list of his tutorials can be found by searching for his name from The Broadcast Bridge home page search box.

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