Old-fashioned Analog Film Editing

This contraption is a Steenbeck flatbed editor, used to edit motion picture film before it all went digital. The process was unwieldy compared to modern computer editing, but the old methods gave us a hundred years of art.

The table doesn't actually do any editing in and of itself. It merely controls playback. You would shuttle back and forth to the frame around which you wanted to make a cut, then you would place the film into a splicer which would cut the film with a blade and stamp a piece of tape over the seam. So primitive! We were told as film students that editing the old fashioned way at first would force a more sophisticated understanding of editing. Is that true? Does writing on paper force a greater understanding of the written word?

I can't speak to film editing, but as far as sound editing and writing go, I can say that learning it the old-fashioned way first gives a person a great respect for the individual elements of the art. It also helps one to appreciate the ease of more modern methods! Gizmodo has more, including a video of editing film by splicing. Link

(Image credit: Flickr user DRs Kulturarvsprojekt)


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Totally agree with those who advise learning to do some analog editing. No "undo," and it teaches the importance of planning your project. Especially true if you end up spending dozens of hours watching footage on (physical) tapes from some "shoot everything! We'll edit it later!" camera operator when all you need is a particular single 7-second shot.

/Also spliced audio with sticky tape during the 80s. Had a bad habit of keeping the razor blade in my teeth between edits...
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I own a classic 35mm Moviola with sound and picture head. I got it cheap though the shipping from California was expensive. Never got use it much since my declining health made me give up on my traditional filmmaking activities.
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Old school methods surely do help. Maybe it's the pace and consideration as a lot of those techniques are destructive and there is no undo. None. Everything is permanent and you can't create ten backups on your 50 terabyte Unity... You mess it up and that's it: you can screw work of tens of peoples and hundreds of hours. So you learn to think before you edit, plus the basics becomes ingrained. You can learn to be good editor with just modern tools but i feel that one should make at least one project with analog-only tools that has zero undo levels. Sometimes you just don't have a chance of second take just because you can't afford any extra foots..
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I think that's a 16mm Steenbeck. Hardly anyone cut 35mm on a Steenbeck. Almost all (maybe 98%) of 35mm (99% of feature films) were cut on flatbed machines by KEM of Germany. They came in 4, 6, and 8 plate models. The 8 plate (the industry standard from 1980-2000) was versatile in that the picture and sound heads were interchangeable. One could use 3 picture heads and one sound head if desired or 2 pic 2 sound for normal source/target editing, as it is thought of today. The KEM was big and heavy and very complex to maintain. The were only a couple of people who knew how to fix one and they were the busiest guys in the world. The advantage of film, from an editor's stand point, was that it was only possible to have a single version of the show at a time. With computer editing, an infinite number of versions of the same thing may be stored and accessed at any time. This complicated the editor's task greatly. In the film days we had only the one strip of picture and a single track of audio. We made the movie work at that level of simplicity first, then added all the special visual effects and sound effects, at the end. It was a better way to make movies. It required more thought and preparation. It required that you have a good script BEFORE starting to shoot the movie. Now...not so much. We fix it in post.
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Sure! First by splicing tape in the '80s. When we ran out of splicing tape, we'd use scotch or even masking tape. Then in the '90s, we had better equipment to mix, synch, and redub from one machine to another. And in the 21st century, we just used computers for everything.
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