They say that 'necessity is the mother of invention'. But what creates necessity?
Often, it is intense frustration with something you find really important. For me, I began editing in the early 1980s when consumer VCRs became available. The only editing method available to me was to copy from one tape deck to another. So I did. I had no idea I was using a technology some people loved and other people loathed called “linear editing.”
Little did I know, but this linear editing was capable of inflicting intense pain on its users. It gave the joy of editing — the ability make a story come to life right in front of you — and it coupled this with a devilish characteristic that once you created your edit, you could hardly change it at all without serious consequences of time or quality. It was 1984. As an electrical engineer and product engineer, I at first thought this problem would go away on its own.
Digital technology was here, and many people saw linear editing as the problem that it was. I didn’t realize that I had just poked my nose under the tent of a long, long story. The story of how film editing began, how it evolved, and how video editing started and how linear editing evolved. They say ignorance is bliss. And in my case, it was.
Had I known the full story of editing when I began, it might have given me pause. Instead, I was given one of those great moments that spur people on. The joy of edting. The pain of linear editing. And then a third element. I thought a non-linear editor would arrive if I just waited. So I waited. And waited. After three years, I was doing even more editing. Now the pain was eclipsing the joy. That was unbearable.
I had been thinking for three years about how to build a non-linear editor. And now, the father of necessity -- intense frustration — gave me only one option. We had to build a digital non-linear editor.
I am so indebted to the great team at Avid that built this amazing machine. I knew we wanted to build the best editor we possibly could. But I assure you, I had no idea of the scope of the over 100 year-old story that was about to include this little company from Burlington, Massachusetts.
William (Bill) Warner, January 2018
Warner is the founder of Avid Technology.
The Timeline series is dedicated to Mr Adrian Ettlinger.
Adrian was a brilliant engineer, ground breaking inventor, astute observer and a much loved father during his life and career. In retirement he was a friend, advisor and mentor to me. Adrian is without question the father of nonlinear digital editing and his contributions to the editing field have been recognised by industry bodies and editors alike.
Thank you Adrian, rest in peace.
I set out on this journey after a discussion with Boris Yamnitsky, who had just acquired Media 100 from bankruptcy. I wanted him to succeed despite the gloomy prognosis but I urged him to dump the name of the company and re-brand it.
As a Media 100 editor turned Media 100 post suite owner, I felt that the brand no longer carried the currency that it once did. A new generation of editors cared little for history. “Start afresh, Boris”, I told him.
He replied, “I can't imagine any arguments for changing it”.
We exchanged emails debating the merits of product and brand. I wondered if other editing companies had shone so brightly and faded as fast that I could draw a lesson from, then share it with Boris. As a starting point I looked at the editing systems that I had used in my career. Names like Ampex, Sony, Bosch and CMX. Where had they gone?
I scanned my local library for a comprehensive book about editing equipment history to find answers but I found none. I dug around more, but only found 'how to' film editing books. There was a dearth of information on electronic editing, especially its origins. My casual conversation was now a niggling annoyance.
Curiosity soon had me searching for the story of Avid and EMC, CMX, Montage, Digital F/X and so on. But of course there wasn't such a book just a few breadcrumbs of information.
I found two key names listed in the U.S Patent Office register. Adrian Ettlinger and William Warner. Maybe they could help. One had created something called the CBS RAVE, and the other, Avid.
They graciously took my phone calls, retold stories of electronic editing’s rich history, and connected me with lesser known individuals who had created the tools we use today.
Adrian and Bill not only helped, but they actively encouraged me. Bill made time to talk, linked me to others and poured me coffee in his kitchen. Adrian braved the wet streets of Manhattan to tell me, over lunch at the Chiam, about a remarkable period of innovation.
My part-time quest changed when editor and Timeline contributors Jack Calaway, Larry Seehorn and Art Schneider passed away. Art made major contributions to editing, both film and electronic, yet his efforts like so many others had gone largely unheralded.
Jack and Larry had helped define the electronic platform for editing. To make sense of their work and so much more, I listened to former Xerox scientist David Canfield Smith who told me: “In any revolution, technological or otherwise, there are interesting characters. In fact, the characters often are the story”.
Ironically, to me at least, the man who had started me on this journey was typical of David’s observation. Boris Yamnitsky landed a part time programming job at Data Translation on the Media 100 digital editing system. After a successful launch he left and took a full time job at Pacer Software only to have it sold from underneath him. Yamnitsky was jobless when a friend convinced him to write a DVE program for editing systems, which became the hugely popular Boris FX.
Boris’ story could have ended there, however with the fruits of his success, he bought a bankrupt Media 100 and reinvented it for a new audience.
His story is this book’s repeating narrative.
A book that zig zags from people to places, within companies, across continents as editing is invented and refined across 100 years.