Managing Digital Assets in Non-Linear Editing


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There's no question about it - the digital revolution has touched almost every aspect of audio and visual production. Nowhere have the changes been more dramatic, perhaps, than in the equipment, and practice, of non-linear editing.

For editors, these systems remove many traditional barriers. Never before could so many elements be arranged, rearranged, and viewed together during the editing process itself. And never before could a given piece be altered, revised, or repurposed so quickly and so easily.

On the other hand, the mere fact that changes can be made so easily has led many clients to increase the number and frequency of change requests. While this may be good for business (when billing for these changes) it also raises the question of how to preserve work-in-progress, draft work, and completed work in a way that minimizes unnecessary delays or effort.

Presently, many editors in this situation simply "wipe" the work in progress for the new job, saving only the "clip sheet" on a CD-R. When returning to the project, depending on the source, they have to re-digitize the material, re-load the material, and re-do their previous work. Any way you look at it, these steps take a lot of valuable time. Moreover, any time someone has to re-do their work, their motivation and interest suffers. Ideally, an improved storage method could quickly clear an editing setup so it could be used for a high-priority interruption, then allow the re-loading of the original project in exactly the way it was loaded before the interruption.

Dick Martin, president of Kollins Communications, was struggling with exactly this challenge. Kollins is a full-service creative and production company based in New Jersey. Typically, Kollins serves clients with a range of activities, including audio and video production, Internet development, displays, and collateral design and production.

"We pride ourselves on our ability to serve the full range of client needs," says Martin, "but video is our core competency. To serve a range of needs, we have several editing setups, including Macintosh-based Final Cut, to Avid, and our most recent addition, a 'Smoke' system. I need to keep several projects going at any given time, so while I'm waiting for approval on one piece, I have to switch to another project quickly to keep my editors working."

"I determined early on that there had to be a better way to store work in progress. At first, we looked at video formats, but the truth is, once the source files are loaded into a non-linear editing system, they aren't really video any more - they're data."

This understanding led Martin to investigate data storage technologies. He reasoned that, since the editing content sat on a RAID array, it should be possible to copy, or back up, the files in a way similar to what a computer data processor would do. Once he started looking at data storage options, he found a wealth of alternatives to consider.

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