Cinematics, Computers, and Video Editing: An Intro

The geek squad has been talking a lot lately about various new video games and movies they’re playing or watching. I happened to glance over and see a homemade video that one of the geeks had brewed up. It had live action sequences of them in various costumes interspersed with scenes from their games and gaming sessions. Then History Geek pulled up a movie he’d made many years ago. The movie played twice: once as it had been when he first made it using a borrowed camcorder, demagnetized razors, and a handful of hard-learned editing tricks he knew. The second play-through was where he had taken the original footage and edited it on his computer over the past few months. The difference in quality was amazing considering that everything he knows about video-editing he taught himself.

I got to talking to him about it and he admitted that video editing is a lot easier for him now with everything going to digital. He believes that probably only the big-time guys in television and movies still use film at all and that’s because they’ve been working with film for decades and know exactly how to coax the best performance out of it. Also, they have access to budgets and actors that the geek squad doesn’t. Still, the things that the geeks can do at home with no formal training are amazing. And they are.

Just two hundred years ago, the idea of being able to take a photograph that would last for years and years was something only a handful of people could imagine, let alone pull off. Barely a century ago, cameras were big, bulky, and most of the editing was done in a dark room with various chemicals. Fifty years ago, cameras were smaller and film could be developed at the local pharmacy. Photographers still had their own dark rooms and still used various tricks in the development process to create effects that they wanted. Cinematographers were just starting to get into their own and special effects in movies were starting to show up. Thirty-odd years ago, a few creative directors and producers in film got together and changed the scape and scope of movies with films like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T.. Twenty years ago, computer and digital video editing began to reach its prime and instead of using only forced-perspective and scaled sets, movies like Titanic and Jurassic Park took off. Those two flicks combined robotics, stop-animation, and computer editing in a way that is now common place but was revolutionary in its day.

And today, in his apartment, with a mid-range PC and a lot of patience, a guy who knows very little about making high-end movies can put together a video, using inexpensive computer programs, that has special effects he dolled up himself that put movies from the 1980s to shame.

What video editing software do you find yourself using and how frequently do you wish you could digitize recordings you made fifteen or twenty years ago so that you could edit them? Let us know in the comments below!

— da Bird

Image taken from the cover of Movie History: A Survey: Second Edition