Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Keescan Electronic Film Editing System

Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Keescan Electronic Film Editing System

Article excerpt

For those who feel that electronic editing of tape is somewhat faster than conventional film editing, there is now a compact "tabletop" system for editing film, after it has been transferred to 3/4-inch videocassettes

In the past few ,years, proponents of videotape over film have made much of the fact that, from the ideal standpoint, the electronic editing of tape can be accomplished at a much faster pace than conventional film editing.

Accepting that assertion, some filmmakers have experimented with methods of transferring film to tape, editing the tape electronically and then ultimately matching the film original to the edited tape "workprint".

So far, so good-but what has mitigated against this method is the fact that, in cases where the film images are transferred to standard broadcast 2-inch tape for editing purposes, the costs of renting the cumbersome and highly sophisticated editing equipment (such as the CMX) are so prohibitively high, that at best the editor can afford only enough time to do a "quick and dirty" editing job-a procedure that is contrary to all tenets of quality filmmaking.

To overcome this considerable obstacle, the Keescan Electronic Film Editing System, on display at FILM 77, was developed. Utilizing very compact ("tabletop") electronic components that are relatively inexpensive to purchase, the Keescan System theoretically speeds up the editing process, while still allowing the editor to mull over cuts (in the way traditionally associated with film editing) and try out various alternatives without actually cutting and splicing a film workprint.

In practice, the film images are transferred to 3/4-inch vidéocassettes, complete with edge numbers. These edge numbers are electronically recorded along with the picture information. When the creative editing decisions have all been made, and the resultant electronic "cuts" have been executed, the okayed edited tape is then retransferred back to film in the form of a workprint to be used for matching the original in the conventional manner.

What follows is information provided by the KEESCAN people to further explain the system:


Traditionally, film-making techniques have been based upon a system which makes use of rush prints-so that the director can see whether a particular take is right, etc.-and involves considerable to-ing and fro-ing between studio or location, the film laboratory and, eventually, the editing table. Editing is the key to the process.

Film editing still depends on edge numbers which indicate the frame at which the cut is to be made and, perhaps illogically, on the physical handling, cutting and splicing of the valuable material on which expensive and often irreplaceable images are recorded.

Without the edge number, the film editor's job would be totally impossible. Even with it, there are an infinite number of stages at which something can go wrong. Prints have to be processed, cutting decisions made, insert and assembly sections mechanically joined. Even then the result might not be quite right. The process starts again.


"Post production" work has long been the bane of programme makers. Videotape has only too often been seen as the panacea which will cure all production ills. Editing on videotape operates on the same principal as film editing, by a standard time code which is magnetically recorded onto the tape -either during shooting, or at a later stage.

Time codes are simply electronic edge numbers imposed on the material in a digital form and logical progression. Edits are still made at numerical reference points.

The right videotape format can score heavily over film at the editing stage. Original material remains physically uncut, "instant" previews of edits (including the sound track) are normal. Videotape equipment can run backwards and forwards at high speed to pre-set points so that rough cuts-or entire videotape programmes-can be put together in a tiny proportion of time it would take to edit a similar footage of film. …

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