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Tips for Linear Editing

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 11/23/2009

Here are some tips for effective linear editing in film.

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    Linear Edting Tips

    Linear editing, or film editing, in general can be called a dead art simply because it is not the main type of editing that takes place in the film and digital video realm. Instead, when linear editing is used it is done for specific reasons and not because it is the most efficient form of editing. For that non-linear editing is going to be more efficient and give you more options.

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    Post-Production Planning

    The best tip available for linear editing is to save it for when you have a specified reason to do so. Linear editing will be difficult and expensive, often because you are forced into using film stock and archaic facilities. It is going to be very time consuming and will leave you open to a whole host of errors. If you are going to do it you must have an artistic merit ahead of time to warrant it. There are different reasons for this, such as looking for specific textures and image control, as well as simply to learn these principles. Have a clear idea of what you may want to do and choose the editing style that will best facilitate that. If linear editing is this tool then you will be better off with it than you would be with non-linear editing.

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    Editing Space

    You need to make sure that you have enough space to work with if you are linear editing. Make sure that you employ a series of hooks so that you will have a place to put your cut shots on so that they will remain organized. Keep things organized and numbered so that you do not get confused when cutting around. This may mean utilizing bins and other containers to keep things itemized.

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    Video Equipment

    Linear editing may mean using several different types of equipment. Whether this is a very basic non-sync sound project where you hand splice everything or a more complicated flatbed machine you have to have the equipment to do this correctly. If you are working with a sound project you have to make sure you have a Synchronizer, and it is also important to keep Cement Splicers and appropriate tape handy.

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    Film Leader

    One of the most important tips that you can keep in mind is how to film in accordance with linear editing. You cannot just shoot as much as you want, capture, and then delete extra footage as you do with non-linear editing systems. You are going to have to make sure that you limit your total amount of footage otherwise you will have a physical problem in organizing all of the film stock.

    On top of this you are going to have to make sure that you have both head and tail leader. Leader is blank film that you use to attach at the beginning and end. Those at the front are called head leader, and that at the end is called tail leader. You are going to want about five feet of leader at the head of each roll of film. This is also where you will want to put information about the film. Acetate film leader is cheap and often the best choice for head and tail leader.