How Technology Transformed Film Editing in the 1980s

The film industry has been a huge benefactor of modern technology throughout its existence. New technologies have enhanced several facets of the sector, from the production and post-production of movies to the distribution of films.

While everyone will be able to recognize that there have been significant changes in the way that movies are shot and how they appear on the big screen in terms of the visuals that are used, there have been many instances whereby technology has had an instrumental impact on processes that are behind the scenes.



Editing is one area that has been revolutionized, and the 1980s were a huge decade for helping the industry move forward and give people the best films possible.

What happened to film editing in the 1980s?

Before the 1980s, film editing was conducted through a method known as splicing. There have been two main forms of splicer in history: a cement one and a tape one.

A cement splicer was the most common until the 1960s, but this method wasn’t effective. When used, two frames would often be lost when an editor was trying to find the perfect place to cut. The tape splicer revolutionized this technique, as it allowed editors to peel the tape off and remake a splice or restore the frames that had been removed.

However, things changed more in the 1980s, when offline video editing became available. It became a common technique for editors worldwide, as it involved recording from one machine to another. At the time, it wasn’t well received, though, as it was considered to be a linear process, meaning it became lengthy and required reassembling. In fact, some described it as a backward step.

How has technology moved film editing on in today’s world?

Of course, with the 1980s firmly behind us some forty years ago, technologies have continued to evolve, and film editing has simply gotten better (and easier).

Technology has allowed for the creation of programs like Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple’s Final Cut to be made available and widely accessible to editors of all levels. While amateurs and beginners can access these tools, they continue to provide a professional editing service, thus making them among the most used and common pieces of software equipment for Hollywood studios.

These software programs, known as non-linear editing, helped transform and revolutionize the entire editing process. Editors could make changes in an instant and be more specific with them. If they were to make a mistake, they could undo it without the fear of losing the original footage, unlike with traditional editing methods in the 1980s and before.

Has technology created issues for editors?

It’s possible to argue that the availability of technology has created a couple of problems for editors in today’s world, albeit from a human perspective rather than a technological standpoint.

Indeed, the technology that has been made available has allowed editors to be able to create the best post-productions possible, which has helped to provide the best end results. Viewers and film enthusiasts want to see these, and many will have been delighted with what they have seen.

Instead, the pressures will have come from the fact that the technology is so easy to use and the quality that it can produce. For instance, people who use the software programs that are available may find that they are up against certain expectations because of what the tech is capable of achieving.

Given how quickly it can be to make the edits and get the final cuts, time pressures may start to be applied. Editors may need time to think about the ideas they have or how they want to implement them. However, they may not always be afforded the time and patience needed as everyone knows how quickly editing can be completed.

At the same time, editors may have found that they have more work to do due to the capabilities of editing software programs. Where they may have only been looking at the footage in the 1980s, they will now be looking at everything to do with the film, such as looking at the sounds, graphics, colors, and everything else in between.

Final Thoughts

Film editing certainly benefited from the technology that was available in the 1980s as it managed to change the processes, despite the fact that many editors at the time weren’t receptive to it.

Technology has continued to evolve the industry and this particular process even further through the use of specific software, but editors might be frustrated with the amount of work that they have to do, compared to what was expected in the 1980s.

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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