Oliver Peters on the evolution of the edit suite
A fascinating piece looking at how far we have come from the early days of tape editing:
I can recall that the overall design of many of the early edit rooms evolved from live-TV Control Rooms, where the multiple workstations for audio, switcher, edit controller, and graphics, etc. were arranged in one or more "trenches" or rows, all facing a wall of monitors, very much like a "Mission Control" room in rocketry. And this type of arrangement was carried over to posting rooms for some reason I still can't fathom. It was just how people thought a control/edit room was "supposed" to look like. One effect of this was that the clients were always sitting *behind* you as you edited, as if passengers on a bus, and you were the driver. It made feedback more difficult because you had to strain and crane or swivel around to make eye contact and read their expressions. And it tended to make the producers talk to the back of your head like you were just a human remote control unit.
I also remember those big suites having very comfy couches and chairs for the producers/clients, and desks and tables that featured a lot of snacks and drinks., because you were spending a lot of time and money there. There used to be lavish photo spreads in POST magazine back then that looked more like something from Architectural Digest, showing off the client amenities of competing suites, LOL. That was when budgets were still fat. By the eighties, a lot of that was going away, fast. The tech made suites cheaper but yet more capable, the budgets kept shrinking, and the rooms got smaller. But it also signaled a shift in the layouts. The client/producer seating areas moved from a peanut gallery in the back to a seat next to the editor, a change I welcomed for it's effect on collaboration.
With the 90's, that client seat started to become vacant more often, because, as the article points out, it became easier for a client or producer to see your progress remotely. I don't think I've had a live client sit in on one of my actual edits in over 6 years. In a way you can't blame them. Sometimes (who am I kidding, it's all the time) watching an edit in progress is boring and tedious for the "passenger", especially when you're building graphics or tweaking the colors, logging shots, adjusting audio, etc. It's a bit more fun when you're actually, actively massaging a cut, and they're giving direct input on those decisions.
That can be wonderful if they know what they're talking about, and it can be pure hell if they're clueless. In my linear-editing days, I remember an inexperienced client that spent 90 minutes at my side, having me re-render the same Chyrons in various shades and re-editing the same, lengthy, A-B Roll sequence, over and over, until choosing the original default color we'd started with.
"Ok, here's the text with the new color, this is a preview; you'll see what it will look like if we commit it to the master, ready?"
"OK". (watches preview) "OK."
"Okay, if you liked that, I'm going to commit it to tape now so we can move ahead." After this point, any changes here are going to force me to re-do all the following cuts, because they overlap in a six-dissolve sequence."
"I understand. It's fine now."
(One, maybe two A-B roll multi-dissolve sequences later)
"Let's go back and change that font again; I still don't like it. Try the next shade darker."
(*sigh*)(Looks at clock)
I thought she was going to make me wear a hole in the one-inch master. Then she complained to my boss that I was "slow" in editing the project. I explained what she'd done. She was pulled off the project and I was left to cut it by myself.
To get back to my point, while that was hell to go thru in the room with one person, I sometimes get the same scenarios now, only it happens over email, and I have to wait, sometimes for a day or more, to get that key decision made now so we can move on. Or I can risk going on ahead while I wait, trying to anticipate the client's changes and approvals, only to have to trash a lot of stuff when they do get back to me.
Non-destructive, non-linear makes all that easier to do. To the point that maybe people are more careless about the decision-making on every cut, because everything is fluid, malleable. And they're not in the room with the editor any more, so they don't feel guilty putting them thru the strings of endless changes.
Real-time remote client collaboration and review tools are coming into increased usage these past couple of years. I have to wonder if they will make these editing relationships better or worse, to be "in the room" with the editor, yet not.
All I know is, they'll be leaving me out of the catered lunches.
My biggest complaint about the evolution of the edit suite layout is the moving of the preview monitor to some place I can't see it without breaking my neck.