Editing Community Offers Input

"Sound Waves Can Stand Still" ~ by Dave Moulton is here.

Free is good. But being part of a worldwide editing community that is thousands strong and working to help develop something that could affect the future of post production is downright exciting. For almost a year, EditShare has been offering free downloads of a new beta version of the venerable Lightworks nonlinear edit system for anyone editing on a Windows computer (XP or later) with a decent video/graphics card, and a generous amount of storage.

EditShare's goal is to invite editors everywhere to provide their input on the proposed final version due to be completed by the end of the year. Once they release the source code, it will be an open-source version of Lightworks. And it, too, will be free.

But it is not simple altruism that is driving this project since EditShare plans to market turnkey Lightworks systems and add support and proprietary plug-ins to its Complete Collaboration suite of end-to-end media management solutions that include production asset management, shared storage, and archiving systems.


Actually, the Lightworks NLE has been around since 1989 when OLE Limited designed it as a primarily film-oriented edit system for conventional cutters who did not want to learn computers.

From the start it was operated by a rotary jog/shuttle knob intentionally designed to resemble the controllers found on flatbed Steenbeck editing tables, and adopted terms with a celluloid heritage such as "rooms" and "racks" to describe its organizational structure instead of the "bins" and "files" of desktop computers.

Screen shot from the beta version of lightworks NLE The Lightworks editor has passed through several owners since then, picking up both Oscar and Emmy awards for its engineering achievements along the way. It was acquired by EditShare on September 11, 2009, and they announced their intention to transform the system into Lightworks Open Source at the following NAB Show, making its initial presentation at that year's IBC in Amsterdam. Downloads of the software began on November 29, 2010, and to date over 120,000 editors have taken advantage of this generous offer.

"The NLE field is very competitive," said Andy Liebman, founder and CEO of EditShare, "and frankly, nobody knew how to finance the development that the Lightworks system needed. So we decided to take a different route and ask editors and developers around the world to provide their input to making this a successful open source system. All of EditShare's products have always benefited from very efficient software development."

Among other features, the Lightworks system in its present incarnation offers a timeline that is resolution, format and codec independent; multicam editing with unlimited sources; real-time effects in SD, HD and 2K; and all of the usual editing tools and tricks that post pros have come to expect including Media Composer and Final Cut Pro keyboard mapping capabilities.

It can cut stereo video tracks for 3D projects without the need to create new muxed files, and EditShare even found a way to add convergence adjustments to help Thelma Schoonmaker post Martin Scorsese's current "Hugo" (formerly "Hugo Cabret") 3D production.

"We are building an international community of Lightworks users, with many of them helping each other as much as they are helping us," Liebman said, "and we think a reliable open source version will be a good complement to the rest of our shared storage products. We hope to release the parts of the source code that do not involve proprietary, licensed technology as soon as we can. This will provide editors with a complete, working NLE and, hopefully, encourage developers to contribute to its growth."


One of the most enthusiastic members of that international community is U.K.-based editor Chris Gill who cut "28 Days Later" and "The Invention of Lying." Gill has won several honors using various digital editors, including two Royal Television Society awards for "Touching Evil" in 1997 and "Crime and Punishment" in 2002.

"When Lightworks Open Source is released, I'm looking forward to being a town crier for it," he beams. "One of its great advantages is that Lightworks is the only system that can interface with every other NLE. That means I can work on Lightworks while another editor is using Apple's Final Cut Pro and an assistant is doing his or her job on an Avid Media Composer. The others are good editing systems, but in my mind, Lightworks is the best."

One reason Gill is such a fan is because of the speed with which he can edit on Lightworks. "The console is amazingly intuitive, with everything you need right at your fingertips," he said. "It's almost like playing an instrument. We couldn't have finished '28 Days Later' on time without it."

And his hopes for the new version?

"Once the new Lightworks Open Source system is released, I think we will all jump back onto it," Gill predicts. "All the colleges, all the students who have experimented with the beta version will make it spring forth and challenge the mainstream NLEs."

The beta version of Lightworks can be downloaded at www.lightworksbeta.com.

Jay Ankeney is a freelance editor and post-production consultant based in Los Angeles. Write him at JayAnkeney@mac.com.