The Best Editor on the Planet?

Is it me, or does this business of calling the machine the “editor” seem inappropriate to you? Last time I looked, editing was my job. The machine is a tool — a better tool, sure, but something that only works in the hands of a skilled and creative human being. Calling the machine the editor is like calling a hammer a carpenter or a pipe wrench a plumber.

Last year Avid added to the confusion by using the advertising tagline “the best editor on the planet.” I tend to agree with the sentiment — for me, the Media Composer remains the best piece of software for the work I do. But it’s a tool. We never called a Moviola or a KEM an editor. And we don’t call Photoshop a designer.

Maybe this use of the word has its origin at big facilities. If you’re dealing with 25 or 100 systems, buying them, upgrading them, making sure they work, then maybe you start calling them editors. You don’t really think about the people — as far as your balance sheet is concerned, the room and whatever is in it is indeed the editor.

In the early years of the digital revolution, the mantra of the entire industry was that the software was just a tool, a much better tool, sure, but something that only worked in the hands of a skilled and creative human being. Avid advanced that perspective very consistently. The Media Composer will allow you to be more creative. It can’t edit for you, you don’t want it to do that and we don’t claim that it can. It won’t put you out of a job.

Today, Avid marketing seems to have forgotten that fundamental point. To me, and I’ll wager, to a lot of people like me, calling the machine the editor is at best tone deaf and at worst, downright disrespectful. As we ramp up to this year’s NAB, I hope that Avid retires that tagline as soon as possible.

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6 Comments on “The Best Editor on the Planet?”

  1. christopher Says:

    excellent point. that’s incredibly insensitive of their marketing department. i would not say it’s tone-deaf, it’s ridiculously conceited and shows a serious lack of respect for their customer base.

  2. Claude LaVallee Says:

    Such a tagline appears to betray a fundamental lack of understanding of what editing actually entails. This seems to be an extension of the now common misconception that anyone who has access to an editing system can edit; that an editor is basically a machine operator. This tagline, although catchy, takes things a step further however, turning editing into a machine driven operation, rather than a human endeavor.
    I think that with the growing interest in and popularity of editing, fostered largely by increased accessibility of both consumer and professional editing tools, there might be an opportunity (responsibility?) to educate people, and demonstrate the contribution great editing makes on the impact of a film, and how great editing happens (and, conversly, the results of clumsy editing). This could be especially pertinent, now that creating videos has become almost as essential a communication tool for the average person as writting is.
    Drawing classes teach how to draw, not just use a pencil; writing classes teach how to tell a story or convey a message, not just use word processing software; editing classes should teach how to edit, not just how to use software. And all three of these activities, at their best, can help express truths from deep within the human soul, to touch other souls. Machines can’t do that, at least not yet.

  3. H. Martinez Says:

    There’s a feature right now on the avid website on filmmaker Joseph Kahn, where he vents on this subject as he explain that nobody really talks about editing…because they just don’t know about it…and that the way these tools are marketed today make everybody feel like an editor just because they are able to use them.

    What strikes me as odd, is that they (Avid) markets their MC software as “the best editor” on the planet, yet, on the same website you have Kahn, a guy with a terrific body of work saying that these things are just tools and that the process really happens in the editor’s head…

    Would people get confused if they thought of that? I wonder how many copies has avid sold on newbies recently…

  4. christopher Says:

    perhaps the discussion shouldn’t be about whether or not a newbie can edit. everyone can edit – the democratization of the tools has happened now essentially, and like many other arts this one is now open to all. this is nothing new. everyone can edit, just like everyone can draw or paint. it doesn’t mean you should hire them to do it.

    right now perhaps we don’t recognize the difference in editing skills (indeed anything involving a computer), whereas we’ve all grown up trying to paint and recognizing we’re not rembrandt. it’s the same thing with writing screenplays. i constantly run into people who think it’s a fairly simple thing to do and if they just took a little bit of time their great idea would also be a blockbuster.

    because everyone can write.

  5. Drew Says:

    So true.
    Tell me if I’m bringing a well-discussed observation: did you notice that the splash screen for the newest MC features solely ENG work? Did Avid forget its one or two loyal customers that do narrative, or god forbid, film work (see ACE survey)? Negligible, but symbolic.


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