Digital video editing is so engrained in our collective techno-consciousness. It seems absurd that film was once actually, you know, film, and that movies had to be assembled by hand on a huge table like this.
It’s a Steenbeck flatbed editor, and it was pretty ubiquitous in the film world until digital took over. In university, as a fresh young film student, I experienced painstakingly spooling film and magnetic tape through endlessly confusing rollers. It sucked.
The table doesn’t actually do any editing in and of itself. It merely controls playback. You would shuttle back and forth to the frame around which you wanted to make a cut, then you would place the film into a splicer, which would cut the film with a blade and stamp a piece of tape over the seam. So primitive! We were told as film students that editing the old-fashioned way at first would force a more sophisticated understanding of editing. Is that true? Does writing on paper force a greater understanding of the written word?
Here is a short video showing some of the process:
Believe it or not, Steenbeck is still in existence manufacturing flatbed editors. They mostly supply film archives and restoration houses with equipment these days. Here’s to the good ‘ol days!