Long before Nightline became a part of ABC's evening lineup, Emmy Award-winning Gordon Swenson was busy editing broadcast productions on film, and later, on tape.
Swenson is one of six editors at Nightline. He came to ABC in 1977 as a film editor and has seen quite a few changes in his day, including ABC's recent switch to nonlinear editing. One of ABC's uses of Avid's nonlinear newsroom editing equipment is to cut down the interview section of the show for time requirements. They also edit entire segments from field tapes, such as the recent series on the Congo. The equipment allows the editors to pick what they want from the taped footage, capture it into digital form and play it back from the Avid. It also allows them to move pictures and sound around without doing it in real time.
According to Swenson, their material is first loaded onto a large Avid Unity for News server, which immediately allows the editors simultaneous access to that material from their respective editing suites while it is being recorded. This enables all six editors to work on one piece together.
The Nightline editing staff uses several Avid products to create each episode. These include the Unity for News server; Avid MediaManager, which manages everything on the server; Avid NewsCutter, which is the editing device and gives the editors unrestricted access to all media, and Avid iNEWS newsroom computer system, which handles the wires and script generation as well as the rundown of the show.
According to Swenson, the Avid system provides the Nightline editing staff with the ability to create many different versions or lengths of a story. Sometimes the staff is still expanding the story within minutes of airtime. The system's special effects and its ability to layer video and audio help shape each piece into a nice, clean package. The system's organizational abilities and color correction are also helpful tools for the staff.
“Its versatility is great, but it's also a wonderful tool to be creative and artistic with,” Swenson said. “You can always juggle things around and refine and refine, just moving things a tiny little bit. It's just a wonderful storytelling tool.”
The Avid system has changed the way the newsroom staff operates as well, Swenson said. They used to take feeds in from all over the world, and the producers would log in exactly what they were seeing on videotape and the time code of when it occurred. Now, all of that can be done through the ingest process. While the feed is coming in, locators are entered to identify selected shots, which enables the system to build a whole locator list that the producers and editors can look at instantly. They don't have to reel back and forth on tape like before. Swenson said they still do take information in on tape as a backup method, although it's clear that the staff would prefer to stick with the Avid system.
“Recently we had a scare where they thought we would have to go back to the videotape editing rooms and cut a show on tape. Half of us may have forgotten how. We didn't want to go back,” Swenson said.