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Lightworks Revamp Just Around the Corner

Postproduction is in a state of flux. As is well known by now, Apple’s latest Final Cut Pro iteration left a lot to be desired for professional editors, and competitors Avid and Adobe were quick to step in and lure away Final Cut users.

And now the newest competitor is also the oldest. Lightworks, one of the first viable nonlinear editing systems when it was first released in 1989, has been used by luminaries like Thelma Schoonmaker and has racked up a number of Oscars and other awards, including a technical Oscar and Emmy  for the system itself. It couldn’t maintain industry dominance, though, and slipped to third place behind Avid and FCP.

That’s all set to change, though, if the system’s new owners at EditShare have their way. The UK/US-based company purchased Lightworks in early 2010 and quickly announced their intention to make it software rather than turnkey, make it free, and make it  open source; their goal is to democratize and revolutionize editing again, the way NLEs did two decades ago, and get Lightworks into the hands of as many editors as possible.

A year ago the beta version was made available as a free download, and today was to be the day of the official launch. Last week, however, the company made the announcement that they were delaying the release until an unspecified date, citing problems with the Mac and Linux versions of the software, though Windows beta versions are still available for free download and OSX and Linux users can sign up for the alpha testing program. As the announcement on the Lightworks beta website says, “Obviously we are very keen to get the new version out, but we will only do this once we are confident that it meets the high standards demanded by our user community.” That’s the kind of respect to the professional postproduction community that was sorely missing in the FCPX rollout this summer.

So how will a new NLE system, supposedly as good as anything made by Avid, available for free or a low membership fee effect the postproduction industry? What about having the code available for anyone to tweak? How will EditShare’s business model effect Adobe, Apple, and Avid? The only thing that seems certain right now is that the future of postproduction has possibly never been as much up in the air as it is today, and those possibilities mean that no matter what happens indie filmmakers come out winners.

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