Can EditShare's Lightworks Return to Prominence Among Editors?

After launching strong two decades ago, the business is now dominated by Avid.

Can Lightworks become the comeback story of the editing community?

In an effort to change the editing landscape, postproduction technology manufacturer EditShare on Tuesday launched a public beta of a major upgrade to its Lightworks system, which was used to cut Oscar contender The King’s Speech.

This beta program would set the stage for the release of Lightworks — for the first time — as free, open-source software in the first half of 2011.

EditShare, which acquired Lightworks in August 2009, aims to increase its user base with the free software; the company also offers additional hardware and support for the system.

Lightworks was launched two decades ago and was among the industry’s earliest computer-based nonlinear editing systems. But following multiple ownership changes, it lost significant momentum over the years, and today the business is dominated by Avid — whose Media Composer is the leading system in the feature community — and Apple’s Final Cut Pro.

Still, Lightworks has some notable fans. The technology is the editing system of choice for Martin Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker, who won Oscars for editing Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed (Aviator and Departed were cut on Lightworks systems.)

Tariq Anwar, who used the technology to cut The King's Speech, said: “Lightworks has been a far superior editing tool since its inception, and I am very happy to see EditShare's aggressive development of the new open source platform. I look forward to Lightworks’ continued growth.”

EditShare founder and president Andy Liebman said, based on early inquiries, more than 25,000 editors and developers could participate in the beta program. “We believe we can unleash a large community with developers,” he said.