About EDLs

In the days of linear tape editing, EDLs were used to save and restore the timecode information for each edit performed on a computer-controlled editing system. Because timecode editing systems were expensive, many editors would perform offline edits with window dubs (low-quality copies of original footage with timecode visually superimposed, or burned, directly onto the image) and then create an EDL by hand for delivery to a computer-controlled editing system for the online edit.

If you need to move a project to or from a different system or editing workstation, you can export your project to an interchange file format such as EDL or Final Cut Pro XML Interchange Format. For example, EDLs are commonly used in DI (digital intermediate) workflows with Color.

You should also export your sequence to an EDL when you are transferring it to an older, tape-to-tape system, or to a system that doesn’t recognize more recent interchange formats (such as OMF, AAF, or the Final Cut Pro XML Interchange Format). Because EDLs are relatively simple, they are still the lowest-common-denominator file format for exchanging edit information between editing systems.

Learning to Read an EDL

An EDL contains the same basic clip information as a Final Cut Pro sequence, but the presentation is very different. Because EDLs originated with linear, tape-to-tape editing systems, each event is described in terms of a source tape and a record (or master) tape.

Note: This section describes components of an EDL using the CMX 3600 EDL format. Other formats may vary slightly.

In an EDL, each clip in your sequence is represented by a line of text called an event, which has a unique event number. A clip in an EDL is defined by a source reel name and two pairs of timecode In and Out points. The first pair of timecode numbers describes the source tape (or clip) In and Out points. The second pair describes the timecode location where that clip should be placed onto a master tape (or Timeline).

Figure. Timeline window showing clips identified as events.
Figure. Master EDL window showing the components of an EDL list.

Tip: To better understand how an EDL describes edit information from your sequence, try exporting a simple sequence with just a few cuts to an EDL, and then compare your Final Cut Pro sequence to the EDL.

Elements of an EDL

The elements of an EDL are described in the following sections.

Title and Sequence Timecode Format

The first line of an EDL contains the title of the sequence. In NTSC sequences, the second line displays whether the sequence timecode is drop frame or non-drop frame.

Event Number

An event number uniquely identifies each event in the EDL. An EDL event requires two lines if more than one source is used. For example, a dissolve requires one line for the outgoing shot and a second line for the incoming shot.

001004VC04:31:13:04 04:31:22:23 01:00:00:00 01:00:10:00
001014VD030 14:27:03:03 14:27:25:22 01:00:10:10 01:00:30:00

Reel Name

A reel name describes which source tape (or reel) the clip comes from. Final Cut Pro assumes that clips without reel names come from non-tape sources, such as color bars, black, or other generators. Final Cut Pro automatically designates these auxiliary sources with the reel name AX.

Important: Make sure all clips with timecode sources have reel names before exporting an EDL, or you won’t be able to easily re-create your sequence when you open the EDL on another editing system.

Track Type

Each edit uses one or more tracks in the sequence. In the case of tape-to-tape editing, this field determines which tracks are turned on on the record deck during this event.

  • V: Video
  • A: Audio (Some EDL formats label this 1 or 2.)
  • A2: Audio 2
  • AA: Both channels of audio

Video track V1 is the only video track exported. Clips on video track V2 appear as key effect (K) over the V1. Video tracks V3 and above are ignored during EDL export.

Edit (or Transition) Type

An EDL can represent several kinds of video edits, or transitions. A cut requires a single source, while all other types of edits require two sources, and thus two lines in an EDL.

  • C: Cut. This is the simplest kind of edit.
  • D: Dissolve. This transition begins with one source and dissolves to a second source.
  • W: A wipe. This is followed by a wipe code that indicates the type of standard wipe.
  • K: A key edit. Clips on Video track 2 can be used as the foreground (fill) layer in a standard video key.

A dissolve from a Final Cut Pro sequence is shown below in EDL format.

Figure. Timeline window showing a cross dissolve transition.
001002VC02:10:42:13 02:11:16:18 01:00:00:00 01:00:34:05
001002VD024 02:18:32:07 02:18:56:19 01:00:34:05 01:00:58:17

Transition Duration

The duration of a transition (in frames) follows the transition type. For example, D 024 indicates a 24-frame dissolve.

Source In and Out, Record In and Out

In each line of an EDL, the first pair of timecode numbers are the source In and Out points. The second pair are the record In and Out points, which correspond to the clip’s location in the Timeline.

Edits that use transitions such as dissolves or wipes require two lines. The first line represents the source before the transition, and the second line is the source after the transition.

On tape-to-tape editing systems, the tapes containing the two shots are loaded in two video decks—VTR A and VTR B. To perform a dissolve or wipe, the edit controller plays both decks simultaneously and uses a hardware video switcher to create the transition effect as it’s recording on the final master tape. However, when both shots in a dissolve, wipe, or key are on the same reel, it is impossible to perform the effect in a tape-based editing suite. This is because the tape cannot be in both places at the same time. For a workaround to this problem, see Settings and Options in the EDL Import Dialog.

Split edits, where the video and audio have separate In and Out points, require three lines.

Figure. Timeline window showing a split edit.
SPLIT: VIDEO DELAY= 00:00:02:00
004002AAC02:18:30:07 02:18:56:19 01:00:32:05 01:00:58:17
004002VC02:18:32:07 02:18:56:19 01:00:34:05 01:00:58:17

The first line indicates which track is delayed and by how much, the second line indicates the track (audio or video) that plays through the entire edit duration, and the third line contains the delayed track.


An EDL can store notes, indicated by a line starting with an asterisk (*), between event lines. Notes can be used to clarify events for the editor receiving the EDL, and can include information that the EDL cannot store directly. For example, an EDL can’t directly store audio levels of a clip, but the audio level can be stored in the EDL as a note. In the EDL Export dialog, you can choose to export one of the Master Comments 1–4 or Comments A–B.

001002AA/VC02:10:42:13 02:11:16:18 01:00:00:00 01:00:34:05
* OPACITY LEVEL AT 02:10:45:20 IS 0.00%(REEL 002)
* OPACITY LEVEL AT 02:10:49:12 IS 100.00%(REEL 002)
* AUDIO LEVEL AT 02:10:43:07 IS -INF DB(REEL 002 A1)
* AUDIO LEVEL AT 02:10:51:16 IS +0.00 DB(REEL 002 A1)

Limitations of EDLs

Today’s nonlinear editing systems store much more information about clips and sequences than older tape-to-tape systems. When you export a sequence as an EDL, only the most basic edit information is retained. To assure that your sequence is exported accurately, it’s a good idea to keep the sequence simple. An EDL can represent only a single sequence, not an entire project.

For the best EDL results, avoid using the following elements in your sequence:

  • Nested sequences

  • Clips on video tracks above V2

  • Video and audio filters

  • Motion and filter parameters and keyframes

  • Non-SMPTE standard transitions

If you need to modify a sequence to prepare it for EDL export, duplicate the sequence and work on the copy instead. This way you can always get back to the original sequence if necessary. In the duplicated sequence, remove motion settings, filters, and nonstandard transitions. Move all clips to video track V1. You can use video track V2 for superimposed (key) effects, such as titles.

Important: If you name disks and folders with double-byte characters, Final Cut Pro may not be able to export or import EDLs. To avoid this problem, export to or import from disks and folders with names that do not contain double-byte characters.