Non-destructive editing is a form of of audio, video or image editing where the original content is not modified in the course of editing – instead the edits themselves are edited by specialized editing software. A pointer-based playlist – effectively an edit decision list (EDL) – for video or a directed acyclic graph for still images is used to keep track of edits. Each time the edited audio, video, or image is rendered, played back, or accessed, it is reconstructed from the original source and the subsequent editing steps. Although this process is more computationally intensive than rendering each edit, changing the edits themselves can be almost instantaneous, and it prevents further generation loss as the audio, video, or image is edited.
A non-linear editing system (NLE) is a video (NLVE) or audio editing (NLAE) digital audio workstation (DAW) system that performs non-destructive editing on source material. The name is in contrast to 20th century methods of linear video editing and film editing.