There was a time when film editor Kevin Tent would spend months in dark suites in Los Angeles, piecing together movies such as 1992’s “Guncrazy’’ from reels of film.
But for “The Descendants, a contender for this year’s Best Picture Oscar, Tent and director Alexander Payne spent two weeks working on laptops in an Italian villa owned by George Clooney, the star of the film. The difference? Tent now cuts his movies with software made by Avid Technology Inc., a company far from the glamour of Hollywood, in the unlikely entertainment hub of Burlington.
“I started out cutting film,’’ said Tent, “but as soon as I got the opportunity to work with an Avid system, I never looked back.’’
If you like to pick Oscar winners, Avid would be a safe bet to make a good showing at this Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony. The company’s editing tools were used on seven of the nine Best Picture nominees this year, including “The Help, “Moneyball, and “War Horse. For the past 11 years, every nominee for a sound editing Oscar has used Avid tools.
“Avid is the firm that is most associated with high-end editing,’’ said Douglas I. Sheer, chief executive at DIS Consulting Corp., an entertainment media research firm in Livingston Manor, N.Y. “And you can’t get any higher than major motion pictures.’’
Avid, which has 600 employees in Massachusetts and 2,0000 worldwide, was founded in 1987 by former Apollo Computer executive Bill Warner, now a Cambridge-based angel investor.
The company pioneered a method for copying videotape footage to digital hard disks in real time. Instead of fast-forwarding or rewinding through hours of tape, editors could quickly get right to any single frame in a film or video without having to pore through all the footage surrounding it. That changed the way videos and films are cut.
Avid also gave editors and directors the ability to cut film without altering the master elements, so they can easily go back to the original shots if they have another idea or something does not work. It laid the foundation for the digital revolution in film, migrating most movie editing to video systems.
Avid also makes dozens of other hardware and software products in the broad audio-visual sector, ranging from headphones to broadcast newsroom management software to electronic keyboards.
In recent years, Avid has suffered from competition, particularly from Apple Inc.’s Final Cut Pro editing software, which was embraced by many independent filmmakers. (Adobe Systems Inc. also makes a professional editing software suite, called Premiere.)
But in 2011, Apple released a new version of Final Cut Pro that removed some of its professional capabilities. The customer backlash may have helped Avid as it struggles to grow again.
In October, Avid reduced its staff by 10 percent in an effort “to improve operational efficiencies.’’ Avid’s revenues for 2011 were $677.9 million, compared with revenues of $678.5 million for the same period in 2010.
After topping $22 a share early last year, Avid’s stock plunged as low as $5.76 after the company projected earnings that disappointed analysts. It has since rebounded to the $11 range. It closed yesterday at $11.77.
Kirk Arnold, Avid’s chief operating officer, said the company aims to expand its reach.
“We’ve become very focused on the student/education market,’’ she said, pointing out that students are eligible to buy both Media Composer and Pro Tools for $295 each, steep discounts on the prices the company charges professionals.
Sheer said the competition from companies such as Apple and Adobe is real at the consumer level, but Avid does not have to worry about losing its lock on the high end of the market.
“As soon as those consumers and students start to transcend being consumers and students, and they start doing anything professional,’’ he said, “they will start moving toward Avid.’’
D.C. Denison can be reached at email@example.com.