This reminds me of the description of video editing done on the first Star Wars films. The book also mentioned the beginnings of computer graphics in general and the work done by luminaries by Catmull-Rom, Blinn & Perlin.
More to the point of editing, it mentioned they'd run a low-quality copy of the original film, splice and edit using some sort of edit table. When they were happy with the result, the original film was spliced identically using some sort of robot.
The analogy being with your comment is that it preserved as much as possible the original high quality material, rather than editing a copy of the master, and then copying the result again for distribution.