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Glossary of EDITING terms
Cutting: the point at which one camera shot moves instantly to another
• Shot/reverse shot – this is an editing pattern that cuts to the view in the opposite direction.
It is most commonly used in dialogue, cutting from one speaker to the other, following a
master shot that has shown us where the speakers are standing.
• Eyeline match – part of continuity editing, where we see a character look in a particular
direction then the next cut gives a shot of what they see
• Graphic match – is when we cut (or more often transition, such as a cross fade) to a shot
showing an object of a very similar shape in the same place on the screen. For example, a
shot of a round traffic light crossfades into a shot of the rising sun where the round sun
emerges through the circle formed by the traffic light.
• Action match – this is part of continuity editing where a shot of a character making an
action is followed by a cut to a shot of the next (or a subsequent) logical action. For
example, we see a character reach for a door handle and open the door by 30 cm. We then
cut to the other side to see the door swing open and the same character walk through.
Here, after the cut, the door must be open by at least 30 cm for the continuity to look right.
• Jump cut – unusual edit pattern and not to be used when we actually mean ‘cut’. A jump
cut is where a few frames have been removed from a continuous action, giving a jerky,
unnaturalistic feel to the presentation of the action. It is an arty device to make the drama
look more edgy
• Crosscutting – a cut to a piece of action that is happening at the same time (concurrently),
or, perhaps, in and out of a series of flashbacks (which show the past but are memories
happening concurrently inside a character’s head).
• Parallel editing – running two or more sequences of action that are happening at the same
time and we cross cut between them – see episode 1 of Criminal Justice (2009) where Joe
Miller is trying to phone his wife and we see what he is doing and what is wife is doing at
the same time but in different places.
• Insert – a cut from a wide shot or a master shot to a closer shot of detail that is already
within the first shot. A good example of this is football coverage where we can see much of
the pitch but when something interesting happens we cut down to the 2 or 3 players
involved seen from a similar angle. An insert must not be confused with a zoom because
we go from the master shot to the insert in one cut: an insert is an edit whereas a zoom is a
form of camera movement (even though it is technically possible in post production using
digital editing software!).
• Cutaway – a cut from the main action to a piece of related action somewhere elsewhere or
just outside the frame. Eg a group of people talking inside a house cut to someone coming
up the drive (to join or challenge the group).
• Long take – ‘take’ refers to the length of time the camera is running between edits (cuts or
transitions). A long take means that we do not see an edit fro a long period of time. They
can be used effectively to slow time or to create the impression of a busy place. A busy
place might be a pub in a soap opera where a character enters, the camera zooms out and
pans to follow them to the bar, they buy a drink and the camera follows them to their seat,
creating a master shot of the group they are with before we cut to close ups and shot
reverse shot of the conversation.
• Short take – the opposite of a long take. This is used in montage and means we have rapid
edits from shot to shot.
Visible/Invisible editing – constructing the narrative style
• Invisible editing – is a style of editing where the joining of shots is discreet and does not
draw attention to itself. It is visible to a media student but unlikely to be noticed by the
average member of the audience. This is also known as Classical editing and has grown
out of the Hollywood tradition of ‘recreating reality’ on the screen. Verisimilitude style drama
will tend to use invisible editing so that we forget that what we see is being manipulated by
the editor or director.
• Visible editing – is a more arty style, used increasingly often to mark out a new or different
style to the programme. Its origins are in early Russian cinema, as opposed to Hollywood,
where directors experimented with bizarre editing to make particular points and effects.
Visible editing is meant to remind us we are watching an artefact, a construct or filmed
version of real life, not real itself. Jump cuts, weird transitions, Eisenstinain montage, crash
zooms and speeded up action characterise visible editing.
Editing the passage of time – controlling the pace and revealing the narrative
• Slow motion – slows the action down from real time speed. This is editing because it is
achieved digitally in post-production and cannot be created while the camera is rolling.
• Ellipsis – is where a cut does not go to the next instant of drama but leaves a gap, which
could be seconds, minutes, hours, months or even years. Sometimes an ellipsis is denoted
by a caption “Six months later…” or a reference within the. Ellipsis can be indicated by
changes in the ambient sound – eg The Street where cuts take us to the middle of the night
(no juke box music just a car passing in the distance) then to the morning (no single cars
but traffic and the sound of buses).
• Montage – compresses time and gives a series of short takes (see above) indicating the
events in between one narrative point and another, often accompanied by non-diegetic
music to heighten the dramatic quality of the events. They often fade out at the end.
Examples include The Street where the working day and getting ready for a beer is
compressed into a series of shots underscored by a soundbridge of bluesy dramatic music
and, of course, ‘I need a montage’ in Team America.
• Expansion of time – is the opposite of ellipsis and montage. It is usually achieved by slow
motion or using long takes. We are so used to reading editing and short takes that editing
choices to include long takes slow time down. An example using a ticking clock would be
where we see the clock at, say, 010 but cut to a montage giving extra information that takes
10 seconds in real time; when we cut back to the clock it reads 005 – time has been
expanded by the editing
Transitions other than cuts – determining pace and editing style
• Dissolve – where the image appears gradually to break into tiny particles, usually leaving
the next shot to emerge from behind
• Crossfade – where the current shot fades out at the same rate as the next shot fades in.
Pausing halfway through should show both shots mixed together. The speed of crossfades
can influence the pace of the drama.
• Fade out – the current shot fades – usually to black.
• Fade in – the opposite of a fade out. A pattern of fade out followed by fade in suggests a
conclusion to the previous unit of drama and the beginning of a new one, or could separate
out a flashback sequence. By comparison, a crossfade suggests the unit of drama is
• Wipe – one of many digitally created effects where the new shot appears to cross the
screen, pushing the current shot out of the way. This can appear from any side or corner of
the screen. There are many variations of this made possible by digital editing – the effect of
the ‘film’ catching fire and burning away the current shot is an extreme example. This kind
of effect is rare in TV Drama as it belongs to visible editing style, which destroys
verisimilitude. You are more likely to find these effects in sports programmes or pop videos.
Special Effects/Visual Effects
• CGI – Computer Generated Imaging all digitally created effects are covered by the editing
section – eg the dragon in Merlin
• Superimposition – where two or more pieces of film are blended so that they appear at the
same time. This can be achieved by blue or green screen techniques where an actor is
filmed against a background of a consistent blue or green. This colour can then be digitally
extracted and the film of the person layered on to another piece of film so the person
appears against a different background. Eg Merlin talking to the dragon.
• Post-production – this refers to anything that is brought in at the editing stage