Principles of Editing
Continuity and Discontinuity Editing; Temporal and Spatial
Classical Editing, Montage, Juxtaposition.
University of Calgary Drama 571
1. Sequence Shot
2. Cutting to
Zero Dark Thirty
The Birth of
Un Chien Andalou
Editing is an art (of rejection).
The basic building block of editing is the
“shot”(clip) and the fundamental tool is the “cut”
Editing, the basic creative force of film, is the
process by which the editor combines and
coordinates individual shots into a cinematic whole.
“Art of rejection.” Not uncommon in Hollywood for
ratio of unused to used footage to be as high as 20 to
1. Apocalypse Now was 100 to 1.
1. The Long Take (The Sequence Shot)
Sequence Shots contain no editing.
Early cinema relied entirely on “long-take” shot.
“Long Take” is not the same as “long shot.” A “take” is one run
of the camera that records a single shot.
Usually filmmakers use the long take selectively. One scene
will rely heavily on editing, another will be a long take. This
permits the director to associate certain aspects of narrative
form with different stylistic options (usually doco).
Example: Manufactured Landscapes
(Jennifer Baichwal, 2006) 90 minutes
A documentary about Edward Burtynsky
Burtynsky is internationally acclaimed for his large-scale
photographs of nature transformed by industry.
Manufactured Landscapes follows Burtynsky to China,
as he captures the effects of the country’s massive
industrial revolution. This film leads us to meditate on
human endeavour and its impact on the planet.
2. Continuity Editing
Ellipses or “Cutting to Continuity” tries to preserve the
fluidity of an event without literally showing all of it.
Cause and effect relationships are clearly set forth.
For example, a 45-minute action might take ten seconds
of screen time yet nothing essential is left out.
The 180 Degree Rule
Toward Interactivity …
2a. Dis-Continuity Editing
Temporal and Spatial Discontinuity
Storyline may weave several complex subplots
Film sequencing may jump around in time.
Flashbacks, flash forwards. (Eg. Cloud Atlas)
Spatial discontinuity suggests creative ways of
letting go of the 180 degree system.
Opens up action for creative uses as interactive
cinema or videogame narrative.
Lola Rennt (Tom Tykwer, 1998)
Tykwer also directed and produced Cloud Atlas (2012)
Style: Fiction (Classical) Toward Formalism
Plot Outline: Lola runs. To save her boyfriend's life.
Significant as being videogame-like
• In character building scenes
• Interactive “choose your own ending” scripting
• Incorporation of animation
• “Discontinuity editing,” breaking 180 degree rule.
Toward Interactivity … Cloud Atlas Plots and Subplots
Classical Editing -- DW Griffiths
Classical editing involves editing for dramatic intensity and
emotional emphasis rather than purely physical reasons.
Birth of a Nation (2’48”) by carefully selecting and juxtaposing
long, medium, and close shots, Griffiths constantly shifted
the spectator’s point of view -- consolidating, connecting,
contrasting, paralleling and so on.
The space and time continuum is radically altered “Thematic
montage” that stress the association of ideas.
Also perfected the conventions of the chase making use of
parallel editing-- alternation of shots of one scene with a
Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffiths, 1915)
Style: Classical (Hollywood Fiction)
AKA In the Clutches of the Ku Klux Klan
Heavily racist overtones but despite that, Birth of A
Nation is one of the most influential films of all
time. It features the rise of the Ku Klux Klan,
introduced as the picture's would-be heroes. The
famous classical editing depicts Griffith integrating
a love story in the midst of a race war Thrilling and
disturbing, at the same time.
Genre: Drama / War (more)
Montage “to assemble”
Soviet formalist filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein was interested in
exploring general principles that could be applied to a variety of
apparently different forms of creative activity.
He believed the function of artists is to capture a dynamic collision
of opposites -- to incorporate dialectical conflicts not only in the
subject matter of art but its techniques and forms.
He felt cinema was most comprehensive of the arts — incorporates
visual conflicts of painting and photography, the kinetic conflicts
of dance, the tonal conflicts of music, the verbal conflicts of
language, and character and action conflicts of fiction and drama.
He placed special emphasis on the art of editing. Battleship
Potemkin was conceived as an editing construction and it is most
famous for “The Odessa Steps” scene.
Un chien andalou
(Luis Bunuel/Salvador Dali, 1929)
Style: Avant Garde Formalism/Surrealism
Plot Outline: Un Chien Andalou consists of seventeen
minutes of abstract, surreal images and is a startling
example that almost any interpretation can be
drawn from the juxtaposed image montage. Every
scene is random and unconcerned with any other,
but there are items which are present throughout the
film. In some ways the repeated glimpses of these
things in situations where they shouldn't be adds to
the confused feel, enhanced by the off-putting and
nonsensical time-markers deployed.