MICRO ELEMENTS OF FILM : Part 6EDITINGEditing is the process of selecting and arranging shots to reproduce the scenes in the screenplay. A film willbe organised or edited in a way that attempts to hide the fact that scenes are made up of many differentshots. The type of editing in the sequence you have chosen for your micro study can be used to giveinformation about characters, narrative and the messages conveyed.THE PROCESSFilms are not shot chronologically (in story order). All the scenes from one location are shot togetherdespite where they appear in the film.When the editor receives the material, he/she receives them in this shooting order and not the story order,so must begin to piece them together. Placing whole scenes next to other whole scenes is only thebeginning of the editor’s job and constitutes a very ‘rough assembly’. Rarely are whole scenes done in oneshot (or set-up) and rarely are they simply placed next to each other, but instead have to be cut andinterwoven to make an interesting way of telling the story. The story order will generally have beendecided at the script stage but it can alter, sometimes radically, in post-production (editing).In mainstream film ‘classic continuity editing’ devised in the early days of cinema is often used. This kind ofediting is generally deemed will done if it is ‘seamless’ or ‘invisible’ and one shot leads smoothly into thenext.When we are watching a film we often do not notice the editing if it is done in this way as it is deliberatelyunobtrusive and allows the viewer to get engrossed in the story.Editing is the first of the cinematic codes, which is part of post-production as opposed to production. Thismeans it is a process which largely takes place after all the footage has been shot, and in so simple terms isabout ‘piecing it all together’. The editor’s physical job is to join the end of one shot to the beginning ofanother in a way that will make sense (construct the story to narrative) and run smoothly. The editor isalso responsible for putting together the initial ‘rough’ sound track. (On a large film the sound editor willeventually take over this role as the editor becomes mainly a picture editor). TYPES OF EDITING You need to be aware of two main types of editing. CONTINUITY EDITINGEnsures that the narrative of the film is continuous and unbroken. Continuity editing preserves thechronology of the story in a film and gives the impression of real time. Time does not jump around withcontinuity editing; it moves forward in the way the audience would expect. They may involve FLASHBACKS,but ultimately the story moves forwards in time in a way that is easily understandable.Continuity editing offers us some basic rules about editing that have stood the test of time. The editorbasically organises and has control over three important factors in the finished film: Space Time Rhythm
The organisation of space on screen is vital if the audience are not to be confused. Much of what takesplace in the world of the film happens off screen and the off-screen space has to be constructed as well asthat on-screen. When people on screen talk to one another it must appear as though they are doingexactly that even if they do not share the same shot. As film is not usually in a 3D format, making the flatscreen work convincingly is important. The editor follows some basic rules to ensure that this happens.SpaceEstablishing Shot : As mentioned in the section on cinematography the establishing shot is the initial shotof a scene as well as the first shot of a film and the editor will employ it to help the audience locate thespace they are being drawn into.For example, if we begin a scene with a man standing at a washbasin we have no idea where he issupposed to be. His home? A public lavatory? Usually an establishing shot will precede this shot to showthe location of the washbasin and therefore tell us something about the character. A brief shot of the doorto the gents’ toilet in say, a department store, will immediately locate the audience in the space beingcreated for them.TimeAs well as spatial relationships, the editor also has control over temporal relationships in the film. Thissimply refers to the organisation of time throughout the film.By this we mean not only the physical running time of the movie (on average about two hours) but, moreimportantly, the timescale within the story of the film, which can be anything from an hour to eons!Rarely is a film edited in real (actual) time where one minute on screen represents one minute in real life,although it is not unheard of. It often takes a lot longer in real life to do something than it does in themovies. Distances can be covered quickly and time can elapse at a fast pace in the film world. This is calledthe compression of time.RhythmThe rhythm of the editing, or the pace, is vital in creating different kinds of meaning and expectation forthe audience.Leaving a ‘beat’ at the end of a shot often adds a cinematic quality and a chance for the audience to breathand sense the closure of the scene; for example, holding the shot of a door for a few extra seconds as itcloses behind a character will often indicate reflection.This is very unlike TV editing of say, soap operas, which, with their fast turnaround and strict time limit, cutvery quickly from shot to shot. This is determined by the length (the duration) of each shot.A typical action sequence will ‘build’. The editing immediately before the climactic car chase will havelonger, slower shots which gradually get shorter in length and so quicker. At the height of the action thecutting will often be at a rapid pace with very short shots, although not too short.Immediately after the climactic scene the shots being to lengthen and slow, which indicates to theaudience that they can now relax. MONTAGE EDITINGMontage editing is entirely different from continuity editing. The term describes rapid movement betweendifferent images, which may seem to conflict with each other. The generation of real time is not the goal ofa montage sequence. The conflicting images you see are used to generate meaning rather than anapproximation of real time. They may seem to have no connection with each other but viewed so closelytogether and at such speed you may find that the filmmaker is making a point about or offering an opinionon a particular subject. Task 1 : Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein is a classic example of Montage editing.
Watch the ‘Odessa Steps’ scene and explain why.A MONTAGE sequence is where associated images are connected often by using a series of dissolves. Oneshot ‘melts’ into the other continually for several minutes. The meaning, which we usually extract fromthis, is that a considerable amount of time is passing. Over the top of the montage sequence there willprobably be a soundtrack, usually significant music and when the track finishes so does the sequence.Montages are stereotypically used in romantic sequences to indicate couples falling in love or in gangsterfilms to indicate the maturing of the gangster or the serving of the prison sentence. There are, however,many other examples of them. As well as compressing time the editor is also able to stretch time and makeevents take longer than they would in reality.EXAMPLES: The ‘training’ montage sequences in the Rocky films starring Sylvester Stallone compress timeclassically as they follow his training regime. EDITING TECHNIQUESMatch on ActionMaking sure that action matches across shots and scenes is vitally important if the film is to make senseand not jar. If a character lights a cigarette in one shot then they must be smoking it in the next shot. If acharacter’s hair is parted on one side in one shot, then it must be parted on the same side in the next shotof them. It sounds simple but think about the shooting schedule for a film; shots in different locations maybe shot weeks apart, and if the character lights a cigarette and then in the film walks out into the streetthey are effectively entering a different location which may be filmed days later, by which time they haveforgotten exactly when they lit the cigarette and in which hand they were holding it. This is calledcontinuity and is the chief concern of the editor.We have all seen examples of bad continuity – in fact whole programmes are devoted to it – and to ensureit doesn’t happen a ‘continuity person’ will often sit on set making ‘continuity notes’ which means writingdown all the details of a shot so that if the shot is continued days later the scene can be recreated exactlyas it was. However, if the lack of continuity is not spotted (only high-budget films can often afford theluxury of a continuity person), it may be too expensive to go back and reshoot, so it has to be left in if thereis no way of cutting around it.Matching the action to make the on-screen space work also means that when actors are not physicallysharing the same shot it has to look as though they are sharing the same (off-screen) space. A charactertalking to another character off screen is only convincing if there is an eyeline match (remember, the otheractor is often not there for those shots and a member of the crew will fill in the off-screen lines). Again theeditor is responsible for matching this (although if it has not been shot correctly in the first place there islittle he/she can do with it).Eye Line MatchConversations, and for that matter any interaction between characters, will usually also require an eye-linematch in order to maintain continuity between edits. If character A is in a chair looking up at character Bwho is standing, when we cut to a close up of character A s/he should still be looking up, even if characterB is out of shot – and vice versa for a close up of character B. In other words, the direction of a character’sgaze needs to be matched to the position of the object they are looking at.Shot-Reverse-Shot
A common editing technique, which may make use of the eyelinematch. Again this organises off-screen space and makes thespatial relationships believable. An example of this could be aperson looking at something off screen (shot). We are thenshown what they are looking at (reverse), and then we cut backto the original person (shot). If we are not given the reverse orthe reverse is delayed (as is common in horror or thriller) then ithas a suspenseful or shocking effect.Cut AwaysMatching the action to organise space can also involve a cut-away. A cut-away is a lifesaver for editors as itallows them to literally cut away while they remove the intervening footage of the original shot. Forexample, in a scene where a character (schoolboy) rises from his chair and leaves his desk, heading for thedoor, instead of watching the whole journey from desk to door we can ‘cut away’ to something (anotherschoolboy, the teacher, a clock etc.) and then cut back to him as he opens the door and leaves. This is againa useful device in organising screen time and speeding up the action.The action is matched by direction. When characters or objects are all moving in one direction in one shotit makes spatial sense to have them moving in the same direction in the next shot. If the boy leaves to theright of the screen, he will emerge from the left of the screen in the next shot to create continuity.The 180 Degree RuleOne of the most important rules when it comes to the organisation of space on screen and continuity is the180 degree rule.The 180 degree dictates that the editor must not use, in a sequence, shots that cross an imaginary 180degree line of action (sometimes known as ‘crossing the line’). To understand why this is so, study thefollowing illustration of four cameras shooting two actors. (Remember, in film-making only one camera isused for a scene like this so not all cameras would be there simultaneously; treat each camera as the samecamera but moved into a different position).Occasionally the line is crossed deliberately by filmmakers to createconfusion or disorientation. You may notice the line being crossed infight sequences or chase scenes for example. When analysing how theediting creates meaning for the audience the spatial organisation is amajor factor in any analysis.Cross Cutting / Parallel CuttingParallel or cross-cutting is another way in which time is stretched. This is when two events are happeningsimultaneously in different locations. In effect the time frame is repeated each time. The editor will cutbetween one event and the other, which are usually connected, creating simultaneous action. This againcreates a sense of build-up but also in some cases a sense of dramatic irony.Cross or parallel cutting is an invaluable editing technique and is commonly used for building suspense.Example : At the end of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) we are aware that Tom is desperatelytrying to get rid of two shotguns, which he believes are incriminating evidence. However, we then cut to apub where his associates have just learned that the guns are worth a fortune. Suspense is built throughediting between Tom trying to dump the guns into the Thames and his associates desperately trying tophone him to stop him getting rid of the guns. In one respect, cross-cutting breaks the film’s continuity bysuddenly jumping to another scene; however, the close linking of together of the two scenes ensurecoherence.
Task 2: Look at the closing scene from The Godfather (Coppolla, 1972). Discuss with a partner how the editor uses parallel cutting and the meaning it creates for the spectator.Graphic MatchingIs also used to complement the rhythm of a scene. This is where shapes, colours and composition arematched to mirror or link one shot with another. For example, the spinning of a ceiling fan may cut to thespinning of helicopter blades, creating a graphic connection between the two images; a series of differentdoor slams in succession would constitute a graphic match. The connection is between the images ratherthan the action, and allows for a smoother or more visually stimulating transition.TASK – EDITING LESSON 2 - TECHNIQUESThe first element of editing which you will need to discuss is shot transition. One scene or shot maymove to another by using a cut. This is the simplest form of transition and is shown by aninstantaneous change from one shot to the next. Cuts are often not noticed by the viewer; a film canbe viewed without the viewer being distracted by the mechanics of the editing.A straight cut is just one way to move from shot to shot. Here are the others: o FADE UP (or FADE IN) : this is where the screen starts as one colour, usually black but it can also be white, and the image fades up through the black.Typical use: o FADE DOWN (or FADE OUT) : exactly the same as above but in reverse. The image fades into black or white, hence the term ‘fade to black’ at the end of most shooting scripts.Typical use: o WIPE: wipes can be vertical, horizontal or diagonal and the image on screen can be effectively ‘wiped’ either with black or with another image or with another character which is introduced over it.Typical use : o DISSOLVE: this is where two shots overlap and create a double image with the second image gradually ‘dissolving’ through the first. This may involve only two shots or multiple shots which continue with each shot dissolving into the next (as in the montage sequence). Dissolves when done well can be very creative and well composed. A good example of this is the famous shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho. When Marion lays dead at the end of the scene her staring eye dissolves beautifully into the rotating plughole; the two circular shapes merging are also an example of graphic matching.Typical Use :
Task 3 : Analyse the use of editing and the meanings generated for the audience in the following extracts.Remember you are looking for: a) Types of editing – CONTINUITY EDITING and MONTAGE EDITING b) Editing techniques - MATCH ON ACTION SHOT REVERSE SHOT EYELINE MATCH CUTAWAYS CROSS-CUTTING / PARALLEL CUTTING GRAPHIC MATCHING c) Editing Transitions - FADE IN FADE OUT DISSOLVE WIPEExtract 1 : Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960)Extract 2 : Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)Extract 3 : Trainspotting (Boyle, 1996)