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 and is unusual in
verisimilitude TV drama styles although drama aimed at a teen or 20
something target audience eg BBC Three might use it – Being Human, for
example and the work of film director Jean-Luc Godard in the film Breathless.
• 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
• 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 great example of the long take slowing
everything down is at the end of the 1967 film The Graduate where Dustin
Hoffman's character, Ben, has driven across California to stop his
sweetheart's wedding: his car runs out of petrol half a mile from the church
and he finishes the journey on foot. 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 shot – eg Paradox extract, DI Flint leaves her car in the
car park, cut to OS shot in the lift where we can see from the display that she
has already reached floor 2. 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. In ‘Paradox,’ after the ellipsis to get DI Flint into the lift, we see the
display click each floor up to number 7; although this does not take long, the
fact that we are now in real time appears to slow the action and heighten the
tension we feel about what she will meet when the lift doors open. See also
example from The Graduate above. Another 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 (thanks to Mas
del Vecchio for this example).
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 continuing.
• 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