Ch. 2 - Editing and the Sound Film

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Lecture notes for Ch. 2 from "The Technique of Film Editing."

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Ch. 2 - Editing and the Sound Film

  1. 1. Chapter 2: Editing and the Sound Film THE TECHNIQUE OF FILM EDITING
  2. 2. o “The development of film technique… has been primarily the development of editing.” –Ernest Lindgren o The introduction of sound lead to a regression.  All dramatic effects derived from soundtrack.  Picture was simply a background.  Resulted in a dull and unimaginative presentation.  Microphones had to be static on the set. o Despite much resistance, sound in synch with the picture survived by giving the director yet another means to deliver the message.  Inessentials can be communicated without wasting shots.  Subtle hints in the dialogue or soundtrack. o Two main changes that sound has brought.  Greater economy in story-telling.  High standard in realistic presentation.
  3. 3. WHO EDITS A FILM? o The Order of Shots  In silent films, Director and Editor worked with much freedom.  In sound films, the picture is often locked to the dialogue or sound effects. • Because of this, order of shots must be planned early in production. • In a sense the script controls the order of shots. o Selection of Camera Set-ups: Emphasis  Much the same since Griffith first applied it.  Outlined in script by Writer.  Director has input during production.  With a lot of coverage the Editor will assemble how they deem fit.  Although planning is the best course of action.
  4. 4. o Timing  In silent films, controlled by the rate of cutting; timing determined by their visual content.  In sound films, the Editor can achieve effects not inherent in the picture or soundtrack individually. • Use L-cuts to carry sound from one shot to another; i.e. reaction shots in a dialogue scene. • Play sound and picture in parallel or in counterpoint. • Often minute adjustments that are tough to pre-plan before the material is shot. o Presentation: Smoothness  There is an inherent abruptness in cutting between shots.  German-filmmakers the first to attempt cutting on movement in a shot.  Constructing a smoothly flowing continuity is the main preoccupation of the modern Editor.  Most duties are now shared between Writer, Director, and Editor.
  5. 5. THE CONTRIBUTION OF EDITING o Ultimately, who contributes to the edit will vary from production-to-production.  British productions, the Director is the key figure. • Collaborates on shooting script. • Supervises editing. • Final continuity rests with Director and Editor.  Hollywood productions, Director follows the writer’s directions in the script. • The Producer is more concerned with the creative process. • Producer supervises editing process.  Not always the case, there are exceptions. • Preston Sturges, John Huston; writes and directs. • Charlie Chaplin; writes, produces, and directs. • John Ford; produces. • Orson Welles; solely responsible for Citizen Kane.
  6. 6. o Who should ideally be responsible for writing?  Thorold Dickinson presents a strong case that the Director should control the script.  Others propose a Director/Writer/Editor partnership.  The Director should normally be in charge. • Responsible for planning the visual continuity during shooting. • Implies control over the edit so it matches the vision on the floor.  Most Directors want control but do not insist on writing. • Writing dialogue takes a special skillset. • Writer must have a talent for imaginative visual treatment.  When a Director is made to shoot a tight script, film can be static and wordy.  In Hollywood, script is written for the star; not necessarily for the story. • Exploit the star’s drawing power at the box office. • Sometimes good films emerge, but not often the case. • Too many creative concessions have to be made in the name of screen time.
  7. 7.  Some films do not owe primary appeal to the Director. • Preston Sturges films; work of a brilliant dialogue writer.  Sullivan’s Travels (1941)  The Lady Eve (1941) • Good musicals often recognize the Dance Director. • Cecil B. deMille epics; Set Designer is a key figure.  The Ten Commandments (1956)  Cleopatra (1934) • These films tend to indulge in their own stylistic distortion and do not focus on reality. • When authenticity and realism is the goal the Director must be mainly in charge.
  8. 8. SPECIAL STYLES OF EDITING o Actual sound created an issue in editing.  Action sequences are problematic.  Visuals are not connected physically, the actual sound of each shot can become a meaningless jumble of sounds when cut in rapid succession.  Must have a unifying soundtrack; music or sound effects. o Early filmmakers in the sound period used symbolism for effect.  Alfred Hitchcock, Blackmail (1929) • Uses a painting of a laughing clown.  Rouben Mamoulian, City Streets (1931) • Ornamental cats as a sign of jealousy. • Shot of birds in flight outside a prison to symbolize freedom beyond the bars. • Snuffing a match to allude to a murder.
  9. 9. o Introduction of sound caused filmmakers to focus on realistic narrative and resulted in a discarding of silent film techniques of indirect visual allusion by choice not by limitations of technology.  Ernest Lindgren argues that there was no need to abandon these techniques. • Subjective commentary should always be a natural part of the story’s setting.  The Russians broke this convention in some of their best works.  In October, Eisenstein satires religious ceremonies by using images from religious locations from around the world, completely ignoring the story’s natural locale. o British documentaries of the 1930’s further developed Eisenstein’s theory.  Relational Editing, editing to an idea o With Relational Editing and Compilations, the Editor assumes an important role; similar to the silent era. o “At present, one can only hopefully anticipate the films of some future Director, working in the sound medium, but with the freedom of a Griffith, an Eisenstein, or a Dovzhenko.”

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