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96 using editing


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96 using editing

  1. 1. 1 Number Understanding and Using Editing M tudiesSedia Activity Here are four consecutive shots from Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (Denmark, 2000) What do you think is happening in this scene? ( You have probably worked out that the shots show a conversation between a woman and a policeman travelling in a police car. However, the audience have not seen all of the action in minute detail, they have been given an ‘edited’ version of the event. Four shots of action have been shown but this clearly is not the whole picture of what took place. For example, the viewer does not see how the characters got to the car, or the car being started. It is just assumed that the policeman must have started the car, taken the handbrake off etc. It appears quite natural that the audience can work out what is missing in this sequence. Quite how we are able to mentally see the whole picture is unclear but psychologist have referred to this ability to piece together the parts to make a whole as gestalt. Editing relies on gestalt and the audience’s ability to make narratives out of what they see and hear. When completing practical production work, you will need to be able to effectively use editing to tell a story so that audiences can understand the intended narrative. Definition Gestalt: a theory in Psychology that suggest, even though the mind only sees the parts, it fills in the gaps to create a whole. The aims of this factsheets are to: • provide a general introduction to editing • explain a range of useful editing techniques • provide some practical tips to creating a successful narrative in film and video coursework The Birth of Narrative Film In the earliest days of moving image there was hardly any editing. ‘Films’ were footage of actual events, such as a ship pulling into the harbour or a train passing by. These films did not have much of a story to them and audiences soon became bored once the novelty of seeing moving images had worn off. It was not long before the Lumiere Brothers and the Edison company started to construct stories through editing filmed footage. In 1903, Edwin S. Porter constructed a film that told a story from multiple shots rather than simply being one continuous shot in front of a stationary camera. He was the first person to use editing as a means of progressing the film’s storyline and developed many of the transitions that become common in film-making. Porter was also the first to use found footage to tell a story that was unconnected with what the footage was originally intended to portray. Activity Watch the following two clips: Clip 1. The Kiss, (dir. Lumiere brothers, 1896) Clip 2. Life of an American Fireman (dir. Porter, 1903) Identify which one is telling a story through editing. Can you identify any specific editing techniques that have been used? An Editor’s Role Editing Pioneer Sergei Eisenstein who developed the idea of juxtaposing images to create meaning ( 07/becoming-a-professional-film-video- editor/) Editing has several functions: • to make a programme the required length and to remove unwanted material or mistakes • to alter the sequence of events, to move from one location to another and to move back and forth through time • to establish a style of the production • to move from one person’s point of view to another, to create relationships between characters or between characters and objects • to alter the pace by lengthening or reducing time
  2. 2. 2 096. Understanding and using editing Media Studies A good editor combines the different audio and video elements of a film in such a way that the audience are unaware of the technology and craft involved. Conversely, editing can draw attention to the artifice of the story. This is done through the transitions used (the method of moving from one shot to the next) and through the amount of footage that is left in or removed. Transitions in editing The most commonly used transition is the cut, where one shot is instantaneously replaced with the next. However, editors can use other modes of moving between shots to create meaning for the audience. The fade-out is a gradual transformation of an image to black and this technique is used to suggest time has passed but that the narrative is continuous. It is extremely common in film trailers and is often used at an ad break in television programmes or to signify a commercial break. It could also be used to denote someone going to sleep or lapsing into unconsciousness if the director has used a point of view shot. A match cut, also called a graphic match, is a cut between either two different objects, two different spaces, or two different compositions in which objects in the two shots are similar in some way. This often helps to establish a strong continuity of action by linking the two shots metaphorically. In Schindler’s List (dir. Spielberg, 1993) a graphic match is used to link the present, via the smoke from the candle, with the past, via the smoke from a steam engine. The flame of the candle may also symbolize that life has been ‘snuffed out’ and this has a direct link to the Holocaust in World War II and historical context setting of the film. Match cut shots from Schindler’s List ( A dissolve is a gradual transition from one image to another where the two shots appear on screen at the same time until one gradually vanishes. This can create mood and atmosphere. In Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles, 1941) it is used to reflect the death of Kane. The slow transitions are reverential, eerie and gothic in nature. Using dissolves can also allow the editor to move from one scene to another effectively. Dissolve from Citizen Kane ( A wipe is a type of transition where one shot replaces another by travelling from one side of the frame to another, for example in Lucas’s Star Wars series wipes were used extensively and became one of the features that identified the series from other sci-fi texts. However, nowadays, wipes tend to make a production look old-fashioned and outdated so are used infrequently. Wipe from Star Wars ( An iris wipe takes the shape of a growing or shrinking circle. This was a convention of editing in early films but can also be used to denote an eye, such as in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (dir. Schnabel, 2007) where the protagonist Jean-Dominique Bauby has ‘locked-in syndrome’ and can only communicate by moving his eyes. Activity Find ten simple images online, such as an old man, a rabbit, a car, some carrots etc. Rearrange the shots in different orders and then tell the story of what is happening. How does meaning change when the shot order changes? Manipulating time An editor can manipulate time by selecting which footage to include and which to leave out. The most common form of editing in films and television is called continuity editing. Continuity editing is the name given to the editing technique that creates the illusion of continuous time without showing everything that happens. For example, if a car journey would take an hour in real life, it can be reduced to a few seconds of screen time by only showing the shots that are necessary for the audience to follow what is happening. This relates to the idea of gestalt discussed earlier. Likewise, an editor can also extend time so that events take longer than they would in reality. This is called elliptical editing and its purpose is to draw attention to the action and heighten tension. This technique is often used when a bomb is going to explode and the editor makes a countdown of five seconds last much longer. An iris wipe in Betty Boo ( editing/types-of-transition.html) An iris wipe representing an eye closing in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly ( lensbaby-30/)
  3. 3. 3 096. Understanding and using editing Media Studies Activity Using your knowledge of editing and transition types, convert the following story into a storyboard sequence suitable for an action / adventure film. Consider the types of transitions you would use, the order of the shots and the length of each shot. A woman is driving a car. There is a gun on the passenger seat. A man is in the back of the car. His hands are tied and he is gagged. He struggles free and makes a grab for the gun. The woman loses control of the car. They crash into a wall. The car overturns. As they try to escape a trickle of petrol moves towards a piece of burning debris. The car explodes. The frequency at which the editor cuts affects how the scene is understood by the audience. The more frequent the cuts, the quicker the scene appears to be. Conversely, the slower the editing, the slower the feel of the scene. For example in Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) there appears to be no editing at all as the film is constructed to appear to be one continuous shot. Though there are edits, such as when a door closes on the camera creating a black screen, the pace of the film is slow and deliberate to coincide with the narrative of a man trying to solve the ‘perfect murder’. The lack of editing gives the film the appearance of a play and encourages audiences to focus on the characters as well as creating tension. It is not just films that use slow editing technique. Music videos as a form are by their very nature shorter and therefore tend to use more editing techniques at a much more rapid pace, but they can also use limited editing techniques as in the case of the band I am Kloot and their video to the song Proof. This video uses minimal editing because it suits the content of the song. It focuses on conveying the emotion of the lyrics through the actor’s facial expression. This unconventional technique is emotive as well as transfixing and shows that meaning can be created without rapid editing. However, the speed at which footage is edited can also add another dimension to characterisation. In Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1999) quick editing is used to show how Spud is under the influence of drugs whilst being interviewed for a job. Here the editing from long shot to midshot and back to long shot creates a schizophrenic effect which is further compounded by Spud’s frenetic dialogue. The effect is comical and reflects the disorientated state of Spud’s mind. Still from Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) ( Screenshot from I am Kloot’s Proof music video ( ( ( A very rapid move from one shot to another without showing a connecting shot is called a jump cut. It is a dramatic edit that breaks time and space continuity by drawing the viewer’s attention to the edit. This technique was popular with French New Wave directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and was meant to challenge the naturalised effect of continuity editing. These two shots from Breathless (dir. Goddard, 1960) are concurrent but appear to ‘jump’ as the necessary shot to make the transition appear smooth has been left out deliberately by the director. ( This technique can also add an extra dimension to a character. For example in Moon (dir. Duncan Jones, 2009) a jump cut is used when the protagonist, Sam Bell, is nervously searching for a secret room on this ship. The jump cuts hint that Bell is a clone, that there is more than one version of him, and this is used to create confusion for the audience.
  4. 4. 4 096. Understanding and using editing Media Studies Still from Moon ( The speed of editing can also reflect and create atmosphere. For example, slow editing in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia (2011) is used to tell the audience about an impending disaster, that the earth is about to be struck by another planet. Here the slow paced editing is used to signify the pull of gravity as well as show the character’s descent into depression and misery. It also allows the audience to gaze at the vignettes that resemble paintings. The editing is so slow that the movement within the frame is almost imperceptible. The effects of this super-slow editing are crucial to creating the sense of imminent death, loss and resignation and these are contrasted against the previous seemingly happy event of a wedding, which is edited more conventionally. ( ( ( ( A montage is a useful way to convey a story using images without having to go into narrative detail. In a montage, a series of short shots are edited into a sequence to condense space and time whilst still conveying information. This is useful when lots of narrative information has to be put across to the audience quickly, as is the case in Disney Pixar’s Up. The whole married life of an elderly couple is shown to the audience in a few minutes by using the symbolic association of ideas between shots. Activity Watch part of the montage from Up (dir. Docter, 2009) which can be found at How does the editing show the passage of time? What information has been conveyed to the audience in this five minute sequence? Using Editing in Practical Production Work How you edit your footage will depend very much on what form and genre you are trying to recreate as well other considerations such as characterisation, mood, atmosphere and themes and issues. Editing is designed to tell a story to your audience and the way in which you tell your story will ultimately be down to how you edit your raw footage. As well as thinking about the techniques and transitions discussed in this Factsheet, when you are editing you should also consider: Narrative Structure: Does the narrative make sense to the audience? Is it logical? Are you following the narrative conventions of the form? It is a good idea to get someone else to watch your edited footage and ask their opinion. Even if you are trying to go for a more confused narrative you will need to make sure that you edit it in such a way as to draw attention to this. Characterisation: Have you used a variety of editing techniques to add depth to the meaning of your character? You will need to be clear about how you want your character to come across to your audiences before you start editing. Atmosphere: Have you utilised different editing techniques to create atmosphere? Does your editing evoke the right kind of mood for the scene and the text as a whole? Do you want to create a juxtaposition between the action on screen and the way it is edited? Think about the Spud interview in Trainspotting, the quick editing creates a bizarre atmosphere here when set against the formal interview proceedings. Or do you want to highlight and add more meaning to the atmosphere, such as in Moon where jump cuts reflect the maddening claustrophobia of the ship. Coursework Hint Analyse the editing techniques that have been used in texts similar to the one you are creating before you start any other planning. Consider the conventional techniques used in the genre and then think about whether you want to mimic them or subvert them. If you are using a blog, upload extracts from texts and write analyses of the transitions used and how time is manipulated. It is essential that you show you know the key terms for these techniques and use them appropriately. Sources Katz, Stephen Shot by Shot - Visualising from Concept to Screen (Michael Wiese Production, 1991) ( Acknowledgements: This Media Studies Factsheet was researched and written by Di Naylor Curriculum Press. Bank House, 105 King Street, Wellington, TF1 1NU. Media Factsheets may be copied free of charge by teaching staff or students, provided that their school is a registered subscriber. No part of these Factsheets may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any other form or by any other means, without the prior permission of the publisher. ISSN 1351-5136