THE TECHNIQUE OF
Chapter 1: Editing and the Silent Film
THE BE GINNINGS OF FIL M CONTINUITY
The Lumiere Brothers
• Record any common event, no matter how mundane.
• Baby at the Lunch Table,
• A Boat Leaving Harbour.
• Watering the Gardener
• The first-time the Lumiere’s exercised conscience control over the material.
• Cinderella (1899)
• Enlarged the scope of film beyond the single shot.
• Used the very limited Theatrical presentation style.
Edwin S. Porter
• One of Thomas Edison’s cameramen.
• The Life of an American Fireman (1902)
• First ever use of stock footage to tell a story.
• It implied that the meaning of the shot could be changed based on the
context of the edit.
• Director can convey a sense of time to the viewer.
• The Great Train Robbery (1903)
• Parallel editing used to tie together action with no physical connections.
• Significant advance in simple continuity of action.
• Evolved the simple method of action continuity.
• Relied heavily on actors’ gestures to convey variations in dramatic
• Presentation was limited by technology.
GRIFFITH: DRAMATIC E MPHASIS
• Expanded on Porter’s methods.
• Developed into a subtle instrument for creating and controlling
• The Birth of a Nation
• Extreme long shots for purely dramatic effect
• Use of cut-aways to build/prolong tension.
• Lincoln’s Assassination scene.
• Constructs the scene around four groups of characters.
• Although the main action is broken up, no discontinuity because
all the characters are established as present in the same space.
D.W. Griffith (cont’d)
• Griffith’s fundamental discovery
• Film sequence composed of incomplete shots whose order and selection
are governed by dramatic necessity.
• Intolerance (1916)
• Use of close-ups
• Feature facial expressions of actors in greater detail.
• Allows viewer to better understand a characters motivations
• No longer had to stage scenes in their entirety.
• Break down scenes in small, manageable setups
• While this new methodology made staging of spectacle scenes easier,
it increased the demands on the actor.
• The director now had more control.
D.W. Griffith (cont’d)
• The director now responsible for:
• Conveying the effects in a scene.
• Choosing the order and manner of consecutive shots thus highlighting or
flattening a scene.
• Timing a scene with the length of shots for dramatic impact.
• “Griffith’s Last Minute Rescue”
• Cutting rate was increased towards the climax, giving the
impression that the excitement was steadily mounting.
• Acknowledged Griffith’s contributions to editing
• Drew parallel between Griffith’s methods and existing literary
• Believed it was up to the young Russian directors to expand on
• Ultimately surmised Griffith misunderstood the nature of editing.
PUDOVK IN : CONSTRUCTIVE E DITING
Pudovkin and Kuleshov
• Film Technique; book by Pudovkin
• Formulated theory to be used as general guide, called Constructive Editing
• Each shot must make a specific point.
• Scornful of directors who tell their story in long shots only.
• Editing is more than telling a continuous story.
• With suitable juxtaposition, shots had meaning that they lacked on their own.
• Experimented with shots in different context.
• Used same shot of actor in 3 different combinations and viewers perceived 3
• Instead of the message being delivered by the actor, it is delivered by the edit.
E ISE NSTE IN: INTE L L E CTUAL MONTAGE
October and Old and New
• Films more about commentary than continuity and plot.
• Story provides structure to build exposition of ideas.
“While conventional film directs emotions, [intellectual montage]
suggests an opportunity to direct the whole thought process as well.”
Main weakness, obscurity resulting in lost meaning.