Instead of an uninteresting scene with much exposition to unload, in this single shot we’re given a snappy, dynamically blocked (lots of to-and-away from camera), short dialogue scene packed with info, which behaves exactly as a good oner should. We get wide shots, CUs, singles, OTSs (over the shoulder), 2 shots, dramatic pans & push-ins, and, of course, one well-placed insert shot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkYNhZvlHv0
The Art of Editing #6
The Art of Editing
Rhythm, Pace, Emotion
Shannon Walsh / SM2002
School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
The Art of Editing
Good editing makes the director look good.
Great editing makes the film look like it wasn’t
directed at all.
“IN THE BLINK
OF AN EYE”
FOCUS ON EDITOR:
Walter Murch: The rule of 6
1. Emotion: How will this cut affect the audience emotionally at
this particular moment in the film?
2. Story: Does the edit move the story forward in a meaningful
3. Rhythm: Is the cut at a point that makes rhythmic sense?
4. Eye Trace: How does the cut effect the location and
movement of the audience's focus in that particular film?
5. Two-Dimensional Plane of Screen: Is the axis followed
6. Three-Dimensional Space - Is the cut true to established
physical and spatial relationships?
The editing aims to tell an emotional story with a series of fragmented shots.
“How do you want the audience to feel?”
Pace & Rhythm
What is Pace?
• Variation in pace effects emotional response to film
• Pacing is a tool for shaping rhythm in a film.
• Fast pacing and Slow pacing can change the mood and feeling of
Limits of Pace
In Touch of Evil (1958) Welles used one tracking shot to create a
powerful sequence, without editing, showing how composition, lighting,
performance also are critical.
Similarly, Taiwanese direct TSAI Ming-Liang also uses long shots,
often for entire scenes, such as in Stray Dogs (2013), what has been
called a “cinema of slowness”
• To enhance their rhythmic intuition, editors actively perceive the
rhythmic movement of life and of the world around them.
• Walter Murch says a good editor has to have a sense of rhythm is
“like telling a good joke”
Walter Murch Clip on Rhythm:
One element of Pace
Timing: the duration or the length of time a shot is held.
• Understanding the purpose of the sequence to decide how to edit for
• A 10 second shot will feel long if it is juxtaposed with a series of 1-
• The feeling of a shot’s duration is created by the relative duration of the
shots near to it and the concentration of information, movement, and
change within it.
• “Where in a sequence should a particular close-up or cutaway be
positioned for maximum impact? When is a subjective shot more
powerful than a an objective one? What is the most effective patter of
crosscutting between shots?”
Genre Comedy & Adventure Films like Raising Arizona (1987) &
Requiem for a Dream (2000) use fast pace & timing to build energy and excitement
We know when it does not have rhythm (jerky shots, or we notice the
editing). When the rhythm works, the edit seems smooth. Rhythm is often
individual and intuitive, but there are some rules,
The amount of visual information can determine length of shot:
• A long shot has more information than CU, so will be held longer so
audience can take it in;
• If there is new information (location) the shot might be held longer
• Moving shots are often held longer in order to absorb information
• A CU, static shot or repeated shot is often on screen for less time.
Finding emotional clarity in the scene:
• Respecting emotional structure of performances;
• Distinguish performance from error, or dead space;
• Understanding the narrative goals of the scene.
In the Mood for Love (2000) mix between fast paced jump cuts (Su running up stairs),
and melodic slow long takes, Chungking Express (1994)
Complex use of rhythmic pacing in The Conformist (1971) Bernardo Bertolucci
Why do cuts Work?
“The new shot in this case is different enough to signal that something has
changed, but not different enough to make us re-evaluate its context.” (6)
Walter Murch wonders: Is it because they are like our dreams?
In the blink of an eye
What causes us to blink?
“Film is like a thought. It’s the
closes to thought process of
any art. Look at that lamp
across the room. Now look
back at me. Look back at that
lamp. Now look back at me
again. Do you see what you
did? You blinked. Those are
cuts.” (John Huston, 60)
Angry people, or cowboy
standoffs, ‘You blinked!’ –
Rate of blinking linked to
our emotional state.
In the blink of an eye
“The blink is either
something that helps an
internal separation of
thought to take place, or it
is an involuntary reflex
accompanying the mental
separation that is taking
“That blink will occur where
a cut could have
happened, had the
conversation been filmed.”
1. Identifying a series of potential cut points (and comparisons
with the blink can help you do this)
2. Determining what effect each cut point will have on the
3. Choosing which of those effects is the correct one for the
“I believe the sequence of thoughts – that is to say, the rhythm
and rate of cutting– should be appropriate to whatever the
audience is watching at the moment.”
“You are blinking for the audience…Your job is partly to
anticipate, partly to control the thought processes of the
audience… if you are too far behind or ahead of them, you create
problems, but if you are right with them, leading them ever so
slightly, the flow of events feels natural and exciting at the same