Film Basics Part 3
Editing involves decisions about which shots to include, the most effective take (version) of each shot, the duration of shots, the arrangement of shots, and the transitions between them. Regardless of the equipment used for filming and editing, editing can strongly affect viewer responses. It can be used, for example, (1) to promote continuity or disruptions; (2) to superimpose images; (3) to juxtapose shots to make a point, support a feeling or mood, intensify the viewer’s reactions, or show parallel subjects or events; and (4) to affect the viewer’s sense of pace, compress or expand time, and convey an enormous amount of information in a brief time.
Early Film Editing
■ The first films of the 1890s consisted of one shot or a series of one–shot scenes.
■ By the time of The Birth of a Nation (1915), editing was used to maintain continuity while telling complex stories.
■ In the 1920s, the editing of some Soviet filmmakers conveyed a story and promoted ideas by the juxtaposition of shots.
■ The shot is the most basic unit of editing. It is a piece of continuous film or videotape depicting an uninterrupted action or an immobile subject during an uninterrupted passage of time.
■ A scene is a section of a narrative film that gives the impression of continuous action taking place during continuous time and in continuous space. A scene consists of one or more shots although on rare occasions, a shot will convey multiple scenes.
■ A sequence is a series of related consecutive scenes that are perceived as a major part of a narrative film.
■ Editors can use one or more of many possible transitions between shots, such as a cut, lap dissolve, or wipe. Depending on conventions and context, editing transitions can be used to convey or reinforce information or moods. For example, often a lap dissolve suggests that the next shot takes place at a later time or different location—or both.
■ Continuity editing, which is used in most narrative films, maintains a sense of clear and continuous action and continuous setting within each scene.
■ Continuity editing is achieved in filming and editing by using eyeline matches, the 180-degree system, and other strategies. The aim of continuity editing is to make sure viewers will instantly understand the relationship of subjects to other subjects, subjects to settings, and each shot to the following shot.
Image on Image and Image after Image
■ A momentary superimposition of two or more images is possible in a lap dissolve, as in the ending of the 1960's Psycho.
■ Consecutive shots can stress differences or similarities. They may also be used to surprise, amuse, confuse, or disorient viewers.
■ Reaction shots often intensify viewers’ responses. Usually a reaction shot follows an action shot, but it may precede one, or it may occur alone with the action not shown but only implied.
■ Parallel editing can be used to achieve various ends, including to give a sense of simultaneous events, contrast two or more actions or viewpoints, or create suspense about whether one subject will achieve a goal before another subject does.
Pace and Time
■ Usually fast cutting is used to impart energy and excitement. Slow cutting may be used to slow the pace or help calm the mood.
■ Depending on the context, a succession of shots of equal length may suggest inevitability, relentlessness, boredom, or some other condition.
■ Shifting the pace of the editing can change viewers’ emotional responses, as in the excerpt analyzed from near the end of (Battleship) Potemkin.
■ Montage compresses an enormous amount of information into a brief time, as in the montage of Susan’s opera career in Citizen Kane.
■ Editing usually condenses time (for example, by cutting dead time), but it can expand time—for instance, by showing certain fragments of an action more than once.
■ Increasingly, computers are being used for editing. Images shot on film are scanned into computers; images shot on videotape are simply transferred to computers.
■ Once in the computer, the shots can be edited there and later transferred to DVD or film for showings.