Film Editing Study Material

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    The film editor must know how to tell a story, be politically savvy whenworking with directors and studio executives, and have a calm andconfident demeanor. Millions of dollars of film and the responsibility ofguiding the picture through post-production and into theaters rest in theeditor's hands. Scenes may have been photographed poorly and

    performances might have been less than inspired, but a skilled andcreative editor can assemble the film so that the audience will never seethese imperfections.

    Cuts and Transitions: Assembling the Scene

    Editors select sounds and images from all the film that has been shotand arrange them to make the movie. They also plan how one shot willbest transition to the next. There are dozens of possible transitions theeditor can choose, each of which will create a different feeling.

    Editing often begins as soon as film has been shot. Early scenes areassembled for the producer and director to view. Occasionally, theactors will also view these early scenes. Many directors choose not toshow actors these edited scenes for fear that they will affect the actors'performance.

    The first cut of a film, called a "rough cut," takes up to three months tocomplete. The final cut may take another month to finish. Sometimesthe editor works alone, sometimes with the director. The sound designer

    and music composer join them for the final cut, adding sound effectsand the musical score. When the editing is complete and the directorand producer have approved the final version of the film, this final cut issent to a negative matcher. The negative matcher makes a negative ofthe film that exactly matches the final cut, and the negative is then sentto a film lab where prints are created. These prints eventually end up intheaters.

    In the past, editors worked with copies of negatives called "work prints"to plan a film's scenes and transitions. When an editor was satisfied with

    the final film, he or she would create an edit decision list, a list of eachshot in the film and its length. The list would correspond to numbers,called "edge numbers," printed on the edge of the work prints. Thesenumbers helped a negative matcher accurately copy the work print andcut the negatives.

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    Today most editors use computers or nonlinear digital editing systemsto compile a film. This is more efficient, but for the most part, theprocess is the same. The work prints, complete with edge numbers, arestored in the computer. The editor arranges the work print, and thencreates an edit decision list that will be passed on to the negative

    matcher.

    Film Editing Glossary

    cutA visual transition created in editing in which one shot is instantaneously

    replaced on screen by another.

    continuity editingEditing that creates action that flows smoothly across shots and sceneswithout jarring visual inconsistencies. Establishes a sense of story forthe viewer.

    cross cuttingCutting back and forth quickly between two or more lines of action,indicating they are happening simultaneously.

    dissolveA gradual scene transition. The editor overlaps the end of one shot withthe beginning of the next one.

    editingThe work of selecting and joining together shots to create a finishedfilm.

    errors of continuity

    Disruptions in the flow of a scene, such as a failure to match action orthe placement of props across shots.

    establishing shotA shot, normally taken from a great distance or from a "bird's eye view,"that establishes where the action is about to occur.

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    eyeline matchThe matching of eyelines between two or more characters. Forexample, if Ram looks to the right in shot A, Rita will look to the left inshot B. This establishes a relationship of proximity and continuity.

    fadeA visual transition between shots or scenes that appears on screen as abrief interval with no picture. The editor fades one shot to black and thenfades in the next. Often used to indicate a change in time and place.

    final cutThe finished edit of a film, approved by the director and the producer.This is what the audience sees.

    iris

    Visible on screen as a circle closing down over or opening up on a shot.Seldom used in contemporary film, but common during the silent era ofHollywood films.

    jump cutA cut that creates a lack of continuity by leaving out parts of the action.

    matched cutA cut joining two shots whose compositional elements match, helping toestablish strong continuity of action.

    montageScenes whose emotional impact and visual design are achievedthrough the editing together of many brief shots. The shower scenefrom Psychois an example of montage editing.

    rough cutThe editor's first pass at assembling the shots into a film, beforetightening and polishing occurs.

    sequence shotA long take that extends for an entire scene or sequence. It iscomposed of only one shot with no editing.

    shot reverse shot cuttingUsually used for conversation scenes, this technique alternatesbetween over-the-shoulder shots showing each character speaking.

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    wipeVisible on screen as a bar travelling across the frame pushing one shotoff and pulling the next shot into place. Rarely used in contemporaryfilm, but common in films from the 1930s and 1940s