Advanced Editing Notes
Editing is about the association of ideas, connecting one shot with another, one scene with another, and so on. Editing is the process that allows the Director to focus on the form rather than just the content; how a story is told, not just what the story is about. Listen to Hitchcock discuss the difference between Content and Form:
Shots begin to create meaning when are they are juxtaposed with other shots and structured into an edited sequence and then joined in a scene.
Syntax is the convention of editing, its grammatical language and it must be learned.
Continuity- Continuity editing is a system of joining shots together to create the illusion of a continuous and clear narrative action. When a scene is broken up into a sequence of shots for the purpose of achieving greater dramatic emphasis in main stream narrative films, the shots are usually reconnected smoothly so that viewers do not notice the cut or lose their orientation in screen space. This is often achieved by using matches or match cuts. Techniques of continuity are what make editing known as the invisible craft.
Editing styles can be classified according to how intrusive or interpretive the cutting is. These are not definitive categories but rather general styles and techniques that films often blend together.
- Sequence shots- a long take or one continuous recording of time.
- Sequence Edit- combined sequence shots that have no edits or cuts at all.
- Early cinema started with longs shots taken in one lengthy take. Duration of the shot and event were equal. France, Britain, and US began creating narrative.
- Basic stories could be told using the shot as the basic unit of film construction
- Example - Arrival of a Train- 1895 Lumiere Brothers
- Cutting to Continuity: is a type of editing that is a shorthand that tries to show the fluidity of an event with out literally showing it all. It condenses actions without leaving anything essential out. Example: Trip to the Moon-1903- George Melies. Cause and effect relationships must clearly be set forth with screen direction, action etc.
- Classical Cutting- interprets an action by emphasizing certain details over others. Classical cutting involves cutting for dramatic intensity and emotional emphasis rather than for purely physical reasons.Example: Birth of a Nation- 1915 D.W. Griffith
- As a style, the director manuipulates space and time to create an emotion that may not be tied to a linear narrative.
- Thematic Montage- argues a thesis- the shots are connected in a relatively subjective manner. Example: Eisenstein "Intellectual Montage"
- Abstact Cutting- is purely formalistic and totally divorced from any recognizable subject matter. Example: Rythmus 2- 1921 Hans Richter
- Filmmakers of this era invented a more subjective time, that’s determined by the duration of the shots not by the actual occurrence.
II. Classical Cutting and D.W. Griffith-
- D.W. Griffith- molded the basic syntax of film into a language of power and subtlety.
He was the first to go beyond gimmick into the realm of art. He was the “Father of Film” and developed what has been know as Classical cutting, which involves cutting for dramatic intensity and emotional emphasis rather than for purely physical reasons.
- 1915- First Epic- Birth of a Nation- classical cutting was an editing style that was very sophisticated and expressive. (In climatic rescue finale, cuts between 4 different groups with 255 shots over 20 minutes of screen time.)
- He seized on the associations of ideas and expanded on this in a variety of ways
- Close ups were used to achieve a dramatic impact previously unseen. CU's were used for psychological reasons instead of physical. The slightest arch of an eyebrow spoke volumes!
- Splitting the action into a series of fragmentary shots, gave him control of detail, but also a greater control over the audience’s reaction.
- Shot Variety included mixing long, medium, and close shots, he constantly shifted the spectator’s point of view.
- Expanding, excluding, emphasizing, consolidating, connecting, contrasting, parrelling, and so on)
- Time was replaced by a subjective continuity- the association of ideas implicit in the connected shots.
• Master Shot Technique/Sequence- 30s and 40s Hollywood directors were required to shoot Master shots contain all the possible psychological interpretations or dramatic variables inherent in the scene. Repeated scenes with closer shots and then the editor had a number of choices of how to edit the scene. This began the "rough cut" or "First Cut" to "Final Cut" protocol. • Master Shots- Break down the unity of space, analyses its components, and refocuses our attention to a series of details.• Action is mental and emotional rather than literal.
• Master shots are still used because they can help tighter shots cut together more smoothly. Insert shots or cutaways blend easily into the master shot.
- Establishing Shots- sets location and used to make transitions smooth at the beginning of scenes
- Reestablishing Shot- once close ups for emotion have been used in a sequence the editor will return to the opening long shot- reminds the viewer of the spatial relationship of the characters in closer shots
- A traditiaionl Master Shot of 2 people having a conversation included a series of shots that were known as "The Dance"-
- 1st- Long shot of 2 people-
- 2nd- Cu's of dialogue-
- 3rd Reaction Shots of both actors-
- 4th Two shot and Cu of 4th person
- (1) Pulpfiction booth scene, Taratino and Kitty, Shot/Reverse Shot, stresses apartness.
Classicism/Continuity Cutting vs. Realism/Sequence Shot
- Compare the two frames below:
- The first frame, unedited, would be called a "Sequence shot"-This is one long recording of time in a wide shot of the entire scene. This recording would be considered more "realistic" because the footage would not be cut and the audience would have to make the interpretations themselves as to who is them most important person in the frame. The final edit would not be nuanced and intrusive with the relationships between actors.
- The second frame shows the editor's options if they were to a apply a Classical Hollywood Style to the edit . This style involves cutting that reflects the psychological cause and effect relationship of connected shots. By using continuity techniques like the 180 rule, eye line match and axis matches, an editor can choose what face to show next, and in essence be telling the audience who to focus on in the communication of the emotion in the scene.
• Classicism relies on the techniques developed by Griffith and other classical cutters that insisted on manipulating the reality they shot but doing so in a way that made their filming and editing invisible: eyeline match/ 180 Degree Rule/ Match Action Cuts/ Reverse Angle Shots. For more examples review: Continuity Techniques
• Griffith made famous the chase sequence using Parallel Editing- the alteration of shots of one scene with another at a different location. By cross-cutting back and forth between the two to build suspense. Notice the technique used in this classic silent short of a "Damsel in Distress" Griffith also knew that Director's needed to avoid monotony in the filming by varying setups, shots, angles, lighting etc.
Time in film:
- Time in film is more subjective than space. It’s harder to manipulate. Movies can compress years into hours. Time exists in a kind of limbo, as long as the audience is absorbed in the film’s action, time is what the film says it is.
- Length of a shot is determined by the complexity of the image subject matter. Long shots are held longer on screen because the info is more dense.
- Cuts must be made on the “content curve” ( the point at which the audience has absorbed most of the information) because if you cut after the curve it produces boredom. Complex mis en scene requires more time but once established a quick reestablishing shot is fine.
- Sensitive treatment of time is intrinsic and defies mechanical rules. “Walter Murch” in the blink of an eye”
- Filmmakers have succeeded in breaking free of the tyranny of mechanically measured time.
- Greater number of cuts in a scene, the greater its sense of speed.
- Suspense: Cut before the peak of the content curve can build suspense
Psychological undertones of cutting style depend on the dramatic context of the story… Imagine these examples:
Mood affects the way the sequence is edited. Griffith use long lyrical takes in his love scenes, with few setups, where as battles scenes were quick cuts that expanded time. There is no fixed rule concerning the rhythm in a film. Click on the image and see Griffith in action in The Musketeers of Pig Alley 1913.
Musical rhythm can also be used as way of allowing the pace of the music to emphasize the cutting and changing of shots.
Tact is another important editing principle that’s hard to generalize. Directorial tact is a matter of restraint, taste, and respect for the intelligence of your audience.
Anticipatory setups are shots that setup the negative space in a shot for a character's entrance or movement that will take place in the staging and blocking of the shot. This technique can be heavy handed.
Thematic Montage stresses the association of ideas, irrespective of time and space continuity. Griffith’s Intolerance inspired many to explore the technique especially in the USSR.
Francois Truffaut “Movies that have actors that tell lies require more shots than movies that have actors that tell the truth” The director is forced to give more shots of the actors to provide emotional information that the actors don’t provide themselves.
Flashbacks frames in editing became more apparent in the 1960’s were a frame or two pop on screen when something triggers a memory and then later in the film where a full flashback sequence becomes dominant and the present is momentarily suspended. Flashforwards suggest predestination-Cut Aways to fantasy. Editing can shift the action from reality to fantasy in an instant.
- Imagine this long shot of from Gladiator (2000)with all danger elements contained in one frame add to dramatic impact. This a frame whose "content curve" would be held longer to build its dramatic impact:
- Imagine the Scorcesse: Good Felllas, tracking shot that slowly introduces the key players in the mob, each in his own element, ticks and all as we are pulled back to the heart of the gang.
Griffith gave us; location changes, time lapses, shot variety, emphasis on psychological and physical details, overviews, symbolic inserts, parallels and contrasts, associations, point of view shifts, simultaneity, and repetition of motifs. His method was economical as well often shooting out of sequence.
III. Soviet Montage and The Formalist Tradition
- Pudovkin wrote the first important theoretical treaties on what he called “constructive editing”
- Pudovkin insisted that each shot should make a new point. Through juxtaposition of shots, new meanings could be created. The meanings are in the juxtaposition, not the shots. He believed Griffith’s close ups were too intrusive and interruptive, offering no meaning of its own.
- Montage in French means: to assemble.
- Pudovkin mainly used close ups put togther in order to create a unified meaning. He believed that long shots were too close to reality, so only cu's, textures, symbols, and other selected details should be used by filmmakers. He believed these montages were the most effective way to convey expressively the idea underlying the complex jumble of real life.
- Example from Mother 1926 Pudovkin
- Hitchcock agreed with Pudovkin: “Cinema is form, the screen ought to speak its own language, freshly coined, and it can’t do that unless it treats an acted scene as a piece of raw material which must be broken up, taken to bits, before it can be woven into an expressive visual pattern.” Formalists insist that the artistry lies not in the materials, but in the way they are taken apart and put back togther.
- Lev Kuleshov was Pudoovkin's mentor and also heavily influenced Soviet film makers and the theories of Pavlov.
- Kuleshov believed that ideas in cinema are created by linking together fragmentary details to produce a unified action. Details can be unrelated in life.
- Kuleshov’s other famous experiment involved unprofessional actors, who he proved were merely raw material. The Kuleshov Effect shows that the emotion is produced not by the actor’s performance, but by the juxtapositions. The viewer creates the emotional meaning, once the appropriate objects have been put together by the filmmaker.
- Eisenstein believed life was about constant change and this dialectical of contrasting opposites, because all phenomena are in a state of becoming. Conflict of opposites is the mother of motion and change. Function of art is to capture this collision. Film is the most comprehensive of arts because it involves all mediums: dance, painting, photography, music, language, fiction and drama.
- Eisenstein also believed art of film was in the edit, that each shot must be incomplete, contributory rather than self-contained, but not too linked. Needs conflict of two(thesis and antithesis) produces a new idea (synthesis). Harch conflict was preferred, a smooth transition was a lost opportunity. Editing for him was a mystical process.
- Eisenstein- produced sharply contrasting images. (collision montage)- Odessa Steps-(Potemkin 1925)
- Critics of Eisenstein argued that his films lacked a sense of realism. They also guided the audience too much. His films were often linked to propaganda, not free and balanced evaluations. Many thought the problem with his films was that is the meaning in the film is either too obvious or impenetrably too obsure.
IV. Andre Bazin and the Tradition of Realism
- In Hitchcock's Rear Window 1954 each window he examines reflects back to the main character’s own emotional turmoil and desire. The actor only provides part of the characterization.
- Bazin was not a film-maker but an editor of a French film journal “Cahiers Du Cinema’ who put forth an aesthetic on film. His film critcism helped establish the theory and language of film analysis.
- Bazin was instrumental in legitmizing the film industry as Art. “By repositioning the entire notion of cinema as an art in itself, by legitimizing the position of the director as a creative force, and by breaking down the barriers between commercial and personal filmmaking, Cahiers du cinéma contributed to a crucially important cultural shift, one that helped reveal the 20th century to itself.” - David Kehr, Film Comment
- Bazin was responsible for creating an approach to analyzing a the body of a Director's work in order to discern patterns in style and themes. This was to become known as Auteur Theory.
- Auteur theory argued that films should reflect a director's personal vision. They championed filmmakers such as Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, and Jean Renoir as absolute 'auteurs' of their films.
- As a film critic, Bazin was drawn towards the realism or realistic nature of film.
- He believed that editing could destroy the effectiveness of a scene. Distortions in using formalist techniques, especially thematic ediing, can violate the complexities of reality. Formalists were egocentric and manipulative.
- He believed montage was only one many techniques filmmakers had at their disposal. Montage imposes a simplistic ideology over the infinite variability of actual life.
- Based on the fact that film was the most realistic of the arts, the filmmakers image is essentially an objective recording of what actually exists. No other art can be as comprehensive or “realistic”
- He believed the essence of realitly lied in its ambiguity, interpreted in equally opposing ways depending on the sensitivity of the artist.
- Filmmaker must be modest, self effacing and a patient observer to see where reality leads.
- Admired Renoir and Sica whose movies reflect a sense of wonder before the mysteries of reality.
- Classical Cutting was also seen as potentially corrupting. The technique encourages us to follow the shot sequence without our being conscious of its arbitrariness. Bazin: “The editor who cuts for us makes in our stead the choice we would make in real life.” “Without thinking, we accept his analysis because it conforms to the laws of attention, but we are deprived of a privilege” The privilege of making up your own meaning.
- If the essence of a scene is division, isolation, and separation, than editing can be an effective technique, but if the scene requires simultaneous presence of two or more related elements, the director should preserve the continuity of the real time and space.
Techniques of Realism
- Realism in film is accomplished by using long shots, wide screen, lengthy takes, deep focus, panning, craning, tilting, or tracking rather than cutting to individual shots.
- Remember the argument of content and form….you can’t do one with out the other.
- Bazin loved Wyler because he reduced editing to a minimum by using more lengthy takes and deep focus photography “leaving the means to observe, choose, and form an opinion.”
- Bazin loved the objectivity and tact of deep focus. Details within a shot are presented more democratically, without the special attention a close-up inevitably confers. Forces audience to be more creative and less passive.
- Bazin knew that cinema required selectivity, organization and interpretation… a certain amount of distortion. Best films were when the artists personal vision is held in delicate balance with the objective nature of the medium.
- Bazinan Realism in not merely documentary newsreels. He challenged filmmakers to create a heightened sense of reality. The director must reveal the poetic implications of ordinary people, events and places. Cinema is neither an objective recording nor a symbolic abstraction.
- Master Pieces of Realism include: Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, and High Noon.
- Technical Innovations in the late 20’s sound, 30’s, 40’s color and deep focus photography, and 50’s wide screen, pushed the medium closer to a realistic ideal.
IV. NEOREALISM- Post WWII- 1945-in Italy
- Technology alters technique- synchronized sound changed editing back to long sequence shots until the blimp and dubbing were introduced.
- Sound made acting styles more subtle, no intrusive titles, no exaggeration, a few lines of dialogue could eliminate tedious exposition.
- Deep Focus allowed directors to film one setup with depth with no sacrifice of detail which is thought to be more theatrical than cinematic. Old lenses could only focus along one plane and required a ton of light.
- Clerks: sometimes economics dictates style…low budget, less setups, more emphasis on dialogue.
V. Nouvelle Vague- French New Wave:
- Rossellini and De Sica two Bazin’s favorites deemphasized editing.
- Favored lengthy takes, deep-focus, long shots and an austere restraint in the use of close-ups.
- By refusing to condense time, Rossellini makes us endure the discomfort and frustration felt between awkward moments between characters. “Things are there, why manipulate them”
- Sequence shots tend to produce a sense of anxiety in the viewer, we grow restless when they don’t.
- Widescreen…appropriate only for funerals and snakes….close ups became tighter and mis en scene became more artisitic
A feature length film generates anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of footage. Annie Hall came to life on the editing bench after realizing that the original idea didn’t work. They retooled the story to focus on the romantic comedy of one couple and it was a huge Oscar winning success. VI. Hitchcock’s North by Northwest-
- End of 1950’s Godard, Truffaut, and Chabrol wrote criticism of the Cahiers du Cinema
- Eclectic in their theory and practice, were unified by an obsessional enthusiasm for film culture, especially American film.
- Believed technique was meaningful only in terms of subject matter.
- Popularized the idea that what a movie says is inextricably tied to how it is said.
- Editing should be determined by the subject matter itself.
- Not theoretically dogmatic.
- Focused on content over form.
- Moved off of sound stages to real world locations and unprofessional actors.
- Ignored conventions of continuity such as the 180 degree rule, screen direction and the use of a mental map. Incorporated Jump cuts- breaks in terms of time and space,
- Examples: Masculin Feminin 1966 Truffuat
VII. Editing Questions for Film Analysis:
- Hitchcock is considered to be one of the greatest editors in the history of cinema.
- An obsessive storyboarder, some of his scenes involved as many as 600 setup sketches.
- Every shot was calulcated for a desired effect, nothing was superfluous!
- Just like a composer’s notes, he pre-visualized each shot.
1) How much cutting is there and why?
2) Are the shoots highly fragmented or relatively lengthy?
3) What is the point of the cutting in each scene? To clarify? TO stimulate? To lyricize? To create suspense? To explore an idea or emotion in depth?
4) Does the cutting seem manipulative or are we left to interpret the images on our own?
5) What kind of rhythm does the editing establish with each scene?
6) Is the personality of the filmmaker apparent in the cutting or is the presentation of shots relatively objective and functional?
7) Is editing a major language system of the movie or does the film artist relegate cutting to a relatively minor fraction?
VIII. Study Guide Questions for Blogging:
In Paragraph form answer the questions using your notes and post to your blog. If possible use and image as well for each question.
1. Overview- Realism/Classical/Formalism
a. Compare the following two short films: the "Arrival of a Train" and "Damsel in Distress"
1. How would describe the difference in camera work: composition, angle, movement
2. How would descibe the diffencen in the edit?
3. How would describe the quality of the story being told/narrative?
3. Soviet Montage and Formalism
a. What was Pudovkin's concept of constructive editing and how did it manifest itself on film?
b. What was the Kuleshov effect and give me an example of how is it used in today's film's?
c. What was Eisensteinian Montage and how does it work in the "Odessa Step" sequence?
4. Andre Bazin and Realism
a. What were Andre Bazin's frustrations with Classical and Formalistic film making?
b. What do Realist filmmakers strive for in their work?
c. What techniques to realists use in their filmmaking?