What is editing?
The action of selecting different scenes or clips and
putting them together to design a movie.
Film editing is one of the many integral aspects of post-
Editors work with the footage, creating sequences by
selecting various shots and completing a motion picture.
Today it is achieved through the use of digital technology.
Back in the 1800’s, early motion pictures that were recorded
were shown to be one locked-down shot.
No editing was required as there generally wasn’t any story.
Everyday movement recorded like people walking up and down
a street and shown to an audience was enough to amaze as
this technology wasn’t around before.
British film pioneer Robert W. Paul’s “Come Along Do!” which
was made in 1898 was one of the first films ever to have more
than one shot.
The Lumière Brothers
In 1895, the Lumière brothers (Auguste and Louis) had invented their own
device combining camera with printer and projector and called it the
This was patented on February 13th 1895.
The Cinématographe was a lot more compact than Edison’s Kinetograph.
It was also a lot lighter in weight (approx. five kilograms at best), and was
The Lumières used a film speed of 16 frames per second, much slower in
comparison with Edison’s 48 fps - this meant that less film was used an
also the clatter and grinding associated with Edison’s device was reduced.
Edwin S. Porter
Edwin S. Porter began his career at the Vitascope Marketing Company in 1895
where he worked as an electrical engineer.
He showed great interest in filmmaking through the talent of Georges Méliès and he
even attempted to create his own camera.
Porter returned to Edison’s Company in 1900 where he had worked previously as an
engineer. However he refrained from returning to his post as an engineering capacity.
He started work as a producer and director at Edison’s East 21st Street Skylight
Porter’s skill with editing was used to great effect in some of his earliest films. He
combined documentary footage with his own footage in films like 'The Execution of
Czoyosz' and 'Life of an American Fireman‘.
D. W Griffiths
In 1908 D.W Griffiths created the film “For Love of Gold” which featured
the first ever continuity cut when a scene cut.
Griffiths discovered the emotions through different camera angles and
pace of editing and that it wasn’t all down to the actors. Griffiths was given
credit for the narrative of a film has came to be today.
Griffiths produced the first American feature film where the close up
technique is used.
In 1915, Griffiths released “The Birth of a Nation” which is based on the
novel “The Clansman”. The film included a variety of camera techniques
such as long shots, still shots, cross cutting and panning shots. These
techniques are widely used today to create films.
Development of Continuity
Continuity was a style of editing developed during the early period of the
European and American movie business.
For example, “The Birth of a Nation” by D.W. Griffiths made extensive use
of continuity editing. This was due to the style of the movie focusing on the
enhancement of the basic narrative structure and promoting the uses of
more than one camera technique.
Continuity editing is a style constructed as a continuous or advanced flow
of an action and emotions in a film.
Moreover, it denotes the camera movement of 180 degree rule, shot
reverse shot and establishing shots.
The use of a montage sequence involves an extensive amount of short shots that are
edited into a narrative sequence.
This form of editing is used from time to time to advance the narrative of a story.
A good example of montage editing can be seen in the film “Rocky” starring
Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone. The use of montage editing here was to
elaborate the emotion and determination when training for his boxing match.
Montage editing is a style that deals with shots assembled through dissolves in order
to serve as a channel of general video effects.
As a result, montage editing acts as a sequence of reduced narrative sequences.
Soviet Montage Editing
The Soviet Montage movement began in 1924. During the time of the movement's control fewer
than thirty films were made in this particular style but the films were very influential for its time.
Lev Kuleshov was a director and film theorist who discovered the Kuleshov Effect in the 1920’s
when making movies.
Kuleshov edited together a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of a famous
matinee idol was alternated with various other shots such as plate of soup and a girl in a coffin.
The film was shown to an audience who believed that the expression person's face was different
each time he appeared. This was named the ‘Kuleshov Effect’ after his discovery.
“Battleship Potemkin” is a revolutionary propaganda film created by Sergei Eisenstein to test his
theories of montage. Eisenstein attempted to edit the film in such a way as to produce a great
emotional response, so that the viewer would feel sympathy for the rebellious sailors of the
Battleship Potemkin and hatred for their overlords.
Classic Hollywood Montage
Invisible editing – a standard of editing that has become so familiar to the audience
that they no longer consciously notice it.
The 180 Degree Rule - if in a particular shot the first character is on the left facing
right and the second character is on the right facing left; you should keep the camera
positioned so the characters stay facing the same direction.
Shot-reverse-shot – a structure that obeys the 180 degree rule positing an artificial
line which the camera cannot cross, thereby creating the illusion of a cohesive space
Cuts on action - creating the illusion of continuous motion from one shot to the next.
The reason behind this rule is that cutting on action distracts the audience less.
People focus on the action occurring, not the cut, and therefore less likely to notice
any mistakes like jump cuts.
Development of Alternative
The French New Wave (or French Nouvelle Vague), the style of a number
of highly individualistic French film directors of the late 1950s to 1960s.
New Wave directors included Louis Malle, Alain Resnais and Jean-Luc
Most of these directors were associated with the film magazine “Cahiers
du cinema” which was made popular in the 1950s.
Films by New Wave directors were the first movies to feature “jump cuts” –
a cut in film editing where two shots in a sequence are taken from camera
positions that differs very slightly. This form of editing gives the effect of
jumping forwards in time.
An example occurs in Godard’s Breathless (1960), in which these jump
cuts were used to create a jerky and disconnected effect.
Development of Sound
DIEGETIC SOUND - sound in which it is visible on the screen or is implied to be present by the
action of the film. Diegetic sound can be either on screen or off screen depending on whatever its
source is within the frame or outside the frame.
NON-DIEGETIC SOUND - Sound whose source is neither visible on the screen nor has been
implied to be present in the action. Non-diegetic sound is represented as coming from the a
source outside story space.
The distinction between diegetic or non-diegetic sound depends on our understanding of the
conventions of film viewing and listening. We know of that certain sounds are represented as
coming from the story world, while others are represented as coming from outside the space of
the story events.
“The Jazz Singer”, a 1927 American musical was the first feature-length motion picture with
synchronized dialogue sequences which marked the end of the silent movie era.
It was praised worldwide for its audible dialogue and music performed by the great Al Jolson.
Film Editing Technology
Non Linear Editing Systems - in digital video editing, non-linear editing is a method that allows you
to access any frame in a digital video clip. This enables the editor to easily include fades,
transitions and other effects that cannot be achieved with linear editing.
Moviola - invented by Iwan Serrurier in 1924, Moviola is a device that allows an editor to view film
during the editing process. It was the first machine designed for motion picture editing.
Flatbeds - a type of machine used to edit film for a motion picture. The picture and sound rolls are
loaded onto separated motorized disks called “plates”. Each set of plates moves forwards and
backward, locked together to maintain synchronization betwe en the picture and sound.
Modern/Digital Editing – an application software which handles the post-production video editing.
It has replaced traditional flatbed film editing tools and analogue video tape-to-tape online editing
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