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Principles of Editing

"Drama is life with the boring bits

left out"
Alfred Hitchcock

Rules of Editing (1 of 7)
Never make a cut without a positive
It is unwise to cut film adhering to arbitrary
principles, such as keeping all shots under a
certain length.

Rules of Editing (2 of 7)
When undecided about the exact
frame to cut on, cut long rather than
It is much easier to trim a bit of excess duration
than to splice more on to increase duration.

Rules of Editing (3 of 7)
Whenever possible, cut in movement.
The concept here is that during movement of
any kind, be it a man sitting down on a park
bench or a woman darting her eyes to the left,
cut in the space between the beginning and
end of the action so as to mask the cut.

Rules of Editing (4 of 7)
The fresh is preferable to the stale.
In order to maintain the invisibility of technique,
a film editor strives to avoid boring, confusing,
or disappointing the audience with a poorly
managed cut.

Rules of Editing (5 of 7)
All scenes should begin and end with
continuing action.
It is entirely unnatural to begin a scene with an
actor doing nothing, preparing to act.

Rules of Editing (6 of 7)
Cut for proper values rather than for
proper matches.
Often enough in production, the action between
takes and different angles will not match with
one another. While this is no concern at all
when you leave a shot alone, this lack of
continuity becomes extremely problematic
when you must intercut frequently between
different shots.

Rules of Editing (7 of 7)
Substance first -- then form.
More of a summary rule than anything else.

Rules of Editing (7 of 7)
Substance first -- then form.
More of a summary rule than anything else.

The Elements of Cinema

by Stefan Sharff

Editing is the selection and ordering of

shots to create a narrative structure
that communicates ideas, feelings or

SEPARATION - Fragmentation of scene

into single images in alternationA,B,A,B,A,B

Showing two people who are close together in

separate shots. A conversation is going on with one
person looking right in a MS and the other person
looking left in a CU (usually after a two shot
establishes that the two people are close to each
other). This technique brings us closer to each person
than we could be if both are shown in the same shot; it
places the viewer as a third person in the


introduction of pictorial information
within a single shot, or several
A shot starting with a CU that does not
reveal the location of the subject at first. It
then pulls back or cuts to a full revelation of
the location, which surprises the viewer.

FAMILIAR IMAGE: A stabilizing anchor

image periodically reintroduced
without variation.

A landscape, an object or activity that

repeats itself with little change during a film.
The repetition has a subliminal effect,
creating a visual abstract thought. It can be
used as a stabilizing bridge to new action
and to assumes meaning as the film

MOVING CAMERA: Used without cuts

and from a camera mounted on a
dolly, crane, steadicam, or hand held.

These are used to follow action as the

subject moves through a location or to
disclose new visual information (see Slow

MULTI-ANGULARITY: A series of shots of

contrasting angles and compositions
(including reverse and mirror images).


shot over an entire dramatic action. A
traditional Hollywood film structure,
i.e., an establishing shot, used as a
"cover" for the entire scene.
This is often accomplished by doing a multicamera shoot. One camera covers the twoshot as master, the two other cameras cover
the medium, over-the-shoulder shots. Since
the action is recorded only once but from
three angles, it is always consistent - there
will be no continuity problems.

ORCHESTRATION: the arrangement of

the cinematic chain of shots and
scenes throughout the film that keeps
the momentum flowing.
Shots and scenes are interdependent in that
they effect one another and influence what
comes after as well as explain what has gone
before. Ochestratrion harmonizes the cinematic
continuum. Orchestration's initial purpose is to
present the basic iconography of the film, to
acquaint the viewer with its "way of speaking",
its "voice", the cinesthetic method of the

The Birds

The Battleship Potemkin

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