editing (film narrative) The action of joining two shots together and the overall work and construction of a narrative film or other film form. Three criteria are combined in the editing for narrative film: the control of continuity to sustain realism, the construction of narration to tell the intended story, and the use of editing to enhance the experience of the storytelling for the audience: editing which has a felt effect: dramatic, emotional, psychological. In practice, in relation to the stages in film production, editing is the final element of a three stage process, and crucially, if either of the first two stages fail then editing cannot succeed. The first stage is the story, usually as set out in a screenplay. This fails if the narrative has events instead of story, then it cannot be directed to support the editing. The second is the failure of direction when the filming of the screenplay fails to narrate the story, and does not produce material that can be edited, not just because of failures in continuity, but due to failures in narration: weaknesses in storytelling.
Weaknesses, failings in a screenplay can relate to narrative coherence, the plot being confused or contradictory, but frequently it is in the description of non-essential action that there are problems with the storytelling: in the script the character does things, such as putting on a coat, pouring a cup of coffee. This can be filmed, they are events, but they are not the actions of a story that develops character and plot. When editing is based on this kind of action, the filmed shots will show these events, but they will not develop into a dramatic narrative. If one goes out into the street and shoots several shots of traffic and pedestrians passing by this can be edited, but there is no story in terms of plot points, character and story development. In these circumstances it doesn’t really matter if one shot is used or not, or if the time in terms of the shot length runs long or short. Without a story there is nothing in place to guide the editing, but only a succession of events on screen.
The issue with the lack of story undermining the editing, extends to the quality of the dialogue scenes in the screenplay and then to the performance of this by the actors. If the dialogue drifts, carrying little or no narrative function, and then as a consequence of this the dialogue can’t be performed successfully, because it doesn’t clarify character or plot, then as with visual action these dialogues can be filmed, but they offer no coherence and cohesion for storytelling and as a result of this there is no way to develop the story in the editing: the shots carry little or no story in themselves and so editing cannot change or progress this: it will not matter which shots are chosen for the edited scene and the dialogue will have no key moments of dramatic development, conflict or change that can be supported by the editing.
When there is a successful screenplay that tells a story effectively and dramatically this can be well filmed or badly filmed. Here, similar to the problems with a script that has events, but no story, non-essential events can be what is filmed in the direction and blocking on set rather than effective story narration. The poor blocking shows characters arriving, sitting, going from one place to the next, but this is not the major action of the story. This problem happens because these incidental actions, movements that are part of the scene are filmed to ensure that they keep control of continuity, but in doing this they are also given far more significance than is necessary. When a film is directed with successful continuity it will cut together but it will not necessarily be a success in terms of story narration or as an emotional drama. First time directors and inexperienced film crews struggle to keep continuity and a lot of effort is spent to ensure that continuity of action and dialogue is kept and in the effort to do this attention on the narration, the drama of the story is lost. Of course if basic continuity for lighting, for image, size, for screen sections for spatial relationships is not in place, then the film will not edit at all. So, the filming needs to be successful for continuity and for story narration in order to support the editing.
If a story is in place in the script and this is realized in the filming, then a film can be edited successfully. Here, there needs to be a caution about the method used to be successful in the filming. To overcome the challenges of filming successfully and following what is perceived to be a professional practice first time filmmakers frequently decide to storyboard their films, with this giving a sense of their being able to control the filming and as part of this pre-plan the editing. This pre-editing via a storyboard is usually a mistake. There are films with complex CGI, special FX, and stunts which needs storyboarding, and also, there is a need to build sets suitable for filming, the need to control large scale action during filming and all of this benefits from and needs careful advance planning to ensure a successful production, and so pre-visualisation is used, but the majority of filming for narrative film is not storyboarded and a storyboard is only effective if it is created with a full understanding of the story, the continuity for filming, and also if the storyboard is understood in terms of actual filming on set. The often unseen problem is that nearly all storyboarding is for shot by shot sequences, but this is not the method for filming the majority of scenes. The storyboard is planned but then cannot be filmed.
In a narrative film the dialogue scenes will usually use coverage to enable intercutting and it is in the editing that the final shots are chosen and assembled. So, storyboarding for filming and pre-editing which is used for shot by shot sequences is often a mistake for coverage scenes, because the shots based on a storyboard and then made on set will not actually edit because shot by shot filming for dialogues will undermine performance. Trying to shoot a film in little bits and pieces based on how they will edit does not support an actor’s performance, but damages it. Also, coverage when well filmed will provide options and opportunities for editing that shows the drama of the scene in the most effective way: the editing selecting what different characters are doing in the scene, speaking, listening, reacting, and in the editing, by choosing specific shots this can effectively narrate the story: who is the central character in the scene, how is the scene understood by the characters, how is the story as told in the editing understood by the audience. Using a storyboard or shooting shot by shot preempts the process of editing, when what is required in filming is to produce footage that conveys the action of the story, showing, narrating what happens in the story visually and what motivates and decides these actions. A successful director will block and rehearse the action for a scene and then put in set ups to film the scene successfully and this is because all of the decisions for the acting of the scene can’t be decided at the storyboarding stage. Blocking and planning for coverage can be planned in the pre-production stage, but this is little understood, how to plan for coverage filming and the mistake of using shot by shot for dialogue is what is put in place. The result of this pre-planning is often an edited scene with well composed shots that don’t fully match for continuity and the editing jumps awkwardly from shot to shot, this awkwardness damaging the realism of the narrative and the progression of events.
In terms of successful filming for story, and returning to the example of shooting footage in the street where there are cars and pedestrians. If the plot is that a character in a story starts to cross the road, but they aren’t paying attention, there is nearly an accident when they try to cross, and to avoid being hit by a car they jump back, fall and drop their phone. Then this is the story action to be filmed. The filming can be done in different ways, focalising the main character, their experience, focalising the driver of the car, taking an externally focalised viewpoint or changing viewpoints. These are directorial choices for the scene and if the scene is successfully shot, then the editing will be able to convey this story by choosing and refining the shots, and the editing will enhance the drama of the story action: clarifying the danger of the traffic, clarifying that the character is unaware, making sure that the drop of the phone is shown and understood. This process of successfully assembling the scene for continuity, for story, for drama is the work of editing. It’s reliant on story and filming to be well done, but the editing has to be determined by the story: the editing can only succeed if the story is the impetus and guide for the film narrative.
As an indication of where editing is not understood there is sometimes in the editing process, during editing, a desire to see the ‘best’ shot in the fully edited scene, which in this case means a shot that is the most aesthetically pleasing, or which was filmed to the taste of the director or the cinematographer, or it is a shot that shows the actor well. This is when editing is going wrong, because the criteria being used to assemble the scene is how good looking or aesthetically, pictorially satisfying a particular shot/image is: we must have that shot in the scene, it’s really good, I really like it. The concern of editing is narration: storytelling. One can come across films that are good looking, the editing is fluent, but nothing much occurs in terms of story and drama and this is when either the film making has concentrated on visual style rather than telling the story, or this emphasis on image rather than story has carried through into the editing: someone making editing choices that keeps in good looking shots, nice compositions, but this is not editing for story.
When story and direction are in place with the filmed footage then there are two main types of editing sequence: One is elliptical scenes and the second are continuity scenes. Elliptical scenes are where there is continuity of light, and visual tone to ensure temporal continuity, and the action is happening in different places, within a relatively short period of time within the story, This is familiar in traveling sequences or when a range of events are happening in different but connected places: so an elliptical scene will have shots in a city, the scene takes place in the morning and someone travels from home to work. The filmed footage for this elliptical scene will be several shots and this will have temporal continuity, but this will not be continuous action and the shots will not need to have continuity of action for the editing to offer realism and coherent narration.
To consider elliptical scenes in relation to narrative, these sequences progress story events showing small elements in separate shots of what might be long event. So an event with a number of steps like cooking, preparing, meeting, writing, that will take a period of time are cut down by ellipsis: five shots of two seconds each might establish that someone has packed a suitcase and gone to the airport. What will make the shots edit is that they are coherent in terms of light and tone: the changes of light do not move oddly between daytime or night, or change visual tone, and the shots will have some coherence in terms of frame size: the framing will provide enough narrative information to narrate the story action clearly, and the duration of the shots will be long enough for the audience to understand the narrativity of the images. The framing, camera movement, and image size will have some sense of coherence in elliptical scenes, a series of pans, or static shots, or long shots, or close up, or participating with character/s or observing. The pattern and the coherence of the shots being part of a realism that overall requires a sense of temporal continuity and coherent narration. Films often begin with an elliptical scene establishing a location, going from extreme long shot through a series of shots until they come to a figure, the first character or action of the story. Elliptical scenes can compress short or long periods of time, so the screen time for going down a set of stairs can be a couple two second shots, or an elliptical scene can show a story progression of years: the changing of the seasons showing the temporal progression.
In relation to shot length, duration, there is often a significant difference between the elliptical sequences filmed and edited by inexperienced film makers and by experienced filmmakers. The inexperienced editor will cut shots to run very long: a person is putting on their coat and leaving a room: ten seconds, the person leaves the building and walks down the road, twenty seconds. With an experienced editor the same scene, the shots will be edited to run with two seconds for each shot, because that is all that is needed for the shot to convey the story information, as the audience understand the ellipsis between shots: having ten and twenty second shots actually contains no more narrative information that the two second shot, and in watching the film the audience will find the long shots very slow as the narrative is not progressing. What can be told in five shots in ten second, is narrated in poor editing and results in two minutes of screen time.
There are often occasions where there is a longer duration of shots in an elliptical sequence, but this will usually be because music is used over the shots and here the narration of the story has moved to the music with the mood and emotion it gives. If there are five shots to show someone travelling, taking a minute of screen time, then the music can imply gloom, or happiness, and this is important to the narrative because the music adds narration to events that have happened in the story, or in anticipation of what will happen. Music often expresses interiority, indicating the emotion of the characters, or the emotional arc of the story and sometimes music will identify the era, or the local. The shot lengths run long, here in the editing, because the music is foregrounded. So, elliptical scenes compress action, the temporality of story events, and they can be used to offer interiority, period, place, story arc, through music: a child has been separated from their parents, and in their meeting the music conveys this emotional.
In continuity scenes there is temporal and spatial continuity in the filming, following the rules for close continuity, with matching action, movement in and out of frame, change of shot size, so that shots can cut with continuity for scenes in ‘real time’. Here, because there is a scene with a sense of continuous time and continuous action then the filming has to have succeeded with the continuity in the filming for the scene to edit. What editing needs to do in a continuity scene is to set out the story, and not the activity of the scene: if a character pours a cup of coffee and this is significant to the story then a cut to a close up of the pouring will emphasize this event, if it’s not important to the story then a shot of someone pouring a cup of coffee will undermine the narrative. In a dialogue scene it may be that what is said that is the most important element, or what the reaction is the element that is most vital to story or who is listening, what they know, who is looking and how the audience is meant to understand and react to the scene. This is why clarity of story in the script and in filming is so important. If an editor is given a set of well filmed shots of a scene and then edits this in relation to their idea of the story, but with no sense of of the narrative overall they will produce a continuity edit, but what is likely to be missed is how the scene narrates the story in relation to earlier events and the events that will happen. So, in a story, if a character is deciding, thinking what do, and as a result of this in the editing of a dialogue scene they are shown listening and thinking while the dialogue taking place is given less emphasis this editing choice will narrate the story correctly. However, another edit of the scene, emphasizing the dialogue would disregard the listener and change the story. Stories are narrated with differences in audience knowledge, sometimes the audience knows more than the character and sometimes the audience knows only what one character sees, or the audience is only given partial information. The editing choices for a scene, the audience’s knowledge and their viewpoint in relation to story narration are related to the focalisation of the scene: how the narration guides them through the narrative in terms of character and audience viewpoint.
Editing leads the audience through the story, and focalisation gives viewpoint: the focalisation will be established by the script, because the actions of only certain characters are shown and then the scenes are focalised in filming by the directorial choices: the shots for the scene participates with a character, the scene observes the characters, the blocking establishes relationships, joining or separating characters with key moments in the scene being blocked to show and emphasize this. What the editor receives from the filming will be a range of shots and then this will be honed to focalise the action: are two characters given equality of viewpoint in the scene, does one character observe the other: whose responses will the audience see in the scene. This is how a scene is directed on set and then defined in the editing.
Coverage is used for dialogue, continuity scenes where there will be editing, with a range of set ups giving different angles on the scene and allowing for options in the editing. Two factors in film making are particularly relevant here: one is the pace of performance on set, and the second is editing for dramatic effect. In coverage scenes the actors’ speeches do not overlap unless this is specifically planned for, and also, speech is delivered faster than in actual life, in terms of there being no gaps, pauses between different characters speaking. In a film, although it is not noticed by the audience and while the pace of the dialogue seems to be that of real life, the precision and pace of the actors will be faster and crucially much faster than when acted in a theatrical performance style: without the strong emphasis given to pauses, looks, reactions, and slowness of speech, which is the convention of stage acting. For stage acting where there is a physical distance between the actor and the audience, then physical gestures and postures are over emphasized so that they will be noticed, which is not the case in film making where different image size of the shot, the editing will set the audience’s attention: for example a close up so that micro-facial expression is seen. In film narration, in the editing, a pause by an actor is either meaningful or its empty of narration, and the gaps between speech if they are simply made long for every speech, supposedly for dramatic purposes, to be emphatic, in editing this will become simply pauses on screen, a stop the story. The editing is what is used to pace the acting in film narration, not over dramatic performance. So, when a shot runs on after a speech is finished in an edited film this will be so that the audience can think on this speech, or the shot will cut so that the reaction gives the meaning. A slow emphatic performance can undermine the editing, or the pauses are often cut out to keep a narrative flow.
Film dialogue is not realistic, it carefully conveys character and plot, and while it is often thought that the performer is the main element of character and action in a film, this is controlled in the blocking and editing as much as in the performance. The editing guides the reading of performance: a character is scared in the scene because they are shown being scarred, and often a close up in film will have no definite meaning when filmed, but in the context of a film a close up can carry great emotional impact in the narrative, while as an individual shot, the same shot standing on its own, will often appear quite neutral, its just a face in close up, but the meaning of the face at that moment in the film is created by its place in the story. Performance for screen acting is controlled with faster pace, dialogue does not overlap, small gestures will carry so that large gestures are not needed. The editing controls pace, not in terms of the scene having fast or slow events, but in terms of telling the story: the narration moving forward.
The second factor in editing dialogue scenes, coverage scenes, is that almost always it appears as if the dialogues are taking place in real time: the screen time matching how the scene would take place in actuality, but this is not the case. In the first assembly of a continuity scene, the rough cut, the first edit, the scene is likely to run long, then in refining this scene it will usually shorten: so a scene that in a first cut runs two minutes will cut down to less than a minute of screen time: both versions of the editing will seem to show real time, but ‘real-time’ is not actually fixed. What is happening in the editing it that in the first cut the scene is left loose, with all pauses and incidental movements left in, but then this is honed to narrate the story: some reactions and listening shots are edited out, dialogue is overlapped with image so that reaction is seen in relation to dialogue, empty gaps are removed. What is happening here is that the scene is being cut for narration, to tell the story, so that when a shot has a pause then this is dramatically significant. Looking at the footage that’s been filmed for a coverage scene, the different sets ups, each one will have performance in the frame, and the scene might just be shown as single set up, but the drama of the scene will be heightened and defined in the editing. Editors talk of pace and rhythm in editing and this is the matching of the storytelling to the editing, editing is not just showing one event after the other, but editing producing flowing, fluent narration.
Coverage dominates in filming dialogue, while single set ups are another option. Shot by shot is used for elliptical scenes as coverage would serve no purpose because in an elliptical scene shots are not going to cut back and forth because each individual shot is as a separate element intended to move the story action forwards. If shot by shot is used for continuous continuity scenes then this is likely to be when there is intense physical action in the scene and the dialogues are short: so a race or a chase would be filmed with shot by shot and the speeches would take place in specific shots. Shot by shot is used for physical scenes, doing things and here full continuity is used with matches on action and movement in and out of frame indicating continuous time and spatial continuity. In this type of filming this is where the edit points will be pre-decided to a large degree and storyboarding is effective. What is essential for the success of these scenes is that the filming, the directing of the scene, maintains full continuity, because the editor will have to edit one specific shot after another with few options to edit, unlike a coverage scene.
If the filmed footage does not have continuity in a shot by shot scene the only option may be to leave shots out or to have jump cuts. Music is often used on scenes with physical action using shot by shot and these types of scenes may even have the music composed for the edited film. Here the music will meld the shot by shot edits giving them a sense of continuity and continuous action which they would not have if the scene was shown without the score. If one watches a physical scene without any sound playing the shots will loose continuous continuity to a greater or lesser extent, so the sound is very important to the sense that the scene is actually continuous and realistic. There will be continuity of sound.
A final use of shot by shot with continuous action is when psychological realism is used. Here the film narration will shift very specifically to a character’s point of view and what they see will be shown in a specific. So, there is a close up on a character to establish them looking and then what they seen is shown from their psychological point of view. This is a very specific filming and editing technique and use of shot by shot. If this moment of viewpoint takes place in a dialogue scene, which has coverage, then the coverage will shift from overlapping set ups to shot by shot for this part of the scene. This type of filming has to be achieved on set, because the shots for psychological realism are so specific.
In the teaching of editing, the categories of montage created by Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) are often cited. This theory of montage is valid, but this theory of montage is taught as being separate to continuity editing, so its not integrated, but thought of as oppositional or as an alternative to narrative film editing. There are historical reasons for this separation. Sergei Eisenstien was a Russian filmmaker, making films for political purposes so wanted to use film polemically rather than as a realist form, Also, as a Soviet film theorist it would not be possible to state that montage was closely related to continuity, realist filmmaking in Hollywood as this would be politically unacceptable within a Soviet Communist context, because capitalist and communist films could not be understood to use the sames forms.
The films of Eisenstein are studied as being distinct and separate from classical narrative films, but the use of editing in films such as Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October (1927) are actually widely used in narrative film, but without these methods of montage being foregrounded to explicate the editing process: the terms defined by Eisenstein are only applied to a limited range of films when they could be more broadly and openly used. Eisenstein’s formulation for montage is divided into five types.
Metric Montage is where shots of the same length are used. In a film narrative with fast editing metric montage is in place, because shots will cut with a regular and short pace: usually two seconds per shot. This regularity allows the audience to gather the narrative information, what is in the shot and then it moves on, the edits moving from shot to shot. When metric editing is longer in terms of time duration of each shot, then what the shot contains can be contemplated. Metric editing is often seen at the start of narrative films and this is because the story setting is being established rather than the main action of the story. The even paced editing sets up the process of watching, the audience becoming involved in the film, but before their having a viewpoint connected to a character. This metric editing is similar to classical music where an even pace of music sets up a theme at the start of a piece of music and then this develops, rising and offering greater complexity. Metric editing can also be used to calm a drama, reducing pace, or adding pace.
Rhythmic Montage is where the editing is matched to the action in the shot, and this is considered to be the same as continuity editing in the theoretical context where montage is presented. This type of edit is where the length of the shot follows the action in the shot, the editing following the action. Rhythmic Montage is fine as a term, except in so far as it is taken to separate montage in the main from other approaches to editing and to make montage distinctly different from continuity editing. It creates a distinction that is unhelpful. There will be many scenes in a narrative film where the editing follows the action of a shot: the shot shows something happening and when this action is over the shot is cut, but this is not the limit of continuity editing.
Tonal Montage is where the editing is structured towards the feelings and emotions of the piece. Again, this is not isolated to montage, and when editing elliptical scenes, the shots can be short and functional or cut longer to give emphasis to certain story elements, particularly through the use of music. The films of Eisenstein used music for emotional impact and to create a building rhythm to the action, and this occurs in narrative film. Eisenstein's films were concerned with politics, social action, so they do not have the concerns with character and plot, that American and European film had at that time: they are different, but this is not defined in the uses and methods of editing but in the representational intention: in the form. Eisenstein’s narratives are concerned with large scale political events, not with psychology and character. Both use what is labelled Tonal Montage.
Overtonal Montage is where montage not only builds a scene, but creates dissonance and disruption. It’s an edit to a shot that may be part of the scene and it punctuates the action, so a cut to an extreme close up or to a long shot, which has an emotional, felt impact, it’s the use of a cutaway or an insert to heighten the drama. So, breaking the rhythm of an edited sequence, adding a shot that jumps into the main action or jumps outside of the main story action is used as part of narrative film: here there is the shock cut, a shot that cuts to a wide shot of the scene, and often this shot will be from an angle this is not based on any character. It can be an overhead shot, or an extremely low angle. Overtonal Montage is not separate from narrative montage. Overtonal montage acts in effect like an emphasis in musical piece, the music is following a melody, it has a set tempo, and then an instrument will accent and punctuate: a drum, a horn. This punctuation can signal a change, of movement to something new, or emphasize what is happening. This occurs in narrative film. Editing does not simply follow events, but defines them. An overtonal edit will highlight a story element.
The fifth and final type of montage is Intellectual Montage where a shot is used to create an intellectual, abstract idea. In Eisenstein’s theory of montage there can be edits to shots that are not part of the story world, so a politician speaking in a podium before a crowd cuts to a rocket hurtling towards space, or to a shot of a dog barking: this is to give the idea, through a symbolic image, that the speaker is dynamic, like rocket, or yapping like a dog. In contrast to Eisenstein’s editing, only very rarely will narrative films break the story world to present symbolic ideas, but intellectual montage is often used while the realism of the story world is maintained. In a narrative film any shot that establishes a location or a character gives an idea about that character: the humble home showing the humble person, the grand house the grand person. In a narrative film scene there can be cutaways, a shot that convey ideas, the setting of the story or some element commenting on the scene. Eisenstein’s theory of montage identifies Intellectual Montage as a very specific type of shot, but every shot in a narrative has a mis en scene that contributes to the story, so that the presents not just an event, story action, what happens in the shot, but a narrative image of the story: here, what is shown can have symbolic meaning. In a narrative film these may not be political ideas, a in Einsteins films, but they are shots presenting ideas related to the narration: a person is in prison and shots show metal doors clanging shut: this is a realist image, but it also contains the idea of being trapped and imprisoned.
As a concept montage will remain theoretically separate to continuity film making as it is discussed and presented in film theory, but they are in fact inter related, using the same methods of editing, with the main difference being in form: montage being related to political, social, Soviet Socialist film making and classical continuity with character based mimetic narrative.
All editing has an effect, it changes something, but it’s possible to articulate how specific editing choices create an effect that is more than just the shot information. When the continuity system is taught, there is the principle of the match cut: a match on action between one shot and the next so that the editing is realistic: there’s no sense of interruption, no awkward jump. This oversimplifies editing and there are different choices at the editing point. The edit point can be at the moment of action, when a character sitting or standing, so that attention is on the movement and the edit passes effectively unnoticed, but just as often the edit point can produce a bounce, a stress at the edit point. The movement starts and the next cut jumps forward, and this gives emphasis to the action. An edit can also be at a static point and then the new shot, edited in at a static point will draw attention. Once again, editing is not done just for continuity but to narrate and an edit with a bounce creates a need to focus attention on what is being shown, so a reaction cut may be in advance of the speech finishing ensure that the reaction is matched and understood in direct relation to the speech. The editing point is a dramatic moment, not just a mechanistic choice.
Similarly, changes in shot size can be predictable, unnoticed but they will often be used for emphasis. With sudden changes from close shot to long shots having a definite impact, and signalling a change. These edits are a sudden change, they have no meaning in themselves, but they bounce and this means that the audience have to re orientate themselves. It’s similar to the sudden lurch of a car, it’s out of control and needing to bring it back under control focuses the attention. In an edit this happens in milliseconds, but the new shot is given more impact made more vivid by the change of image size. The same kind of effect happens when shots cross over the 180 degree line. The audience have a sense of where all the characters in the scene are and then the shot jumps the line, swapping position. This doesn’t happen at a random point, but when the scene has a major event. The spatial change marks the dramatic change. The script defines the story, the directing sets the narration, the editing emphasizes and defines the narration.
The type of filming that makes the least use of editing for effect, rarely using shots to heighten drama by making an unexpected change is in the sitcom which is filmed before a live audience. Here, what is filmed is basically a stage drama with the cameras placed to frame different characters. The editing is functional, it shows things clearly and helps narrate the story action, but the planning for the filming is for coverage without sudden dramatic edits, sudden dramatic changes of image size, and there is no crossing the 180 line, so the room for emotional editing is eroded.
To review editing and to summarise:
For editing to be successful it needs to be base and a successful screenplay that is successfully film: story action and narration is understood by the writers and the film makers. Without this the editing can never be effective and will simply join shots.
There are two main types of editing with elliptical sequences and continuity scenes. Elliptical sequences use shot by shot and keep continuity in terms of light to ensure temporal continuity. Continuity scenes with continuous action use full continuity to ensure both temporal and spatial continuity.
The majority of dialogue scenes are filmed using coverage to enable dramatic editing. They appear to be in real time, but this is not the case. When shot by shot is used in a continuity scene, showing continuous action this will be to stage physical action with limited dialogue and also for a special type of shot by shot, psychological realism.
The aim of editing is to narrate, editing can be purely functional, simply following action which is a basic editing, but more usually editing will enhance narration: the choices made in editing will work to enhance the story and focalise the audience.
The choice of edit does not simply follow continuity, but can use the edit points to add impact, sensory impact which enhances the emotion of the narration. Editing for a smooth edit is not good editing, because editing can be used dramatically and emotionally. The choice to bounce or have smooth editing depends on the drama of the scene.
Montage is identified as separate to continuity editing, but this is not the case, the terms coined by Eisenstein are useful to consider when editing. Is the scene using Metric, Rhythmic, Tonal, Overtonal or Intellectual montage/editing.
Copyright: Eugene Doyen 2019