In film terms, editing is the ‘linking of two different pieces of film’ and this usually follows some sort of logic – e.g. we may see a long shot of a group of people followed by a close-up of one of the people in the group; or a shot of a couple with the shot then changes to show the point of view of the woman (Corrigan, 2004: 62-63)
This may be done in a variety of ways, but the most common is from jumping from one shot to another – and the break between the two pieces of film is called a cut.
When used in this logical way, building up the relationships within a space and between characters on the screen, this is referred to as continuity cutting. That is, the editing is arranged to make it easier to follow the events shown in the film and there is unlikely to be anything that we don’t really expect. Think of your typical romantic film scene in a restaurant, with the shots jumping from the perspective of the man, to the woman, to a longer shot of the table showing them both in frame. Alternatively, the editing of shots of seemingly unrelated places, people and things, with the action jumping from one to another in juxtaposition, is called dynamic cutting (Filmsite, Durham University glossary of film terms).
Think, for example, of the opening scene of Jurassic Park. There are a lot of cuts between the perspective of the park staff, a mixture of close-ups and longer shots, and then the box which is bringing a new dinosaur into the park. This jumping between perspectives, combined with the logical nature of the editing (that is, jumping from staff to box to dinosaur and back) involves us closely in the action. The amount of cutting means that the shot length is relatively short, which has the effect of grabbing our attention.
Going back to the first activity posted on this blog, it’s possible to see this kind of logical editing being demonstrated (albeit in a less action-packed context than Jurassic Park!)
In this short clip we have eight different shots edited together. They change from two-shots (with both characters in the frame) to point-of-view shots from the perspective of each character.
- Corrigan, T. (2004), A Short Guide to Writing about Film, Pearson Longman
- Durham University Glossary of film terms http://community.dur.ac.uk/m.p.thompson/filmterms.htm [accessed 2015.03.23]
- Filmsite http://www.filmsite.org/filmterms8.html [accessed 2015.03.23]