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Why Shooting Techniques Are Important to An Editor

Film editing is part of the post-production process of filmmaking. It involves the selection and combining of shots into sequences to create a final motion picture. The editor must creatively work with the layers of images’, story, music; pacing and dialogue to effectively re write the film into one final piece. However, the editor has to be given the right shots and scenes to be able to edit a final piece. If they don’t have the correct shots, such as dialogue scenes or people are shown on the wrong side then the editor will not be able to create a smooth and readable film. The director must make sure what he is filming and make sure that is correct so that the editor can then create a piece which is readable and hopefully successful.


Shot/Reverse Shot

Shot/reverse shot is an important feature of editing dialogue. It makes use of the 180 degree rule and the eye line rule. The shot can be defined as;

A film technique wherein one character is shown looking (often off-screen) at another character, and then the other character is shown looking “back” at the first character. Since the characters are shown facing in opposite directions, the viewer unconsciously assumes that they are looking at each other.

-Bordwell, David; Thompson, Kristin (2006). Film Art: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill.

There are three positions of the camera: a wide/medium shot, an over the shoulder of character A and an over the shoulder shot on character B


When editing a dialogue scene that uses the shot/reverse shot it is important to bear in mind that the reaction to what is being said is just as important as what is being said in the first place.

Examples of this shot:

The opening sequence of 10 Things I hate About You –

It can be seen from 1.58 onwards as the discussion between principal and student takes place and the camera jumps between the two and then onto a wide shot in order to show them both together.

This is an example from Beaches where the two girls first meet –

It starts in this clip around 5.12 when it shows their first encounter.

Finally, this example is from “Superbad” when he is purchasing alcohol.-

Common Cuts

Cutting On Action is also refered to as matching on action which is an editing technique. These techniques are cuts of one shot to another which match what happens in the initial shot to give the idea of continuous time. The shots which are used may not have been shot together but can still be edited to give an impression of  time. Usually a character will begin an action in one shot such as throwing a glass in anger, the next shot could be of the glass smashing into pieces against a wall, this creates a visual bridge which allows the audience to not notice the cut and change of shot but feel comfortable in the edit and continuity of the scene.

This shot also has an alternative edit which the subject will exit the frame in the first shot and reenter the frame in the following. The key is to make sure the second shot matches the screen direction of the first so as to keep a consistency.

Match cut can also be called a graphic match in film editing. This is when two different objects, spaces or compositions are graphically match in order to create and help the audience identify a strong link of action and be able to link the two shots metaphorically. The two shots may be different but will have a match between the two in order to link them together. “The Fountain” by Darren Aronofski is a prime example of this when he runs his hand over the tree bark which then changes to his sick wifes arm.

Jump Cut is an editing term for editing two sequential shots of the same subject which are taken from different camera positions, varying only slightly. This type of edit is very abrupt and is avoided by most Hollywood filmmakers. The edit is unlike the smoothness which classic editing encourages but rather draws attention to the constructed nature of the film in order to add a sense of speed to the sequence of events.

Breathless, 1960, Jean-Luc Godard

Cutaway shots are used during a film as an interruption  of a continuously filmed action by inserting the view of something else. It is usually followed by a cut back to the first shot.

The Godfather, 1972, Francis Ford Coppola

Cross Cut editing is a technique which is commonly used in films in order to create an action taking place on two different locations at the same time. The camera will cut between the two, hence the name cross-cut. This implies that these actions are  happening simultaneously but it is not always the case.

A Corner in Wheat, 1906, D.W. Griffith

Dissolve cuts are the transition in which one scene changes gradually into the other. The speed and timing of the dissolve can be used to add meaning to a scene transition



Point of View shots are a key device which allows filmmakers to create empathy between the audience and characters. This shot is used the majority of the time to place the audience in the position of the main character. Usually it will consist of a shot of a character looking off screen and then cutting to a shot of what the character is actually looking at so the audience are put in the place of the character. – This example from Albert Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” shows the character sitting below looking up towards a window where he can see people. The character is a wheelchair bound photographer who is spying on his neighbours and becomes convinced one of them has committed a murder. This shot is intended to allow the audience to feel as though they are the photographer as it is in the perfect eye line of him and shows three characters which give the audience the information of who the neighbours are.  This helps the sequence as the audience can identify with the main character throughout it. – This clip is from The Notebook as Noah and Ally are on the lake, the first POV happens at 0.37 where exchanged between them both take place. This is to create a connection between the two as well as an intimacy. The shot makes the audience be part of both Noah and Ally in order for the audience to feel comfortable with them and feel their love for one another which at this stage is beginning again. These shots work well as they keep the characters connected and show how at ease they are with one another. – This is a scene from A Clockwork Orange which has different POV shots; there is the nurse, screen and Alex. The majority of the film has POV shots as it is narrated by Alex and therefore allows the audience to connect with him and understand what his world looks like. This is an effective shot as the audience can form a relationship with the character.


Continuity Editing

Continuity editing is the main style of film editing within narrative films and television programs. This particular style creates a sound consistency between shots so that they can be read easily by the audience. The technique was originally associated with Hollywood films but progressed on to other films and T.V programs. Its main intention is to create a seamless and following order of scenes using a variety of other techniques.

There has to be a smooth transition of time and space in order to achieve coherence. This is done by three cameras which do not pass over “the line”. If the camera were to go beyond this then the characters would change place, for example if it is mainly shot from the right and a man is walking towards a door but the next take is shot from the left then it appears the man has changed direction. This is called the 180degrees rule and is considered the most important rule for continuity editing. The establishing shot creates the main line of action and creates a place for the characters in the audiences mind; however, the camera has to maintain this line throughout while characters change positions. In other words, if the camera begins at the right of the “line of action” then it will remain at the right of it in order to create a consistency. This video gives a good example using the film Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock.

Another technique in this form of editing is the eye line rule. This allows characters to look off screen but when the shot changes to another person or object it is clear that that is who or what the character is looking at. This allows the character not to become disoriented and continues continuity while maintaining cinematic space. This is used particularly when people are speaking as it works well with close up shots. This example from Psycho by Albert Hitchcock shows Marion and Sam getting to know one another, the eyeline match allows the editor to jump cut between the two but keep continuity.

Finally, another method is cross cutting which allows two different scenes to be shown yet stability is kept as it appears that these scenes are happening in simultaneously while keeping a smooth cut between shots. These build suspense and allow the audience to compare both scenes being shown and create assumptions of what will happen in the various shots; these expectations are gradually fulfilled as the scenes progress. Usually as the shots progress they become shorter than they were in order for the final climax to happen.  V for Vendetta shows an example of this in the introduction to Evey.

Linear & Non-Linear Editing

Linear and non-linear are both valuable forms of editing. Non-linear was a revolutionary step in the editing world as it is cheaper, faster and more efficient.

Linear editing is a long and demanding job. It is mainly used when using video tape as that cannot physically be cut up and returned together in the order which the film is. The editor must edit the film from start to finish. This means if he has three tapes of film he must go through these all to decipher what has to go where and then go on to record this to a master tape. However, editors can “splice” the film together. This is done by actually cutting the tape up and putting it back together whichever way was needed, which is how traditional film was edited. Again, this was long and limited but also left a lot of room for error. In linear editing, if the editor wanted to replace a clip, he would have to film over the clip he wanted to replace and hope that both were the same size otherwise he would be left with the ending of the previous clip on the master tap or if the new clip is too long then it will cut into the next scene as well both these examples slightly corrupting the image quality.

Non-linear is the more common approach to editing. It has a lot more freedom and benefits in comparison to linear editing. The editor can simply cut, copy and paste the clips that he wants to where he needs it effortlessly. This saves time and money. He can add transitions and effects to make the editing more realistic and comfortable to watch as well as change his mind as often as he likes in real time, there is no need to rerecord anything and he will know that if he replaces anything it will fit perfectly into a space. Also the clips can be saved onto a timeline where they can be trimmed to size and as previously said; transitions and effects can easily be added. Furthermore, non-linear editing is done digitally. This means that film can be saved and accessed easily from a hard drive as well as be saved more than once for assurance. It is easy to export the finalised film to DVD or the web straight away.


Real World and Virtual World Integration

SGI has created a link between real world in film and the animated world. Today with such advanced technology this can hardly be noticed, it is almost a blur between the two. Disneys 12 principles can still be seen throughout especially principles such as metamorphosis, stretch and squash and anticipation. Below are two examples of recent films which incorporate both real world and animation.

“The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – – is a very recent film which animates apes along with humans as they become more and more powerful. It is a brilliant film and the apes are completely believable, there is not a moment where the audience question whether these apes are actually real or not.

Avatar is another prime example. It is one of the most famous SGI films, and is so realistic. There is no doubt at all that this world exists. It is a truly great film, anyone who hasn’t watched this should! –

Both of these films demonstrate all of the 12 principles in order to create realistic animations that will last a long time.