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Continuity Editing

May 29, 2012

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.


From → Film Editing

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