Monday, 12 November 2012

Editing Techniques: Cuts & Transitions

When it comes to editing pieces of footage, there are a variety of editing techniques editors use, depending on what they want the shots to represent - e.g. showing emotion, movement in time/place.

There are many different styles and cuts an editor can use to create an effective edit. One of the first styles is called a 'Jump Cut'. This is simply a cut where two shots which focus on the same person/object/subject are taken from two slightly different positions. The style makes the image 'jump' position and obviously takes away the idea of continuity. These shots are sometimes not that widely used due to the importance of continuity in film - the shots jump space/time in this particular story world and makes the audience aware of the editing - this style makes the focus of the film on the construction rather than the narrative.

Above is an example of a jump cut. The shot starts with two cups, and then one disappears from shot. I've noticed that in Hollywood Film, this is never used due to the idea of wanting to have a flowing narrative with continuity that the audience are used to/are addicted to. However this shot is still often used, as I've noticed, in Experimental Films, such as Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon, one example (shown below) where we see a hand (mannequin) putting the flower on the ground, and then it jump cuts and the hand just disappears from shot:

For this type of film, I think jump shots work, I liked it in Meshes of the Afternoon because the film doesn't have a linear narrative - whereas Hollywood films are almost ALL narrative, because of audience needs in the 21st century.

A similar shot to the jump cut is a shot called the 'Axial cut', where the camera moves suddenly closer to or further away from it's subject - because jump cut takes away the idea of continuity within film, the axial cut tries to maintain that illusion by not instantly taking away a part of the subject. 

Another shot used within editing is a freeze frame. To be honest, this isn't overly used throughout a film today, but rather at the end as a comical/light-heart ending, are as (shown above) the end of an action scene. 

To me, a freeze frame's main purpose is to show a revelation of some kind - it maybe the end of the film itself or a character stopping and realising something within a narrative. It means a change is going to occur, maybe - however, in my opinion, the shot is used for this one purpose, I haven't seen it used in any other way and work as well as it does for things such as Goodfellas above, or even in TV programs like Scrubs.  

A different technique is the 'contrast cut', where an editor creates a cut between two juxtaposed subjects. For example, a woman dreaming about being happy, dancing with her friends as the first shot, and the second shot would be here waking up inside a dark damp apartment alone. So happy and lively in shot 1 and sad, silent and dark in shot 2. This is only one contrast, (light/dark) (peace/choas) etc. is intensified because the transition between the two is so sudden - which has a bigger and better effect than a more smooth or gradual transition.

A shot used most often within the action genre is cross-cutting. This technique, for example may be used to show action which is happening at the same time in two different locations. In a cross cut, the camera cuts away from one action to another action, which can suggest the simultaneity of this two actions, but sometimes this is not the case. For example (shown below) is a clip from Quantum of Solace, where the scene cuts from the men in the office to close ups of a moving car.

This style of cross-cutting, to me, shows similarity within the actions to the extent that the car is approaching the place - or taking on the mission that the men in the office are talking about. This type of cutting is effective because it cuts down time by showing both events occurring at the same time, and by using this cut, the audience understand that these are meant to be happening at the same time, whereas if you placed one after the other, that might not be so clear.

Another style of cutting is showing several consecutive shots of a brief duration, which is called 'Fast Cutting'. This type of shot is usually used to convey a wide range of information quickly or imply the idea of energy or chaos. More often though, this type of cut is used when shooting dialogue between two or more characters, which changes the viewer's perception to either focus on the reaction of the other character's dialogue, or bring attention to the non-verbal actions of the speaking character.

There is also a cut called 'Slow Cutting', which is a technique that uses shots for long durations. (Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange).

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