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What is Continuity Editing?

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What is Continuity Editing?

What is Continuity Editing?

A way of breaking down a scene into a series of shots.

Why Continuity?

Why Continuity?

Creates coherence and helps spectator orientation; Way shots are edited must permit the viewer to piece them together like a puzzle; Techniques of continuity editing enable the viewer to create a continuous picture from the shots presented on screen.

Continuity Editing Key Techniques

Observing the 180 degree rule The Eyeline match Point of view cutting The match on action cut Directional continuity The Establishing shot Parallel / Cross-cutting Transitions Rhythm

180 degree rule

180 degree rule

Attempts to imitate, on screen, the space of Renaissance painting and proscenium space of 19th century theatre. The viewer is positioned on the same side of the scene or action (i.e. the invisible 4th wall). A film edited using continuity editing orients the viewer by placing them on one side of a 180 degree axis line of action.

The Eyeline Match

The Eyeline Match

A character in one shot glances at something off-screen (out of frame) and a cut reveals the object the character is looking at. The line of the characters glance has matched the two shots together, creating coherence.

Point-of-view Cutting

Point-of-view Cutting

Variant on the eyeline match. Character looks offscreen, cut to the object the character is looking at. Object is shown from the characters POV, through the characters eyes.

Match on action cut

Match on action cut

Cut from one shot to the next where the action is continued from one shot to the next. Continuity of the same action across the shot creates coherence.

Directional Continuity

Directional Continuity

If a character exits the shot from the right of the screen, he should enter the next shot from the left of the screen

The Establishing shot

To make transitions smooth Used at beginning of stories or beginning of new scenes within the narrative A re-establishing shot may be used after many cuts to remind viewer of spatial context.

Parallel / Cross Cutting

Parallel / Cross Cutting

Editing that alternates shots of two or more lines of action occurring in two different places, usually simultaneously

Jump Cut

Jump Cut

Jump Cut An abrupt transition between shots, sometimes deliberate, which is disorientating in terms of the continuity of space and time.

Transitions

Transitions

Traditionally as seamless as possible Can be more creative e.g. Dissolve - the first image gradually disappears while the second image gradually appears; Can be used as a straightforward editing device to link any two scenes, or in more creative ways, for instance to suggest hallucinatory states.

Rhythm

Contributes to mood and overall impression on viewer E.g. Moments of fracture:

Rhythm

As relates to music and sound:

Why edit?

Why risk disorientating the viewer? Why not just use long takes and deep focus photography?

Why edit?

Gives director complete control over events and actors Gives viewer optimal access to the unfolding events Helps to prolong suspense Allows viewer to be more involved in action rather than focus on character psychology or actors performance Eliminates unnecessary time and space

Treatment of Time

Length of shot is usually determined by complexity of images on screen. Long shots more saturated with information than close ups and may need more time Raymond Spottiswoode: Cut must be made at the point where the audience has been able to assimilate necessary information.

History of Continuity Editing

Earliest movies (c.1890s) mostly long shots in a single take. E.g. The Arrival of a Train (1895) Lumiere Bros. By early 20th Century cinematic shorthand developed. E.g. A Trip to the Moon by Georges Melies

DW GriffithPioneered continuity editing for: Locale changes Time lapses Shot variety Emphasis of psychological and physical details Points of view shifts Simultaneity Repetition of motifs Perfected conventions of the chase through using parallel editing and cross cutting

Some questions to ask:

How much cutting is there and why? Are the shots highly fragmented or relatively lengthy? What is the point of the cutting in each scene? To clarify? To lyricize? To create suspense? Is the editing manipulative? What is the rhythm of the editing? Does the personality of the filmmaker come through? Or is the editing purely functional? Is the editing a major language system in the film or does it play a minor role?