Tuesday 28 April 2015

Film and Video Editing Techniques: A History

Development of Video Editing

When cinema was first invented, filmmakers would just film a scene (like a busy street) and present it as it was. The film would be one long, still shot, and the motion within the shot was all that was needed to amuse the audience. Editing and story was not needed at the time. Then, film editing was invented to establish continuity, allowing a narrative to be put across. One of the first films to use more than one shot was Robert W. Paul's Come Along, Do! (1898).

Edwin Porter is another important filmmaker of the early years of video editing, and is responsible for various techniques that became conventions of film. For example, in his film Life of an American Fireman (1903), he discovered that cutting shots together could create a story - intercutting. He learned that by intercutting scenes of the firemen leaving the fire station and scenes of a woman stuck in a burning building built tension and gave the film an emotional impact. The film was the first American film to feature a plot. This was an important development in the film industry, as it showed that the editing of a film could generate an emotional response from its audience. He also used this technique in his film The Great Train Robbery (1903), which featured multiple indoor and outdoor locations.

D. W. Griffith was another famous film editor who developed Porter's ideas.
He was the first to use close ups a lot, which he found helped to portray the characters' emotions, which in turn generated emotional responses from the audience. His film, Birth Of A Nation (1915) was one of the first to feature flashbacks and parallel action, techniques that helped present the narrative of the film in creative and impactful ways. D. W. Griffith was also one of the first to develop the ideas behind classical film editing, primarily the invisible cut rule. The expectation at this time was that action should always be smooth and fluid (through the use of the match-on-action technique, and avoiding things such as jump cuts and continuity errors), so that the cut was "invisible," and the audience would feel more immersed. An example of this rule being used is D. W. Griffith's film Orphans of the Storm (1921), where he frequently uses match-on-action to disguise cuts.

Years later, the invisible editing rule (where the cut is hidden by ensuring that the sequence follows the action by using the match-on-action technique, so that the audience
does not notice the edit and the sequence flows) was challenged by French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's film Breathless (1959), in which Godard used jump cuts extensively. Breaking the rules made the film appear new and exciting, and therefore it was a hit with the audiences. The film was the catalyst for a new generation of mainstream film (for example, Arthur Penn was inspired to use jump cuts in his 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde). Jump cuts also began to be used in TV, particularly in TV advertisements, allowing directors to communicate more information within the 30 second frame. Breathless, however, was not the first time jump cuts were used. In 1922's Nosferatu, jump cuts are used to show the compression of time as the vampire moves closer to the door with every shot. Though the film used jump cuts in a less startling way (cutting to another shot of the victim before cutting back to the vampire), the technique still effectively built suspense and horror as the vampire quickly moved closer to its victim.

The Russian Revolution in the early 1900s also sparked a revolution in editing. Due to the fact that
the majority of Russia's population was illiterate, Lenin (the leader of the Russian Communist Party), used film to spread the party's message to a larger percentage of the population. This gave the party an edge against their competitors, as it allowed them to reach a larger audience. This is one of the first instances where film was used as propaganda, encouraging people to join the revolution. Russia differed from Hollywood in that the rejected the idea of seamless editing. Instead, they edited films realistically, by filming real life and chopping it together rather than intricately developing melodrama like Hollywood did. This revolutionised editing techniques, as the success of various Russian film such as Sergio Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera (1929), in which Vertov simply filmed real life in Moscow, including shots of actual editors doing their job. This was different from Hollywood because the film did not attempt to hide the edit at all. It is argued that the film demonstrates every modern day editing technique used today.

Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov discovered what is known as the Kuleshov effect - that viewers get
more meaning out of two consecutive shots than from one single shot. This became known as juxtaposition. Editors can use this to make actors look better than they actually are. As Eisenstein once said, "The meaning of the film is in the shots' collision, not in the shots themselves." As filmmakers began to further understand the correlation between the film's editing and its success, editors began to have much more importance. Editors have to power to decide whether or not an actor will get an Oscar for their performance - for example they can use different moments from different takes, so that the actor seems flawless, when in reality the scene took multiple attempts to get right. This is why it is important in post production to not delete any of the footage that has been recorded, as even in one of the worst takes, there could be a movement or expression that could be used in the final cut.

Battleship Potemkin (1925) is famous for its use of juxtaposition of images to create a montage. It is
also a good example of how famous scenes from classic films are reused over and over again, for example, the stairs scene from this film is used time and time again in modern Hollywood films. Battleship Potemkin was a vital film in the development of today's editing techniques.

In the 1930s-40s, filmmakers began to experiment with using film to manipulate the audience and to generate a specific reaction. Filmmakers learned that the way the film has been edited can influence beliefs. For example, during World War II, the West and the Germans used film to create propaganda. The 1934 film Triumph of the Will turned Hitler into a God in Germany, however, in 1941, British editor Charles Riddly re-edited it (naming it Germany Calling, or The Panzer Ballet) to turn him into a laughing stock, using jump cuts, reverse effects, and changing the speed of certain shots. This example shows how editing can be used to manipulate the image of someone or something.

Sound was also an important development in video editing introduced in the 1930s. Until then,
editing was a major role for women, due to the sexist idea that editing was a "woman's job" as it was compared to knitting. However, when sound was introduced, more men began to take over the role as sound was considered to be more technical. Sound is extremely important in creating the mood of a scene, such as in action/suspense films, where low pitched, slow tempo music can be used to increase tension. In some cases, no music at all is better for creating tension. For example, in the tunnel scene in Danté's Peak (1997), the sound of sand falling down the walls created tension, as the audience understood that it meant that the tunnel was about to collapse. However, when music was added (despite the music being a suitable tone for the scene), the atmosphere was ruined as it took away from the sense of listening to what was happening within the scene. Music is almost always used in films to generate emotions from the audience. In a sad scene, sad music will often be used, and in a happy scene, uplifting music will be used. This emphasises the mood of the scene and helps engage the audience and leads to them feeling the emotions the director wants them to feel.

Editing is also important for a vital part of many genres (such as action, thriller, mystery, horror, etc) - suspense. Alfred Hitchcock is often credited as the "master of suspense" - his 1960 film Psycho was one of the first slasher films. Instead of directly showing the audience the action (the woman in the shower being stabbed), he merely implied it, using sickening diegetic sound effects representing the knife piercing the woman's skin (as well as the actress's screams), and visual elements such as blood pouring down the drain and the woman's facial expression (presented through close ups). The audience is never shown any actual gore - leaving it to the viewers' imaginations, which is often worse than seeing actual images of gore. Hitchcock's techniques influenced more recent horror films, such as
Halloween (1978) and Silence of the Lambs (1991).

In conclusion, the development of editing was highly influential in the advancement and success of the film industry. It is arguably the most important part of the production process, as the editing of a film is responsible for how well the story is conveyed, the emotions and reactions that are generated by it, even the performance of the actors themselves.

In-Camera Editing:
In-camera editing refers to a technique in which all the shots of a video are shot in the right order, and at the correct length that the video will be when it is complete. This technique is most useful when filming an event (E.G a wedding or party) - something that you want to film in sequence. However, this technique can be quite difficult, as if one shot goes wrong, the whole film will look bad. A lot of pre-planning is recommended for when using in-camera editing, as this technique does not allow for second chances, and spoiled shots will ruin the video.

This technique was notably used by Alfred Hitchcock in the film, Rope (1948). The film was Hitchcock's experiment in one-shot film, in which he would make each transition by ducking behind an actor or a piece of furniture to make the cut seamless and invisible.

Following The Action:
Following the action refers to when the camera follows what the actor is doing. Multiple cameras will often be used for these shots, so that editors can switch between different angles during post-production This gives more depth to the scene, and keeps the audience's attention as they are not just watching a single shot. Also, if multiple shot types and angles are used, fast editing techniques can be used to make the scene appear fast-paced and intense. This technique has greatly improved as film production has developed, with the invention of new camera equipment such as dollies which allow the camera to be moved smoothly, allowing it to follow the action. This technique is most commonly used in films with lots of action sequences, such as action, adventure, or fantasy films. An example of this technique in use is in Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975), which uses multiple shots and camera angles of the shark, to offer multiple perspectives and a more intense/exciting sequence.

Multiple Points of View:
This technique shows the audience the scene from the point of view of multiple characters in one go. This allows the audience to see the scene from different perspectives.

Shot Variation:
Shot variation is very important in order to keep modern day audiences interested in the film/video. When cinema was first invented, filmmakers would only use one shot, which would often last for as long as it takes for the camera to run out of film. This would be all that was needed to keep the audience interested. Soon, filmmakers began experimenting with editing films, allowing them to use a larger variation of shots in order to create a narrative, which is the goal of a film. Many types of shot exist, including (extreme) long shots (usually used to present mise-en-scene, allows lots of detail to be placed in one shot), mid shots, and close ups (commonly used to show facial expressions/reactions and small details), over-the-shoulder shots (commonly used during conversations), point of view shots (often used in action shots), birds eye view shots, and more. These shot types can be combined with different camera angles to create a narrative that is interesting to watch.

Manipulation of Diegetic Time and Space:
This is a technique used by many film editors in which they change the speed of the film, in order to show the audience a long period of time (within the film universe) within a short period of time (in real life). Diegetic means within the film universe. This technique is commonly used in films featuring time travel, such as the time travel scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).
This technique can also be used in action films, such as The Karate Kid (2010) during the training montage scene. The technique is used here to show the important details of the weeks/months that the character spent training. Instead of the film being shown in real time, it is edited down so that it only lasts 2-3 hours, as opposed to weeks.

When cinema was first invented, films and videos were recorded on to roll film, which was invented in the late 1800s. The quality of roll film at this time was poor, and colour film was not invented until 1902. Editing at this time was very complicated, as personal computers were not invented until 1981, and digital editing was not invented until around this time.

Since its invention, film and video has been constantly improving in terms of technology. Since the late 1900s, high definition film has become the norm, and 3D and IMAX releases are becoming ever more popular. DSLR cameras have become more capable of filming HD video, making it more accessible for amateurs to make their own films to be distributed online. The digital revolution has also made video editing easier and more accessible, as all it requires is a personal computer and editing software.

Analogue editing was used before technology had advanced enough to allow editing using computers. Editors would cut and edit a film reel by hand, using a razor (splicer) to cut the tape, and then taping it back together. This meant that editing a full length film would take months to complete, and would be a very fiddly and complicated job to complete. It was common for marks and blotches to appear on frames of a film, which would then be visible in the final cut of the film. Also, if an editor made a mistake with a cut, or decided to cut a shot and then changed their mind, they would not be able to go back on their decision, and instead would have to move on to the next shot.

With the development of technology, it is now possible to edit films using computer software such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas Pro, or Final Cut Pro. This technology has greatly simplified the editing process, making the process of cutting and pasting a film together much faster, however post-production will commonly still take up to months to complete. This is because with new technology, new possibilities have arisen for films. It is now possible to not just cut a clip, but cut within the frame to add or remove elements from the existing image. Therefore, editors now have much more control, but the amount of decisions the editor needs to make has increased.

Adding special effects and transitions is also much easier with digital editing. Editors can use programs like Adobe After Effects to manipulate the shots themselves, adding effects like fire and explosions that look realistic. Transitions like cross-dissolves are also easy to add to a shot in Premiere Pro, as it just requires dragging the effect onto the shot within the timeline. Cross-dissolves would not have been possible using analogue editing techniques.

Additionally, the development of this software has made filmmaking more accessible for amateurs. Lots of software has become much more affordable and available for anyone to purchase and begin editing their own videos.

Purposes of Video Editing

A single edit in a video can heavily affect the way the audience responds to a sequence. The purpose of editing is to do just that - craft the video into a narrative that will generate the desired responses from the audience. For example, in an action/thriller film, the director would want the audience to feel tense and excited, so the editor could use crosscutting to show two events happening at the same time. An example of this is in The Life of an American Fireman (1903), where shots of the firemen leaving the station are cross cut with shots of a woman trapped in a burning building (edited by Edwin Porter, one of the first editors to discover how editing could create a story). This increases tension and suspense, getting the audience on the edge of their seats and creating an emotional impact.

Combination of Shots:
This is the process of putting all the shots together into a sequence. Editors must ensure that the edit is smooth and flowing, and in many cases the edit is also expected to look invisible. However, in some films, edits such as jump cuts will be used for effect, such as to disorientate the audience and create a mysterious and in some cases creepy effect.

180 Degree Rule:
The 180 degree rule refers to the invisible line that exists in a sequence featuring two characters talking. In most conversation scenes, cinematographers use a shooting technique called shot reverse shot. The 180 degree rule exists to ensure that the camera stays on one side of the action. Therefore, the characters stay grounded on the same side of the screen/frame, eliminating the chance of the audience getting confused from the apparent change in position. The rule has been violated in some instances, for example Stanley Kubrick is known the break it. Breaking the rule can be used to create a sense of disorientation, or confusion in the mind of one of the characters.

Creating Pace:
Editing is important to creating the pace of the film. The pace of an edit changes the way the audience interprets the film, for example an action film will normally be very fast paced, creating tension and excitement. The pace is increased by using quick cuts and lots of movement. On the other hand, a romance/drama film would have a much slower pace, using less cuts and longer shots, to allow the audience to concentrate on the characters and understand what is going on, as quick cuts are more distracting.

Conventions and Techniques:

This technique is also known as invisible editing, meaning that edits should be masked by the action so that the audience does not notice the edit. This is done using a technique called match-on-action, where one shot cuts to another shot but continues to show the same action. D.W. Griffiths, through developing Edwin Porter's ideas, was one of the first editors to make this technique a well known and popular style of editing. Seamless editing is used in most genres of film, but it is particularly important in films with lots of action, to ensure that the scene and choreography flows, making it more exciting and appealing for the audience to watch. Here is an example of a fight scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which seamless editing and the match-on-action technique is used frequently.

Continuity refers to the technique of creating a smooth flow between all of the shots in the sequence, ensuring that none of the clips feature continuity errors (for this, mise-en-scene is very important to pay attention to, as props should not be moved in between shots unless they are supposed to be in different positions). This also involves using seamless editing so that the sequence flows, allowing the audience to stay focused on the story and not be confused by the editing (unless, they are supposed to be disoriented by special techniques, such as jump cuts).

A motivated edit is where the audience sees the characters reaction to a character/item/event, then sees the character/item/event themselves. This technique is commonly used in horror films, such as when a character hears a noise, looks up, screams, then it cuts to a shot of the thing the character is screaming at.

Montages are the justaposition of short shots shown in quick succession. They are mostly used to show the passage of time, while giving audience an insight to what it happening as time goes on. In this sense, the technique links to the manipulation of diegetic time and space, such as in The Karate Kid, where there is a training montage. Montages are also used in promotional videos, to show the audience various aspects of the service/product/company being promoted. Montages can also be slow-paced, such as in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Montages usually cannot be used to create emotions, however, and are not normally used to make the audience feel something. Instead, their purpose is to help the audience to understand something that happened over a diegetic long period of time, in an interesting way. However, montage sequences do make the film/video more cinematic, helping the audience to feel more immersed in the film universe than they would be if the montage was replaced with just a text card explaining what happening in that time.

Jump cuts refer to a transition between multiple shots, which appears to make the subject "jump" as it is moved to a different location in consecutive shots. This effect is very disorientating for the audience, and therefore are usually only used when this is the desired effect. They can also be used to speed up time, or to edit in time with the soundtrack. Jump cuts can be avoided by ensuring that the framing of the shots are completely different, or by zooming in instead of cutting.

Parallel editing, also known as cross-cutting, is when a sequence of shots shifts back and forth between one scene and another. The two shots are distinct, however it is clear that they are related and are happening at the same time. I have mentioned this technique previously, using The Life of an American Fireman as an example. Another example of this technique being used within film is during a chase scene. One shot will show the hero getting away, and the next shot will show the villain chasing after them. This creates tension and excitement, getting the audience on the edge of their seat and encouraging them to continue watching to see what happens.

Splicing refers to the edit of film specifically, not video. Before the invention of linear editing and digital computer editing, splicing was used to edit films together. This technique involves cutting up sections of the film roll, rearranging or discarding it, then sticking it back together with splicing tape. This process was very straightforward but much more time-consuming than digital editing.

Cut: A cut is a sudden change of shot, to a different kind of shot with a different viewpoint, or to a different location. Depending on the genre of the film/video, shots can be any length, but on average, a cut will occur every 7-8 seconds (on television). A cut is the most abrupt form of transition, however they can be masked by using the match-on-action technique.
Dissolve: A dissolve is one of the earliest types of transition, as it was a very straightforward effect to achieve in-camera (rewinding the last few seconds of the first shot then shooting over the negative). The transition allows audiences to be eased into another shot without jarring them. It was originally the most popular form of transition, until the cut became more popular and the seamless edit technique was developed by DW Griffiths. Nowadays, dissolves are most commonly used to show the passing of time, or a connection between two scenes. Dissolves are also known as crossfades.
Fade: A fade is very similar to a dissolve, however it is when a shot gradually fades to or from a single colour, such as black or white. Fading to or from black is a very common way to start and end a scene, and the timing of the fade indicates the length of time that has passed between scenes. For example, a quick fade indicates that only a few minutes or a few hours has passed, whereas a slower fade can indicate that years have passed, and things are much different.
Wipe: A wipe is when one shot is replaced by another shot in a geometric pattern. It does not always have to be a vertical or horizontal wipe - the transitions can come in many different shapes. Wipes can be used for showing a change in location or viewpoint, however they are rarely used in film, other than in comedy. Split-screen videos often use wipes to reveal the new shot in half of the frame.

A cutaway is an intercut shot between two shots of the same subject. It can be used to show that another action is happening at the same time as the main action that the audience is focused on, to avoid jump cuts, or to shortcut the passing of time. An example of a cutaway is this scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (time approximately 4:03).

There is a low angle mid shot of Hagrid talking to the Dursley's, which then cuts to a shot of Dudley eating Harry's cake, then cuts back to another shot of Hagrid continuing to talk. The technique shows what Dudley is doing, and emphasises the fact that Hagrid has not yet noticed.

Point of View Shot:
A point of view shot is a shot that appears to be through the eyes of a character. A POV shot is usually preceded by a close up or mid shot of the character looking at something beyond the camera, then (in many cases) followed by another close up showing the character's reaction (also known as a reaction shot). POV shots can also be created through the use of Steadicam or a a hand-held camera, often used in horror/thriller films to build tension. For example, a shaky hand held tracking POV shot to represent a character running away, or a slow, creepy shot to represent a villain spying on the main character.

This technique is used when two characters are having a conversation. The most common way to film this type of scene by first filming a 'master shot' (long shot or mid shot, also known as a two shot) of both characters talking, then filming the conversation again with a close up of one character, then again with a close up of the second character. Extreme close ups of the characters' faces can also be used to show lots of emotion. This technique is also used for filming interviews.

Providing and Withholding Information:
Providing and withholding information is a common technique used in all genres. Withholding information, which is when the audience is not given key information regarding the plot is most commonly used in mystery or thriller. For example, in a mystery or horror film, you may see somebody being murdered, but not know who it was that did it until the end. An example of this is the slash horror film Scream; the film starts out with someone being murdered, but the audience does not find out who is behind the mask until the end.

Providing information is where the audience is given information, commonly when the main character doesn't know. This is also known as dramatic irony. This technique is commonly used in dramas, for example, the audience may see a character cheating on their significant other, but their significant other does not find out until much later. This can also be used in mystery/horror films - the audience knows who/what the killer is, and it builds suspense because the audience wants to see whether the protagonist figures it out or not.

Editing Rhythm:
Rhythm refers to the rate and regularity of sounds, shots, and movements within the shots. Rhythm is very important within film, as it contributes to the tone and emotion of the overall film, which also affects the audience's impression. Rhythm can be affected in editing via the pace of the edit and by the sound used. Fast edits give the film a fast paced rhythm, commonly used for action and adventure films. Slower edits create a slower paced rhythm, more commonly used for romance and drama, as the audience needs to focus more on the story than on the action, and should not be distracted by quick cuts. Sound and music is usually designed to match the pace of the edit. Slow paced edits would be accompanied by slower, more emotional music, whereas fast paced edits would be accompanied by fast, dramatic music. An example of this is from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

Crosscutting, as explained previously under "parallel editing" is when a sequence of shots shifts between two or more locations alternatively. This technique shows the audience that the actions are happening at the same time, and are usually linked. For example, in this scene from Inception, the editing builds tension and makes the audience excited to see what happens.

Cutting to Soundtrack:
Cutting to soundtrack is when the cuts match the tempo of the sound. This is important in terms of the rhythm of the film/video, which, as explained previously, heavily affects the mood of the film. Cutting to soundtrack is most commonly used in music videos, where the edit must match the tempo of the song so that the video remains linked to the music and the audience stays interested. For example, in this video for St Patrick by PVRIS, the cuts/transitions are usually to the beat of the drums. The majority of the video is fast paced, up until the bridge, where the song slows down a bit, so the cuts do too. There are also various effects used in time to the song, such as at 1:42, where the singer's voice echoes and the shot flickers back and forth.

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