The common conventions, techniques and purpose of film editing: When and why it was developed. ‘Sallie Gardner at a Gallop’ was an experiment conducted in 1877 to see if all four of a horse’s legs are off the ground at some point when it is galloping. To do this, a photographer set up 24 cameras along a racetrack to capture 24 photographs of the horse as it galloped past. The experiment was a success and the all of the horse’s legs were off the ground in a few of the captured images. All 24 of the images were combined to form a sequence which was shown through a projector later in 1880. This is considered to be the first motion picture ever created, and it was done by editing assembling pieces of film together to create a sequence. The first proper film was made later in January 1896. This was the Lumière brother’s “L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat” (or The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station). The film was a single static shot lasting 50 seconds, and showed a steam train pulling into a train station in the French coastal town of La Ciotat. There was no editing in films for 3 years until British film pioneer Robert W. Paul made a film called “Come Along, Do!” in 1898. This film is credited as being the first film to feature more than one shot. Even though nothing like this had been seen until this point, the audience could still understand what was happening. Around the early 1900s, filmmakers were still figuring out how to make films and discovering interesting and new concepts which we see in every film made today. For example, in the year 1900, British director George Albert Smith made a film called “As Seen Through a Telescope” which showed a man looking through a telescope. The film then cuts to the man’s view so that we can see what he sees. George Albert Smith had just invented the close up - a type of shot that is extremely common in movies nowadays. The viewer can still make sense of the film and follow what is happening because the edit follows the rules of continuity, meaning that even when we cut to another shot, everything remains in the same time and space. Lev Kuleshov was one of a few Russian filmmakers known for creating the ‘Soviet Montage Theory’. Kuleshov conducted an experiment about editing by intercutting a shot of a man with three different shots; a bowl of soup, a girl in a coffin, and a woman on a sofa. His experiment was to show that the emotion seen by the audience does not come from the shot of the man, or any of the other shots, but from the cut itself. Information is carried across between each shot, meaning that when two shots are put together, they have more meaning than when they are separate. This is known as the ‘Kuleshov effect’. Another one of the Soviet film theorists was Sergei Eisenstein who was a pioneer in the use of montage (from the French word meaning ‘to assemble’). Like Kuleshov, Eisenstein also believed that editing could be used for greater purposes than to just show the audience what is happening. Editing can be used to suggest that actions are happening without actually letting the viewer see said actions. For example, showing a gun and then a body tells the audience that a murder has happened without even having to show them. This is because the viewer’s brain is able to piece together the information from each shot to create the story in their head, so long as the film follows the rules of continuity.
A filmmaker must remember to take into account the rules of continuity when cutting between shots, so that the viewer is able to understand where everything is in relation to each other, and so that they can clearly understand what is happening. Over the next few years, film editing became much more advanced through the use of transitions. The most common and basic type of shot transition is known as a cut. A cut is the continuation of the sequence by instantly replacing one shot with another. When a cut takes place, the next shot we see is taking place within the same space and at the same time as the shot we just watched, although there are a few different types of cuts which follow different rules and have different effects on the film and how the audience feels about it. A jump cut is when the shot that the film cuts to is just slightly different from the shot it is cutting away from, for example, a small change in camera positioning. A jump cut can be used to convey the passing of time as it is an abrupt transition that is quite different from the normal seamless transitions seen more frequently. Jump cuts are meant to be jarring and abrupt, which means that they can be used to emphasize urgency in a scene, or when someone is punched, a jump cut can be used to make the impact feel more powerful. Jump cuts do not always strictly follow the 30 degree rule of continuity, which is why it is so abrupt to the viewer, but this works to create the desired effect. Sometimes, the director chooses to shoot an entire film in sequence. This is called in-camera editing and it is mainly used to save time in post production as each shot does not need to be edited together because it is already in the correct order. This can cause problems during filming however, because if they later decide that they want to add another shot into the film, they can only add it on to the very end of the film. In-camera editing is also very time consuming as the camera and other equipment, such as lighting, needs to be moved between each shot which can happen very often in some scenes, such as a conversation scene where the shot changes every few seconds. Alfred Hitchcock used in-camera editing to create ‘Rope’ in 1948, but he decided to have long unbroken shots throughout the film. This creates the effect of the film and the events within it folding out and taking place in real time and space. Hitchcock managed to create some of the long takes with the use of match cuts to hide the transitions which creates a seamless flow between shots, making it appear as though the film was shot in just one long unbroken take. Another technique that a film editor can use is the manipulation of diegetic time and space. The diegesis is the imaginary world in which the characters live and interact and the events of the story occur. The manipulation of diegetic time and space is often used in montage sequences to show the audience something that has happened in only a fraction of the time it would have taken to happen in the diegesis. A good example of this manipulation would be when a training sequence is shown, in ‘Rocky’ (1976) for example, when the audience is shown a short sequence in which the character trains to become better. The film cuts between bits and pieces of a workout, but the audience can still understand what is happening. A montage like this example is an interesting way of quickly progressing the story.
The editor of a film must remember to keep in mind the motivation for each cut he makes. The cut can be used to emphasise a certain point within the scene, or to create an emotional effect on the audience. Each cut must also have some purpose to progress the story being told within the film. If the editing is ‘unmotivated’, the audience will become aware of the poor editing and it will take them out of the imaginary film world (diegesis) that they were previously believing in, therefore ruining the quality of the film. However, when the editing is ‘motivated’, the viewer is usually unaware of the transitions because they are paying attention to what is happening in the movie. This is known as ‘invisible editing’. A good way of making your editing less obvious to the viewer is by following the rules on continuity. For example, following the 30 degree rule will mean that each shot that the film cuts to will be less jarring and more seamless. Originally, films were edited by physically cutting out the shot that you wanted from the developed strip of film and gluing it onto the next shot that you wanted on a different strip of film. This process of splicing frames together is why the transition is called a ‘cut’ because to create this transition, you had to actually cut the film. Nowadays, most films are edited on a computer using software such as Adobe’s Premiere Pro or Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Editing a film on a computer is usually a quicker and more simple process than splicing film negatives together and can also give the editor greater possibilities depending on the software being used. For example, Adobe Premiere Pro can be easily used with Adobe’s visual effects software, After Effects, to enhance the film with the use of special effects. Before computers were widely used to edit films, editors where limited to what kinds of special effects they could use. Before computers, filmmakers would need to use practical effects, which involves things that are physically in the scene such as blank firing guns and squibs to simulate being shot. Practical effects are still used today by some directors who prefer that style, but because of technological advances, a lot of film effects nowadays are CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery). One of the first films to feature Computer Generated Imagery was Michael Crichton’s ‘Westworld’ (1973). The CGI in this movie was very basic and only a 2D rendering of the pixelated vision of a robot. In 1976, Westworld got a sequel named ‘Futureworld’ which featured the first ever use of 3D CGI. Even still, it was very basic as CGI had only been around for a short while so nothing very impressive could be done with it. ‘Tron’ (1982) featured the first extensive 3D CGI scenes, where entire sequences were created on a computer. This was a huge advancement in technology at the time. ‘Jurassic Park’ was the first film to use fully textured 3D CGI models when it was released in 1993.. Model armatures of the dinosaurs were made to be animated with stop motion, but it was decided that the models should be scanned and converted to 3D models on a computer so that the animation could be smoother. For the film, a mix of CGI and animatronic dinosaurs were used. ‘Toy Story’ (1995) was the first ever fully 3D CGI film. This was an important step for Pixar as nowadays, they make feature-length 3D animated CGI films every year. In the last few years, there has been a lot of films and even video games where actors have been motion captured to appear onscreen as 3D animated models. The same way that digital effects have replaced practical effects in the last decade, digital media formats have also largely replaced analog formats. Films made today are no longer released as a film print to watch through a projector at home, such as on a 35mm reel, or
some films like â€˜Star Warsâ€™ (1977) were adapted into shorter 18 minute films and released on Super 8 film. VHS tapes are also not released for new films, as the DVD and Blu-ray formats have completely replaced them. There are advantages to the updated technology, mainly being that with each new format, the quality of the film is greatly improved, for example, a 4k Blu-ray disc is much greater quality than an old 8mm projector. A lot of filmmakers still prefer to shoot their films on 35mm celluloid as the look of something that has been shot on film is something that digital video cannot replicate. Referencing Rhodri Marsden, (2015) Independent. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/artsentertainment/art/features/rhodri-marsdens-interesting-objects-eadweard-muybridgessallie-gardner-at-a-gallop-10315213.html (Accessed: 23 September 2016). Author unknown, (2012) Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27Arriv %C3%A9e_d%27un_train_en_gare_de_La_Ciotat (Accessed: 23 September 2016). Author unknown, (2007) Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/As_Seen_Through_a_Telescope (Accessed: 3 October 2016). Cinefix, (2015) YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUw-coYkN9c (Accessed: 26 September). Phil De Semlyen, (2015) Empire. Available at: http://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/history-cgi/ (Accessed: 14 October 2016).