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DFP: Editing Principles and Effects in film editing

This unit looks at the Principles and Effects in film editing explaining in details what they are.

General Editing Principles

The general editing principles refer to a number of factors that affect shooting and editing. They are therefore considered very important since they influence the decisions taken by the editor while editing a film. Such principles as enumerated and discussed by Mamer (2009: 348) include the following:

  • Transitions

This term is used to describe shots that bridge one setting to another or that mark the passage of time. The term covers a wide range of approaches, but often transitional shots have the added burden of being establishing shots as well. The common approach is to show a setting, establishing both the place and, by extension, the time of day. There are many ways of handling transitions but editors are advised to find those that are effective but not predictable.

  • Economy and Pace

These terms refer to employing each of the individual shots for the shortest time possible i.e their economy while still allowing them to achieve their purpose. This is because each individual film, scene and shot demands its own pace. Achieving economy and pace is attained through control of the physical lengths of the shots, though many other elements affect the sense of a film’s internal rhythm. Usually, it is a question each individual piece of film should be on screen. For instance, if a point cannot be made in two seconds, it certainly does not need to seconds devoted to it. But some film makers like Late Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, as described by Mamer (2009:349) exploited both a slower pace and the psychological intensity of the close-up.

The long-lingering close-up shot of the main character can be used to force the viewer to identify or experience some contemplative and environmental effects that emphasize spaces in between dialogue. But a film can be kept lean and efficient depending on the desired visual presentation and amount of weight the scene should have in terms of the rest of the film.

Basic Rules in Editing

Some films are cut so that their editing is as seamless as possible. This is what is known as invisible editing. In his approach, any cut that is abrupt or calls attention to itself is considered a bad cut. The rules that guide editing of films have their genesis in this conventional method. The rules apply not only to editing but also to how the shooting of a scene is approached. They are as follows:

  • There must be a reason for a cut.

This is the great overriding, unbreakable rule. When you cut from one image to another, you must have a purpose for that choice. It may be show a response or to emphasize an action or to keep shots from being too long or too static.

  • The 30-degree rule

The 30-degree rule says that if you want to cut to a closer shot of a subject, the second shot should vary by at least 30 degrees from an axis drawn from the original camera position to the subject. The bottom line is that you should not move the camera toward the subject in a straight line, the possibility of a disagreeable jump is great if you do.

  • Emphasis

Cutting on a subject or an action exaggerates the significance of that subject. In essence, the implicit message is that this subject is important enough to warrant more than a single perspective. If there is a shot of an object on a table –say a knife-followed by a cut to a close-up of the knife, the implication is that the knife is an important element.

  • Visual interest

In the whole film, there must be shots that are not visually interesting. if you film a dance rehearsal, for example, there will be parts in which the dancer is turned from the camera or is framed poorly or parts in which the action is just not engaging select the segments in which what was in front of the camera interrelates with the film frame in a visually exciting way.

  • Variety

Your shots must employ a variety of approaches. Vary between closeups and long shots , low angles and eye level shots, images with different balances of compositional interest , moving and static camera, and so on. In other words, use the camera resources available to you.

If a film is composed entirely of long shots, it risks becoming visually dull and predictable. If the area of interest in all of the compositions is in the same part of the frame, the same problems can occur. Obviously there are exceptions. Several films that were done largely in long shot have been successful and also some films shot exclusively in close-up shots were successful. But few of them are exceptions. They do not represent the kind of explorations and experiments that provide useful learning experiences for beginners.

Effects in film editing

There are some actions that are taken with the aid of camera, computer, optical printer etc that aim at achieving some kind of effects in the film. These effects as discussed by Kogah (1999) and Mamer (2009) are enumerated as follows:

  • Fade-out and fade-in.

A fade-out is simply an effect in which the scene is gradually taken out or the picture fades to black. It is usually followed by a fade-in during which a new scene gradually becomes bright enough to be seen clearly. Fade-out and Fade-ins are used as transitional devices, either to get from one location to another or to signify the passage of time. Occasionally, filmmakers fade to shades and colours other than black.

  • Dissolve

This is a technique in which one shot is faded out while the next shot is fade in on top of it. In this process, the screen is not completely dark as one scene replaces another. This is used to signify a change of time or place, just as in fade-out. Dissolve is not used frequently because it is mainly used to soften an otherwise terrible shot.

  • Superimposition

This is composed of one shot overlaid on another. It can be achieved in the camera while shooting or, more common, during editing and final printing process.

  • Optical effect

These refer to all graphic effects created in the lab. Optical effects include split screens, keyholes, freeze frames, spins, wipes, etc. They were produced on an optical printer prior to the digital age. The optical printer is a projector that has a camera shooting straight into it. Both the projector and camera can be advanced one frame at a time. The camera can also be repositioned to focus on specific parts of the projected frame. The projected image can be manipulated in terms of both coloration and the speed of the film going through the gate. The camera and projector can be controlled separately in order to allow frames to be repeated, skipped, run in reverse, or held for many frames, an effect known as freeze-frame. The optical printer can equally be used to enlarge or reduce a particular film guage depending on the desire of the filmmaker. The digital non linear editing (NLE) has made it possible to achieve any effect and completely eliminate generation problem but the optical printer is still used in creating many visual effects and can be an exciting tool for beginning filmmakers.

Distinguishing Optical Sound Track from Magnetic Sound Track

The optical sound track is produced photographically and used on all standard print. At one edge of the film, a close observation will reveal some wavy lines or variations in the density of the film strip depending on the particular process that was used when the film was manufactured. Inside the projector also is a sound head which has a photo electric cell and an exciter lamb. The film is threaded in such way that the optical sound track passes between the exciter lamp and the photo cell. The light falling on the cell varies according to pattern on the sound track thereby creating an electric current which, when amplified, reproduces the original sound. The magnetic sound on the other hand, uses a specially produced film stock with a sound strip running along the edge of the film. The sound strip consists of the same iron oxide particles always used in audio recording. The recording and reproduction processes are identical with those used for audio tape. Tiny recording head inside the camera selectively magnetizes particles on the sound track during filming. Inside the projector also, an identical head figuratively reads the track as the film runs. At the same time, it generates tiny electrical signal which when amplified, is an exact reproduction of the originally recorded sound. Both are faithful to each other.


ASSIGNMENT : Editing Principles and Effects in film editing Assignment MARKS : 10  DURATION : 1 week, 3 days