Editing—the invisible art in film

Last week, I talked about lighting. This week, let’s examine editing.

Editing is the process of selecting and combining shots into an overall work, at its most basic level.  Editing can be as simple as inserting a dissolve transition between two shots, but can also be so complex that it alters the meaning of a scene or an entire work.  It is often called “The Invisible Art” because a good editor will make a film so fluid that the audience will not be aware of the editing.

Editing has come a long way since film pioneers physically cut film strips and pasted them together. These days, advanced computer programs allow editors a range of expression and freedom never seen before.  Film editing has indeed become an art form, and one unique to film.

When an editor makes a cut, it can achieve several different effects.  A basic edit can serve to simply patch events together in a polished, chronological order.  If events are edited together out of chronological order, this can take the film in an entirely new direction—creating  a different meaning for the work.

Another editing technique that creates meaning is through juxtaposition of shots—or cross-cutting.  In this technique, the relationship between two shots—played one after the other—creates a new meaning.  For example, if we see a shot of a child lighting a match and then cut to a shot of a burning house, it leads us to believing the child may have started a fire.

Editing has become more complex, but it is also more accessible than ever.  Both PCs and Macs come with free editing software, and many professional programs offer significant student discounts.  Editing is an invisible art, but one that will become very visible if done wrong.  A good editor is needed to create a great work of art.

Check back every Tuesday for Timothy’s latest techniques in filming.