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Transcript of Development
Initially, post production editing was not existent; all editing was done in camera. The first films ever made did not believe that any editing should happen at all, as it would confuse the audience. Films such as The Lumiere Brother’s ‘Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station’ were made with this belief, using a single wide shot and continuously filming.
Seamless editing means cuts between shots are ‘invisible’ and matched to the action, and it often follows the 180-degree rule. It makes the audience hardly realise that they are edited. Similarly, continuity editing is to create a smooth narrative and making the story clear to the audience. Both of these techniques attempt to create fluidity between all of the clips for the final piece created, and is often used with cross cutting.
Seamless and Continuity Editing
Enoch J Rector filmed ‘The Corbett Fitzsimmons fight’ in this way; American director Martin Scorsese filmed a similar boxing match (Raging Bull) 103 years later, and was able to use many different angles, making the fight much more engaging and enjoyable to watch for the viewer.
The Corbett Fritzsimmons fight was filmed with one wide shot,
as seen in the image below. Because this image is so far away from the fight itself, some of the action would have been lost on film, characters intentions and reactions would have been lost,
and the film would have been
more draining to watch if the
audience were having to almost
strain to see what was going on.
'Raging Bull' - filmed 103 years later - was much more effective because he was able to use many different shots and angles, making the fight much more engaging and enjoyable to watch for the viewer, and the fact that Scorsese used different shot variation - including point of view shots and close ups, enables the characters to build more of a rapport with the audience,
in that seeing the eyes of the opponent allows us to share the characters fear
. This allowed the audience to become more emotionally engaged to the film, and therefore more likely to enjoy it.
Below, Roy is looking towards the camera and it cuts to a shot of his opponent, then back to Ray to reaffirm that he was looking at the opponent. In the last shot you can see the determination in Ray's eyes despite the knowledge of his imminent defeat, evoking more empathy from the audience towards him.
The majority of films were made in one stationary wide shot until the realisation of Melies. When filming on a street in Paris, his camera jammed, and a moment later, he started it up again. While viewing the printed films, he noticed that because no film had been exposed during the jam, things had changed in the shot; cars had jumped forward and people had disappeared.
Melies then went on to experiment with this concept, filming a scene, and then stopping the camera and creating a new scene (theatrically), to suggest that they had moved location (manipulation of deigetic space). With this he created the revelation 'Trip to the Moon' -
Below are two consecutive shots from Melies 'Trip to the Moon'. Melies filmed the first shot (bottom left) and then stopped the camera while he created the next (bottom right) and then began filming again.
The idea of following the action through different locations was embraced by many pioneers - Cecil Hepworth made 'Rescued By Rover' following a dog through the streets of a village to a kidnapper
(as seen below),
Edwin Porter made 'Life of an American Fireman' following firefighters going to a womans house to save her.
The idea of moving locations has developed over time, and as film has become less and less like theatre, film productions began shooting on the set of various locations. Edwin Porter's 'The Great Train Robbery' was one of the first films to film at an actual location -
on, and outside the train as seen bottom right.
Filming on location made in camera editing a lot harder, and it is in films like 'The Great Train Robbery' that primitive editing will have taken place.
As film ideas have become more eccentric, the locations have been more difficult to source. It is then that the problem with Melies technique arose, in that some locations will need to have been filmed before others due to extraneous variables, meaning that filming in chronological order will have been difficult.
For example in the more recent
(2012) film 'Prometheus',
locations such as Hekla Volcano
and the Deeifoss Waterfalls in
Iceland were used, and filming
of those shots could only take
place in the summer of 2011 so
that the waterfalls had complete water levels
(as seen right). This was the first scene to be filmed, but actually the last shots to be taken.
In Camera Editing, which originally was the only type of editing, is effectively now extinct, and has been replaced by digital editing. This allows us a greater use of shot variation, meaning that we can make more engaging sequences, we can
manipulate diegetic time
and space, create
, and use a non linear narrative, all helping to elicit the wanted reaction from the audience.
Following the action was an important revolution in the development of film making, making storytelling easier and therefore allowing it to become more complex and interesting. It also enabled filmmakers more possibilities for films, in that they were not restricted to one room or time, so they could make a longer, more complex and interesting narrative.
Following the action was also helpful in the progression in manipulating diegetic time, as it allowed you to skip the unnecessary parts in the story, ie you might skip from the morning, to the middle of the night, without having to show the whole day, because you would simply follow the character/action.
Editing styles have evolved so much, that now filmmakers are able to use non-linear (disjointed) editing styles as opposed to linear (that follows a chronological timeline very specifically) and the audience can still understand it.
Manipulation of diegetic space, first noticed in ‘Life of an American Fireman’ by Edwin Porter, suggests to the audience that two spaces are linked, without any particular evidence.
Seeing this clip of firemen attempting to put a house fire out, and then seeing inside a house with smoke
suggests to the audience that they are the same house, whereas in reality they were two seperate theatrically created sets. This has evolved so successfully that today programmes like ‘Doctor Who’ can use things like the tardis, implying that there is a huge room inside a tiny police box,
as seen below.
Manipulating diegetic time is the changing of time within the frame of a film, ie through flashbacks and montages.
Flashback/flashforward - Flashbacks are used to tell the viewer of events that happened before the story had started to fill in (generally) a character's backstory. A flashforward reveals events that will occur in the future. This is often used to create suspense, and both are often used to structure the narrative.
Montages - Montages are a type of edit that condenses space, time and information. There are two main types - Soviet and Hollywood. Pudovkin and Eisenstein were some of the first to introduce montages, and now when Hollywood films use montages they tend to use Pudovkin's style.
The soviet montage was pioneered by two men in entirely different ways - Pudovkin cut between two ideas to suggest a symbolic link between the two, for example in his film Mother (1926) cuts between shots of the factory workers, and their oppressors, particularly with close ups of clenched fists to suggest the brutalitly that the workers were experiencing.
Eisenstein however felt that all transitions should be sharp and jolting, as "conflict is universal
to all great art". Eisenstein believed that
the clash the opposition between shot A and
shot B would then create an entirely new
meaning. For example in his film 'Strike',
he uses parallel editing showing workers being shot, and cows being slaughtered - the latter image only sliced in for metaphorical purposes suggesting the workmen were being treated like cattle.
The creator of the flashback technique in cinema was D.W. Griffith. One of the earliest examples is a single shot of a mother rocking a cradle, repeated many times representing the passing of generations, in his film Intolerance (1916).
Flashbacks can also act as an unreliable narrator. Alfred Hitchcock's Stage Fright from 1950 notoriously featured a flashback that did not tell the truth but dramatized a lie from a witness.
Flashbacks are now so commonly used that some films are told almost entirely in flashback, such as 'The Phantom of the Opera' and 'The Notebook'
A Hollywood montage is typically used in films today, to enhance the emotional drama of the story and/or to suggest a passing of time, for example in 'The Karate Kid', a montage is used to show his training over a period of time, without having to watch the entire thing, you can keep the film visually interesting by just showing snippets of what they did. On the right you can see parts of this montage, where it shows the viewer his different activities - press ups, kicking a boxing bag, stamina training and technique training, keeping it entertaining, but also conveying that time has passed and the child becomes well trained.
In terms of development, there is little difference between what Griffith did and what filmmakers do today, for instance in 'Orphan', cross cutting and parallel editing is used to create suspense in providing the audience with the knowledge that Esther is about to try to kill the family, through being on the phone to the mum who is in the hospital, but the family, who are with Esther are not aware.
This technique is often used in horror and crime genres to create suspense and further engage the viewer.
Griffith became famous for his use of crosscutting & parallel editing in The Girl and Her Trust. Griffith cuts back and forth from a pair of robbers, who have abducted the girl and are escaping on a railroad pump car, to the hero, who is attempting to overtake them by train.
Top right and middle you can see the robbers and the girl attempting to escape, followed by the man on the train, the cross cutting between the two evokes a sense of panic from the audience in questioning will the man be quick enough to catch them.
By intercutting the lines of action, Griffith creates suspense, and by shortening the lengths of
the shots, he makes the pace faster, as seen to the bottom right.
Parallel editing is a technique whereby cutting occurs between two or more related actions occurring at the same time in two separate locations or different points in time. D. W. Griffith is often cited for his use of this technique, particularly in ‘Determined Upon Suicide’. The technique has always been appreciated, noted for its particularly good use in ‘Silence of the lambs’ and ‘The Godfather’.
The 180-degree rule ensures that the camera is always set up on one side of the action, so that the positioning of everything remains the same after cuts etc, and cut points typically follow the flow of dialogue. This is typically used in soap operas and more realistic programme/films. The rule is occasionally broken in horror films in order to confuse the audience and create a sense of paranoia.
Filmmakers have to create motivation in their shots by thinking about how each shot will affect the audience.In ‘Jaws’, the Stephen Spielberg uses a shot of a boy throwing a stick into the sea, and a dog chasing it, then later he shows the audience the boy shouting for the dog and the stick floating back to the shore and the dog nowhere to be seen
(as seen left)
. This indicates to the audience that something has taken/killed the dog, and increases the tension because it provides us with the information, that actors don’t know, that there is something dangerous in the sea. This creates a sense of foreboding, and therfore makes the audience feel more suspenseful; this is the motivation behind the shot.
Similarly, providing and withholding information is often used to elicit fear and shock, in that the audience know that something bad is about to happen but the characters in the film don’t. Also, it is often used to keep viewers intrigued, and to confuse them, for example in the film Ocean’s Eleven the audience is informed that the characters are about to be arrested having failed in robbing a casino, when they’ve actually faked the entire thing and walk out with the money. It provides false information that they failed but withholds the information that the real robbery included faking the robbery.
In Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), cross cutting is used to develop theme. The cross cutting back and forth during the baptism scene shows the contradictory lives of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). In the church, Michael accepts God and renounces Satan. But parallel editing shows hitmen recruited by Michael murdering his enemies. The paradox is evident. Whereas in one scene Michael fulfills his religious obligations, in the other he carries on with his mafia duties.
In the early days of jump cutting, it was often used to manipulate deigetic time, as seen in 'Breathless' (1960), but it has become a very common tool, becoming
convention that the 'horror' and 'thriller' genres have come to adopt. Jump Cutting is an abrupt edit, cutting from one shot to another almost exactly like it (less than 30°). This is very jarring to the viewer, and often done deliberately on the part of the filmmaker. Jump cuts are generally used in these genres to disorient viewers, often representing paranoia.
Another technique often used in horror films is a point of view shot. The point of view shot was most realised in the 1940s, particularly in horror/thrillers. All three genres strove to elicit shock, anxiety, revulsion and fear, create pace, and nothing makes a moviegoer’s flesh crawl more than sharing the skin of a victim, protagonist or killer. The thriller film ‘Peeping Tom’ (1960) was filmed almost entirely in POV shots, showing the aggression of the killer through putting the audience in the place of the killer. Despite receiving bad reviews at the time of its release, it is now celebrated as one of the best horror films of all time, with similar films such as Maniac being made now which are particularly notable in the media.
The 180-degree rule enables the audience to visually connect with unseen movement happening around and behind the immediate subject and is important in the narration of battle scenes. The imaginary line allows viewers to orient themselves with the position and direction of action in a scene. If a shot after the original shot in a sequence is located on the opposite side of the 180-degree line, then it is called a "reverse cut." Reverse cuts disorient the viewer by presenting an opposing viewpoint of the action in a scene and consequently altering the perspective of the action and the spatial orientation established in the original shot.
Shot reverse shot utilizes the 180 degree rule, the eye line match, and rule of change among others. It is a film technique where one character is shown looking (often off-screen) at another character, and then the other character is shown looking "back" at the first character. Since the characters are shown facing in opposite directions, the viewer unconsciously assumes that they are looking at each other. It is noticeably used in Jaws, when we see Brody looking at the sea, and then the man in the swimming hat, which he thinks is a shark, and then we see Brody’s reaction.
To avoid jump cutting, should a pick up shot or retake not exactly match the original, the editor will usually cut away to look at something else, and then cut back to the second shot, with a reaction shot or other coverage in between. As noticed on this page...
The cutaway in 'The Godfather' is useful to develop Micheal's character, and also to give the audience a better understanding of the scene and whats going on.
Cutting to soundtrack is effective in creating editing rhythm. A lot of adverts and trailers use this technique to create pace and keep the viewer engaged.
Adverts in particular
often use this
technique to create a
catchy advert that
will stay in a
head, which will increase the likelihood of them buying the product.
Griffith began to leave gaps in the narrative, and the audience were then forced to make the association in their mind, for example in one of his scenes, there was a shot of a noose in a rope hanging from a tree, and then a shot of a man thanking a woman - the audience therefore realised that the woman saved the man from hanging.
The soviets, noteably Eisenstein took this idea of mental association and put the concept of workers and the cows being slaughtered next to each other as propaganda, in his film 'Strike' - this then lead the audience to understand that the workers were being treated and slaughtered as the cows were. (see top right)
This is now used in everyday film production such as jaws, where we see a boy looking for his dog, and then we see a stick float up and the audience therefore know that the dog has been eaten.