Video Editing, Part II
While holding to the basic continuity of a story an editor can enhance the look of a production by adding insert shots and cutaways. We introduced these previously, but now let's look at these from the standpoint of editing.
Insert shots add needed information, information that wouldn't otherwise be immediately visible or clear.
In our earlier example of the new $100 bill, an ECU (extreme close-up) of the bill that was being discussed would be an insert shot.
Unlike insert shots that show significant aspects of the overall scene in close-up, cutaways cut away from the main scene or action to add related material.
During a parade, we might cut away from the parade to a shot of people watching from a nearby rooftop or a child in a stroller sleeping through the commotion.
In the editing process we have to rely on regular insert shots and cutaways to effectively present the elements of a story. We can only hope that whoever shot the original footage (which might be you) had enough production savvy to include them.
Many years ago, the Russian filmmakers Pudovkin and Kuleshov conducted an experiment where they juxtaposed various scenes with a shot of a man sitting motionless and totally expressionless in a chair.
The scenes included a close-up of a bowl of soup, a shot of a coffin containing a female corpse, and a shot of a little girl playing. To an audience viewing the edited film, the man suddenly became involved in these scenes.
When the shot of the man was placed next to the shot of the coffin, the audience thought that the actor showed deep sorrow. When it was placed next to the close-up of the food, the audience perceived hunger in his face; and when it was associated with the shot of the little girl, the audience saw the actor as experiencing parental pride.
Thus, one of the most important tenets of editing was experimentally established: the human tendency to try to establish a relationship between a series of scenes.
In relational editing, scenes that by themselves seem not to be related take on a cause-effect significance when edited together in a sequence.
The scene on the left begs for a cut to a scene to explain who the woman is waving at.
If this scene were followed by a shot of a car pulling up to the curb, we would naturally assume that the woman would go over to the car and get it. If it's followed by a shot of a woman some distance away pushing a stroller along a sidewalk, we'd assume something quite different.
To follow this shot with ▲ the photo of the students in the library shown at the beginning of this module would probably not make much sense. Thus, in relational editing we expect to see scenes come together in a logical sequence to tell a story.
It's easy -- and generally even desirable -- to combine continuity and relational editing.
Remember the scenario in the last module of the woman who was apparently murdered by her husband? What if we preceded the shot of the corpse on the living room floor with shots that included the woman covertly cleaning out large sums of money from a home safe as her husband entered to catch her? Is a relationship between these events suggested? Do we then have a clue as to what might have happened?
When it comes to the next topic, thematic editing, these fundamental concepts change.
In thematic editing, also referred to as montage editing, images are edited together based only on a central theme. In contrast to most types of editing, thematic editing is not designed to tell a story by developing an idea in a logical sequence.
In a more general sense, thematic editing refers to (as they say in the textbooks) a rapid, impressionistic sequence of disconnected scenes designed to communicate feelings or experiences.
This type of editing is often used in music videos, commercials, and film trailers (promotional clips).
The intent is not to trace a story line, but to simply communicate action, excitement, danger, or even the "good times" we often see depicted in commercials.
From continuity, relational and montage editing we now move to a technique for enriching editing and stories by adding extra "layers."
Early films used to follow just one story line -- generally, with the hero in almost every scene.
Today, we would find this simplistic story structure rather boring. Now, dramatic productions generally have a primary story line and one or more secondary stories going on at the same time.
The multiple story lines could be as simple as intercutting between the husband who murdered his wife in the previous scenario and the simultaneous work of the police as they try to convict him. This is referred to as parallel action.
When the segments are cut together to follow the multiple (different) story lines, it's referred to as parallel cutting.
By cutting back and forth between two or more mini-stories within the overall story, production pace can be varied and overall interest heightened. And, if the characters or situation in one story don't hold your attention, possibly the characters or situations in one of the other story lines will.
Today's dramas typically have eight or ten major characters, and although intertwined with the main drama, each has a continuing story. The award-winning Battlestar Galactica series had 13 principal characters.
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