Film Editing: Activity 3

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Creating Meaning

In the editing process, the editor does not usually attempt to create an exact record of what happened as viewed through the eyes of one character. Rather, the editor—in collaboration with the director and in keeping with the vision of the writer—must "translate" the events of each scene into the most effective images, placing each one in the order and length most appropriate to telling the story. Timing is indeed everything for the editor.

One approach to editing is continuity. Continuity editing generally presents the action in a logical, chronological sequence. Even though the time and space of a sequence may be manipulated, it has the appearance of "real" time to the viewer. A long shot of a person sitting down is "matched" to a close-up of the person sitting down into the frame. In essence, the editor is focusing in on the scene in much the same manner as the human eye—jumping from place to place, farther or closer. In actuality, the action appears more natural if two or three frames of film are deleted by the editor at the splice.

Part A. Because comic book artists use many of the techniques used by film editors, the comic book is a good medium for analyzing editing techniques. Ask your students to study the comic strip shown in this activity master and discuss how changes using various film editing techniques alter the story. Then ask them to "edit" the strip to create a new, final product. You may want to give them more than one copy of the sheet. What happens if, instead of the current sequence, the panels are placed in a different order?

Example #1—1, 7, 6, 9, 10, 2 ,3, 4, 5, 8 (Grandma has called the boy from her house and, after hanging up, the boy is told to call his Grandma by his Mom.)
Example #2—5, 8,1, 7, 6, 9, 10, 2, 3, 4 (The boy calls Grandma, she admonishes him, the Mom says to call Grandma, and after he doesn't respond, reminds him again.)
Example #3—1, 3, 7, 5, 6, 9,10, 2, 4, 8 (The boy thinks about calling his Grandma, imagines what she would say, calls her, hangs up, and is told to call her by the Mom.)


Part B.There are many ways to put the panels together, especially if panels are eliminated or repeated. Adding the sound effect of a phone ringing over the exterior of the house in Example #2 would make it clearer that the boy is calling Grandma and that the phone is ringing at her house. The frustrations of being limited to these panels, of course, are the frustrations of an editor. The editor can only work with what the director has shot. Creative ways of stretching time by cutting back and forth, or compressing time by eliminating footage are just some of the ways in which an editor is more than just a film splicer. Examining the various ways your students have "edited" the footage will illustrate the many possibilities. Some of the combinations will tell a very clear story, and some of them will be confusing. Creativity is acceptable, however, only when it enables the scene to tell the story in keeping with the rest of the film.

Add-on Activity

If you have access to a DVD or VHS deck with slow-motion or still-frame capability, use this function to examine with your students the transitional frames from one shot to another. Examine how action continuing from one shot to another is "matched." Study the direction that objects move across the screen from one shot to another. What impact does that have on the viewer's impression of whether it is the same object or character or an opposing object or character? Note the position of key props from one shot to the next. Note the transitional devices used to connect scenes like fades and dissolves. Note how the edits affect the impression of time being lengthened, or shortened, or creating the impression of "real" time.

Add-on Activity

If your students have access to video cameras, ask them to replicate the Kuleshov effect. This can also be done using digital or still photographs, drawings, or pictures cut from magazines.

Film Editing: Manipulating Time and Space

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Complete Film Editing Activities Guide (PDF)

Activity 1: Film Editing Terminology

Activity 2: Writing with Images

Activity 3: Creating Meaning

Activity 4: Learning from the Best

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