Film Editing: Terminology

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Some of the terminology that a film editor uses includes:

Close-up (CU): A shot showing a detail only (ex., face only or hands only).

Cross-cutting: Cutting back and forth between two or more events or actions that are taking place at the same time but in different places. Cross-cutting is used to build suspense or to show how different pieces of the action are related.

Cut: An abrupt transition from one shot to another.

Cutaways: A cut away from the primary subject to something the filmmaker has decided is equally or more relevant at that time. Often cutaways consist of shots showing the reaction of one character to another. This is often used to compress time in what appears to be a seamless manner.

Dissolve: An overlapping transition between scenes where one image fades out as another fades in. Editors often use this to indicate a change in time and/or location.

Establishing Shot: A shot, usually taken from a distance, which establishes for the viewer where the action is to occur and the spatial relationship of the characters and their setting.

Extreme Close-Up (ECU): A detail of a close-up (eyes or mouth only, etc.).

Fade In: A shot that starts in darkness and gradually lightens to full exposure.

Fade Out: A shot that starts at full exposure and gradually fades to black.

Freeze-Frame: At a chosen point in a scene, a particular frame is printed repeatedly, given the effect of halting or "freezing" the action.

Jump Cut: A cut where two spliced shots do not match in terms of time or place. A jump cut gives the effect that the camera is literally jumping around.

Long Shot (LS): A shot taken at a considerable distance from the subject. A long shot of a person is one in which the entire body is in frame.

Medium Shot (MS): A shot framing a subject at a medium range, usually a shot from the waist up.

Reverse cutting: A technique alternating over-the-shoulder shots showing different characters speaking. This is generally used in conversation scenes.

Sequence Shot: An entire scene or sequence that is one continuous camera shot. There is no editing.

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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