Five Types Of Edits In Filmmaking

In the past, film editors physically chopped and spliced bits of film.

It is extremely rare for a cameraperson to shoot a film in sequence on one camera; this only occurs when one cameraperson is filming a music or theater performance that unfolds in order. Usually, several camerapersons shoot from several angles, and the film editor then edits the shots together to create a full scene. A cameraperson shoots film scenes in an order convenient to the director, rather than in any sort of narratorial sequence.

Cut

Derived from a time when motion picture editors would literally cut rolls of film to reorder shots, the cut is the form of editing that film editors use the most. While no physical cutting takes place these days, the word “cut” remains because editors are still cutting into the filmed order of scenes to reorder them, so they make sense for a viewer. Cut edits are barely perceivable and cause minimal disruption to the film itself.

Neutral Cut

A film editor uses a neutral cut within a scene to show movement that the viewer is required to follow. In a neutral cut, the film will jump from a shot of something moving across the screen to a shot of it moving either toward or away from the screen. This gives the viewer a reference point of where the object is going and how far it has traveled. If several cuts all show the object moving in different lateral directions across the screen, then the viewer is going to become quickly confused.

Split Edit

In a split edit, the film editor cuts either the sound or the visual track first, leaving the other to lead into the next scene. For example, a scene involving a man talking in a monologue may cut to black with the man still talking, then cut to a shot of the sunrise the next day. Hearing the man’s words from the previous scene bleeding into the next scene gives the film a cohesion and allows filmmakers to link two concepts whose connections viewers may not have noticed.

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Dissolve

Film editors can also achieve cohesion by blending two shots together in what is known as a dissolve. Dissolves, while infrequently used, can be an extremely effective way of conveying an almost ethereal change. An example of a dissolve is in “The Stendhal Syndrome,” in which a young woman stares at Brueghel’s “Fall of Icarus” painting, until she imagines herself diving into its sea. The painting begins to fade before the viewer’s eyes in a point-of-view shot, gradually merging with a real life shot of the surface of the sea. For a moment, both images are on screen at the same time.

Reverse Shot

Film editors use reverse shots to establish the viewpoints of two characters in the same scene, often in the context of a conversation. A cameraperson will shoot a scene focusing on one character and reshoot it with a reverse of the original shot, but focusing on the other character in the scene. The film editor will then edit the two shots together, alternating between characters to give the impression of conversation.