Editing Techniques

Of all film techniques, editing is often the one that students have paid the least attention to before they start studying films at school. Despite this, most of the major editing techniques used in films are extremely familiar to students – usually, they recognise the techniques and how they are used even though they haven’t thought about them in detail.

To begin or revise your study of editing techniques, check out ‘Cuts and Transitions 101’ from RocketJump Film School:

After watching the video, create a one-two sentence description of each of the techniques listed below. Remember that the person for whom you are writing these descriptions is yourself – you will be able to return to this file later on when you are asking yourself a question such as “What do you call that editing technique when the shot keeps changing between the two people talking to each other on the phone?” So, make sure you write your descriptions in such a way that it will help YOU to remember the techniques when you look them up later.

You might also want to include the usual purpose for a particular technique, such as the way that a dissolve often implies the passing of time.

* Cut

* Cut away

* Cross cut

* Jump Cut

* Match Cut

* Fade in / out

* Dissolve

* Smash Cut

When you’re writing about editing, you can also discuss visual rhythm. Visual rhythm is the rhythm of the editing. Slow visual rhythm means that each shot is on screen for a relatively long time. The speed of the film is slow, and this usually happens in a scene with little action, or a moment within a scene when the director is trying to build suspense. Fast visual rhythm means that each shot is on screen for a short time. This speeds up the film and usually happens in action scenes or to break the suspense in a scene.

For an example of visual rhythm, check out the famous  shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho as presented by Love of Film. You’ll see that the visual rhythm is slow as the suspense in the scene builds, but once the killer appears then the rhythm is dramatically faster as the action unfolds.