Sunday, August 19, 2007

MOVIE PRODUCTION SERIES (EDITING)

"Films are not made. They're remade."
- IRVING THALBERG (Academy Award winning producer of films such as 1932's Grand Hotel and 1935's Mutiny on the Bounty)


Editing is the act of completing the pacing and narrative structure of a film and its soundtrack by cutting and splicing the shots together to make a final, comprehensible story. The individual who edits the film is the editor. Oftentimes, the success or failure of a production may rely on the quality of the editor's work. Sharp film editing can make a mediocre production look good and a good production look that much better. Inversely, sloppy editing can unhinge a solid script and even negate strong efforts by the director, the actors, and technical crews. It is not unusual for an editor to correct or cover up errors or omissions committed during filming on the set. But in some cases, the director has shot his films with such care and attention to detail that there is not much left for the editor to do but exercise technical know how, manual dexterity, and a sense of precise timing, in following the director's design. The editor's role is always more pivotal in documentary films, for which no shooting screenplay exists, than in planned productions.

The greatest compliment any editor can receive is that their editing is invisible. An editing assignment is considered successful when it goes unnoticed on the screen. Ironically, an editor invests weeks or months of intensive work to achieve the impression that nothing has been done at all.

Editing is important because it allows the director to film out of order, to make multiple takes of each shot, and it allows for aesthetic decisions to be made after filming is complete.

Because of the similarity of separate scenes that may not take place one after another, such as location or key characters, it's helpful for the filmmaker to be able to shoot out of order. For instance, if the story calls for the location of the film to start in Los Angeles, move to New York for the middle, move back to Los Angeles for the climax, and then finally back to New York for the conclusion, it would obviously not be efficient to travel back and forth across the country throughout the filming. Thanks to editing, the LA scenes can be shot at one time, and then the film crew can fly to New York for the rest.

The first stage of editing begins after the editor is given the dailies. He/She synchronizes the dailies with the parallel sound track, which has been shifted to magnetic stock. Because the director has probably engaged in coverage, or the process of shooting all the scenes as many different ways and from as many different angles as possible, the editor has a lot of flexibility.

When shooting is finished, a "rough cut" is made, combining what seem to be the best shots in such a way as to constitute a continuous progression. This is accomplished by first breaking the film into each separate shot so that all of the film can be placed in the order that the narrative requires. After this is accomplished, exact places to cut into and out of shots can be found. In this stage, control of the story and visual information is important.

The next phase is "fine cut", which, after all the frame by frame manipulations are accomplished, represents the final arrangement of precisely trimmed shots and sequences. The fine cut is used as a guide for cutting the original negative and as detailed instructions involving transition techniques such as fades, wipes, and dissolves. The sound track is mixed and foleys, sound effects created in order to match certain sequences, are added. Finally, an "answer print", which combines image and sound with the placement of an optical track along the edge of the print, is created.

However, films are not always finished when the directors think they are. After post-production is supposedly complete, the studio, test audiences, the rating given by the Motion Picture Association of America, and even the response at a sneak preview can show the need for extra editing, and can ultimately change how a movie will appear in theaters. There is no definitive version of any motion-picture.

But thanks to the development of digital video, the technology of editing is changing rapidly. Many filmmakers now shoot on film and then transfer to time-coded videotape. This allows the editor and director to try out a variety of shot combinations instantly on a bank of video monitors.


HISTORY
In the early days of cinema, editing amounted was nothing more than simple cutting, trimming edges and splicing loose ends to arrange shots in simple continuity. The term "cutter", sometimes used today for an editor, is a remainder of those primitive days.

Gradually, through such landmark productions as Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery (1903), D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915), and Eisenstein's Potemkin (1925), an articulate language of editing grew that refined the film's expressive, narrative, and emotional power. The film cutter became the film editor, exercising a complicated art as well as a demanding craft, and editing strategies developed that were passed on from one editor to the next and continually evolved in cutting rooms around the world.

In the Soviet Union, director Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) fashioned the theory of "montage", based on the idea that shots must clash with each other to create a dynamic rhythm that draws the viewer into the narrative while it evokes an intellectual response. Still other forms of editing have been used by various national schools and movements. French New Wave filmmakers popularized the "jump cut" in which consistent time and space relations are ignored, resulting in a jolt in the visuals. The Italian neorealists and African diaspora filmmakers often utilized long takes, editing shots through the use of careful focus and framing.

The early editing pioneers made possible the smooth and hopefully indiscernible editing process that is unknowingly appreciated by film viewers everywhere today.


Courtesy of


7 comments:

Kathy said...

Wow, when I watch a movie, I don't ever think about all the things that had to happen to make it what it is. I can tell this is your passion. Thanks for commenting on my blog!

Mack said...

Great series idea. I like the background info, fun to find out what happens behind the scenes on movies. Nice blog.

Monday Morning Power said...

Steven,

The conversion is complete and I just posted how I did it.

Linda and her Surroundings said...

Too often the actor's are given the credits when really it is those behind the scenes that make it really happen. Thank goodness for people with passion - makes the world of movies a great place to escape into.

dan said...

hello! nope nothing new - ive been neglecting my blog lately- too much summer fun i guess...

dan said...

hello! nope nothing new, ive been neglecting my blog lately, too much summer fun i guess...

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