On Editing – part I

March 10, 2010

Recently I’ve read the excellent book on editing – In The Blink Of An Eye, and came away much enlightened about the considerations and techniques of editing. I’ll share some of those knowledge here –

The Rule of Six

Story Rhythm
Two-dimensional plane of screen
Three-dimensional space of action

These are to editing as the 12 principles are to animation. They serve the same purpose, a guide to better editing/animation, something to take into consideration while pursing the mastery of technique. The placement of the 6 items on this list is crucial, each of the principles are ranked on this list in order of importance. Story Rhythm is more important then Eye-Trace, just as Emotion is more important then Story Rhythm. The perfect cut would be one that satisfy all 6 principles, in lieu of that, a cut that is truer to the Emotion of the moment should be chosen over a cut that has better Story Rhythm. I’ll explore each of them in greater detail below

Emotion – This is the hardest principle to define and deal with. Yet it is the most important, its the one principle that must be preserved at all costs. It asks a simple question. “How do you want the audience to feel?” At the end of the film the audience will not remember the superb editing or creative cuts, they will remember how they felt. When choosing a cut, ask if it is true to the emotion of the moment. If it rings false, cut it.

Story – This refers to the advancement of the story. This rates second in importance only to Emotion. Cuts that satisfies this criteria advances the story, they move it forward in terms of plot or story. Sometimes a shot fulfills only one or the other of the principles. It might be true to the emotion of the moment, but it does not advance the story. In cases like this, the next principle comes into play.

Rhythm – If the shot occurs at the right “time”, providing proper pacing and is rhythmically interesting, that shot is crucial. These are the kind of shots that control the pacing of the film, it cannot stressed enough how important is pacing to a film. A brilliant story can be marred by poorly paced editing to the point of incoherency.

These three principles are the most important in editing, they also have the synergy to work together in tandem, to the point of exclusion to the rest of the principles. If a shot has the right emotion, advances the story and occurs at the right time, the audience will forgive a disconnect in eye-trace, two-dimensional plane or three-dimensional space. I’ll talk more about the other 3 principles in Part II.

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