An In-Depth Look at Editing

Editing involves choices that break down a recording and artistically arranges it to communicate meaning to the audience. This is done in a number of ways:

Film Editing TransitionChoosing Transitions

A transition is a way to move from scene to scene and indicate to the audience the movement of the action.

A cut is the most basic transition. It instantly links two situations, or moves one from another. Sudden change creates a powerful impact. Cutting should be purposeful, however; indifferent cutting can interrupt continuity and confuse the viewer. Since we only know what the camera shows us, it’s important that the relationships established by the camera and by cuts are accurate.

The fade-in provides a slow introduction to a scene. It might, for example, indicate the beginning of an idea. The fade-out doesn’t have as much finality or suspense as a cut. You can also link two sequences with a cross-fade. The mood of the scenes is dictated by the speed of the fading in and out.

The dissolve  is created by fading out of one image and fading into the next. These are usually used comparatively to:

  • Point out similarities or differences
  • Compare time
  • Show the passage of time
  • Compare space
  • Help bring a viewer’s attention to a particular area

Dissolves are good as “soft” cuts, when an instant shift in action might be disruptive.

The wipe is a decorative transition. It is now often used in commercials or movie trailers, though it used to be popular in early movies. It is a drastic visual effect that can use a variety of geometric forms.  If the transition is stopped before it’s completed, the screen will remain divided, showing two shots. A split screen can show us two things at the same time, such as:

  • Events happening at the same time.
  • The interaction of events in different locations (useful for satellite feeds).
  • A comparison of two objects.
  • A before-and-after compare and contrast that charts developments, growths, or trends.

A montage is a series of images that are combined to indicate to the viewer that these images are linked in some way.

A sequential montage rapidly shows one shot after another, usually to suggest an abstract relationship or idea.

A multiple-image montage shows many images at the same time by dividing a screen into segments. These can be still images or multiple video scenes. These montages can be used for different purposes – to show parts of a process, to compare, to share different viewpoints, to display action taking place at different venues, etc.