The ins and outs of film editing: the good.

I've been asked by a City Limit reader what makes a film's editing good as opposed to bad.

First, the good.
Some editors claim that invisible editing is the best, such as in this fantastic New York Times article on editing. While I think it's true that the best cuts are generally the ones you don't notice, some conspicuous cuts can also be used to great effect. All That Jazz has cuts like these. They add an entire new rhythm to the film, where dance sequences become not only about dancing, but about the way in which you view it. Your whole perspective can be changed by the pattern of edits.

Other movies can use editing to slow a movie down or speed it up. Pacing is one of the most important aspects of a film. If you're bored while watching a film, it might be because it's not well-written, or because it's visually unappealing, or it could be that it's just poorly paced. Some movies, such as any Michael Bay film, cut often and keep scenes short so that things feel brisk and move along at a good clip.

Others, such as Alien, play with the pacing by cutting less or more. A key scene has the character Brett searching for the alien in a cargo hold. The scene could be edited to have his search be quick. But the cuts are few and far between, and time sloooows dooooown. Once he finds the alien, the cuts speed up and before you know it the scene is over, Brett is dead. Quickly, we're in the next scene and back to a more moderate pace. Film posters often use the cliche "A ROLLER COASTER OF A FILM," but the analogy applies here. Imagine the very start of a wooden roller coaster. As you climb he first hill, it's all anticipation and it feels like it takes forever, then suddenly you drop, twist and turn, and before you know it, it's over.

Coming soon... bad editing.

further reading: wikipedia article on Film Editing

1 comment(s).:

May 30, 2008 at 7:37 PM Peaches said...

Thank you--this is interesting. The Wikipedia article was amazingly detailed. When I read about the "Credit Controversies" I could picture a Ballroom Dancing kind of scene of people staunchly declaring, "There will be no more than 1 credit for the assistant editor!"

I had no idea that editing was even there in "what makes a good movie".