Hannah's media/film/tv blog

visible vs invisible editing
May 21, 2010, 12:43 am
Filed under: tv1 | Tags: ,

I came across a really intriguing article on editing and thought that it might be good to get my head around what makes good editing. As this notion in itself is ambiguous and still sits ambiguously. What I got from this article is that your editing has to fit the form and style of your film. What do I mean by this? Ok, well this article outlines that there are two main editing techniques, which are invisible and visible editing.

I’m not sure editorial visibility or invisibility matters, it’s a question of whether it gets in the way of the story or performance. Or possibly enhances those qualities. What is invisible to one person may be visible to another. When I’m watching a movie, I generally don’t notice the editing. If I do, it’s usually for one of two reasons: It’s either very, very good, or very, very bad. If it’s good, I often marvel at it in a way only an editor can. How did the editor do that? Why did it have such an impact on me? Why didn’t I think of doing something like that myself? If it’s really bad, I sometimes marvel at it as well… but in a different way… as in how it could have made it like that… all the way to the theater? But of course, it’s all subjective.

Richard Chew (The New World, I am Sam, Star Wars)

I think this excerpt makes a very valid point. Your editing has to enhance the quality or the storyline of the film. Unless your particular style is to disorientate the viewer, then you might go a slightly different direction. I also like the point that everything is subjective and up to interpretation. However, I think that as a media student I really am beginning to notice every cut and the function of that cut, well I’m getting close I think. Yet, I do realise that before being so embedded in the world of film I would have probably never noticed editing. The first films I really noticed editing in were those of Godard, such as Vivre Sa Vie and A Woman is a Woman. This is because Godard uses an extremely sporadic editing style through the use of jump cuts and disorientating editing that is not used as a continuity device, but rather as a device to juxtapose and contrast images. This works for Godard as his overall style embedded in the actors particularly is somewhat ambiguous. The actors never really know what they want, they are somewhat unmotivated and Godard likes to draw attention to the fact that his films are films, especially in the case of Contempt.

To continue back to the article Anne V. Coates the editor of Erin Brockovich, The Elephant Man, Lawrence of Arabia states that:

Editing is storytelling. The notion of invisible or visible editing is an antiquated view about what editing really is. The art of editing is more then a technical craft about seamless building of the raw materials. The dailies footage and recorded sounds are the interpretation of the written text, distilled through the eyes of the director and every other creative contributor during production. They do not constitute a predetermined film narrative. For me the art of editing is being able to crystallize the dramatic ideas into a coherent and entertaining series of images and sounds, that most fully emerge the viewer into the suspension of disbelief and bring the experience of the film to its fullest. Editing makes the artificial feel real. When a film works, then all the elements of technique become invisible and in turn leave a visible imprint on the mind and heart of the viewer.

Coates’s idea about editing is that it should be invisible, it should bring all that footage into comprehension for the viewer. They should be placed into the time and place of the film. There should be no artificiality, it should feel real. She also instigates that the art of editing is creating seamlessly dramatic tension and effect, bringing the story together to create something enjoyable for the viewer. I think she makes a valid point in terms of films that need seamless editing and I think this correlates with contiunity cutting and cutting on action, where the editing is so invisible that we feel as though we are trapped within the world of the film, which is always a nice feeling of escapism.

In terms of our own film we want to use editing to create a building tension and longing that replicates the feelings of Bernard. Therefore I think our editing will be very much in tune with the subjectivity of Bernard. For instance, at the beginning of the film the editing will linger on clocks, his facial expression and show routine through cutting to similar if not the same shot. His life is utterly boring. However, after his redemption the editing will be much more romantisiced and up beat repeating previous techniques but the editing will be less jarring. It will be smooth and coherent and replicate his new sense of fulfillment. Obviously a lot of this will come from the soundtrack as well.


Chew, Richard: Contribution to “The Art and Craft of Film Editing: A Critical Symposium,” Cineaste, Winter 2009, 34.2, 54-64.<http://www.encyclopedia.com/searchresults.aspx?q=The+art+and+craft+of+film+editing%3a+a+Critical+Symposium+featuring+commentary+by&gt;

Coates, V. Anne : Contribution to “The Art and Craft of Film Editing: A Critical Symposium,” Cineaste, Winter 2009, 34.2, 54-64. <http://www.encyclopedia.com/searchresults.aspx?q=The+art+and+craft+of+film+editing%3a+a+Critical+Symposium+featuring+commentary+by&gt;

Image Source:

Williamson, Keith, “Making Cuts Project 365 Day 297”, flickr, CC-Attribution, <http://www.flickr.com/photos/elwillo/4152545302/&gt;


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