Cutting Rhythms: Shaping the Film Edit
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There are many books on the technical aspects of film and video editing: e.g., how to use software packages like Final Cut Pro and Avid. Much rarer are books on how an editor thinks and makes decisions. Faced with hundreds of hours of raw footage, a film editor must craft the pieces into a coherent whole. Rhythm is a fundamental tool of the film editor; when a filmmaker adjust the length of shots in relation to one another, he or she affects the entire pace, structure, and mood of the film. Until this book, rhythm was considered a matter of intuition; good editors should just 'know' when to make a cut.
Cutting Rhythms breaks down the issue of rhythm in an accessible way that allows filmmakers to apply the principles to their own work and increase their creativity. This book offers possibilities rather than prescriptions. It presents questions editors or filmmakers can ask themselves about their work, and a clear and useful vocabulary for working with those questions.
Filled with timeless principles and thought-provoking examples from a variety of international films, this book is destined to become a staple in the filmmaker's library.
to the process of editing, particularly the creative editing process of shaping the ﬁlm’s rhythm. Each of these activities is analogous in some ways to editing a ﬁlm, but, for different reasons, none of them are particularly precise comparisons. Composing, in general, is more like writing than it is like editing. A composer delineates the form and structure on which the musicians base the performance of their craft. A screenwriter does the same for the cast and crew of a ﬁlm. The composer makes
Musicians, p. 806. 5. In his book Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis, Barry Salt includes a study of average shot lengths in narrative drama ﬁlms over time. David Bordwell picks up on his ﬁndings and develops them in an article published in Film Quarterly in 2002. Bordwell says, “In 1999 and 2000 the ASL (average shot length) of a typical ﬁlm in any genre was likely to run three to six seconds.” Bordwell, D., “Intensiﬁed continuity: visual style in contemporary American ﬁlm—critical
intensity and relaxation of the movement of images, emotions, and events in the ﬁlm. The spectators perceive this intensity and relaxation of time, energy, and movement directly as forms of tension and release in their own bodies. To elaborate on the notion that rhythm is perceived directly, I will brieﬂy recap the points made about how rhythm works with the physical movement visible and audible in ﬁlms, and the physical processes by which our bodies perceive and understand movement. Chapters 1,
composed into the ﬁlm’s rhythm. The movement available to choreograph into meaningful patterns of time is not limited to the human body. Movements in the world of the rushes are that world’s explicitly stated rhythms. Water, for example, has certain properties of movement that have various meanings. Rushing, trickling, boiling, and freezing water all contain different qualities of time, space, and energy, and these properties, when brought to the rhythmic composition of a ﬁlm, extend their
of the physical energy that disrupts and punctuates the dispassionate rhythm of the other transactions. The ﬁrst and second scenes of The Godfather establish the pattern that the event rhythm of the ﬁlm will have: grave deliberation occasionally jarred by energetic outbursts. In the climactic scene, known as the Baptism Scene, the two qualities are brought together. The stately, composed shots of a Catholic baptism in a cavernous church, a holy place of exalted worship, are intercut with the