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Short Guide to Film Editing: Montage and Editing Techniques

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Short Guide to Film Editing: Montage and Editing Techniques

The most important video cuts at a glance

Hardly a film or a longer video can do without film cuts that combine different shots with each other or are set within one shot. This makes the editing technique one of the most important aesthetic means of creating a film or video. There are now a number of established editing techniques and montage forms for film editing. We give you an overview of important film editing techniques and explain when they can be used.

cut and counter cut

Let’s start with one of the most common techniques in film editing. With the cut and reverse cut or shot and reverse shot, we see an ongoing action from different perspectives or recording directions. This can be a person who dresses in the hallway and opens the door to go out. Then the counter cut follows and we now see the same person stepping out of the door onto the street in an outdoor shot. Intuitively, we understand the edited film scene as a continuous plot and realize that it is about the same person. A common use of cuts and countercuts is dialogue. First, the speaker is shown and in counter-cut the face of the interlocutor, who may be listening while we continue to hear what was said, or who may begin to speak themselves.

Formal Cut / Match Cut

Match cut is a film montage technique in which a movement or shape in the center of one shot is continued in the next shot. The term is made up of the English words match = fit together or match and cut = cut. Match cuts create a connection between different recordings that are separated in time or space. However, since elements such as movements, actions or forms are carried over from one shot to the next, the impression of continuity is created and a connection between two different scenes or shots that initially does not exist is created. A well-known example of a match cut is the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which the motion of a falling bone is match-cut into a moving spaceship.

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Jump Cut

The jump cut (jump = jump, cut = cut) refers to a film cut in which the middle part of a recording is removed and the two ends are rejoined. The image section, camera position and distance remain the same. Most of the time, a jump cut is very obvious and intentional by the filmmaker. He should irritate or at least arouse attention. With a jump cut z. B. time jumps expressed or the narrative speed increased.

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Motion Cut / Cut in Action

A motion edit cuts into motion within a scene to change the line of sight or distance to the shot. The aim of the motion cut is to place the film cut as inconspicuously as possible, e.g. B. at a point where the viewer anticipates the goal or outcome of the movement. We see e.g. B. How a person puts on a shirt and raises his arm to button the shirt. A movement cut is made while the arm is still moving and we now see the person’s hand in close-up as they close the buttons.

Parallel cut / cross cut / alternating cut

In the parallel cut, two or more actions are continuously cut back and forth. As a result, spatially separated recordings are used in connection with one another and a connection is established. The actions or events shown in the parallel cut can take place simultaneously or at different times.

replacement cut

In the replacement cut, instead of the main story, a scene related in terms of imagery or content is shown, which symbolizes the content of the ongoing main story. For example, instead of a love scene, fireworks can be inserted using a substitute cut.

causal cut

In the causal cut we see two recordings that are related in terms of content, but the second recording would not be understandable or difficult to understand if the first recording were missing. You see e.g. B. in the first scene, how a car driver is on the phone. In the second scene there is an accident, which is announced by a loud bang. Through the first scene you understand the circumstances of the accident shown in the second scene.

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Split Screen

With a split screen, one or more recordings can be seen simultaneously in a split screen – similar to the display of several surveillance cameras in one picture. Split screen emerged in the 1920s and was particularly popular in the 1960s and 1970s. But even today, split screens are still used to show multiple strands of events at the same time.

Acoustic brace (J-cut or L-cut)

An acoustic bracket connects two separate scenes through the audio track. In an L-Cut, the audio from the previous scene is heard in the following scene. Imagine hearing the bang of an accident, but already seeing the injured person lying in the hospital bed. A J cut is the reverse of an L cut. The audio from the next scene can already be heard when the footage from the previous scene is visible. For example, you can see a clique on the way to a club and already hear the music, which only acoustically fits the action in the next cut. The designations J and L cut are derived from the appearance of the edited audio and video track in the film editor.

Rules of film montage

In addition to these cutting techniques, there are some overarching assembly principles that we also want to mention here:

1. No blank frames in the scene

In a play, scenes often begin or end with an empty stage. It is similar with the film. An empty scene can introduce a new scene, symbolize the end of an action or stand at the end of a movement. Conversely, this means that empty images or an empty stage should be avoided within a scene or a story line. So place your cuts within a scene before the cast members leave.

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2. Axis of action or 180 degree rule

The plot axis is an imaginary auxiliary line that divides the shown space into two halves. It resembles the stage of a theater and corresponds to the viewer’s field of vision. The result is a semicircle that is defined by the position of the camera and what is happening in the film and is also known as the “180-degree rule” because of the angle.

According to the 180 degree rule, film cuts should only be made within the circle of action. If we suddenly saw someone walking through the image from left to right who was previously walking from right to left, we would be confused. The axis of action is even more obvious when two people are shown in conversation. If one were to leave the axis of action here and now show the people in reverse, it would be irritating.

3. Invisible cut

The invisible cut is not literally an invisible film cut, but describes a montage technique in which all film cuts are made in such a way that the viewer is not consciously aware of them. The aim is for the viewer to concentrate solely on the plot and forget that they are watching a film. The invisible cut is present in many classic Hollywood films and requires, among other things, compliance with certain rules, such as starting a scene in the long shot, the use of cuts and reverse cuts in dialogue and observing the plot line and 180 degree rule.

This is just a selection of established film editing techniques and basic film assembly rules. We hope they serve as inspiration for editing your video footage.

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