post production

Juxtaposition is the Core of Editing

Juxtaposition – By strategically placing two visual ideas next to each other, you can create a separate third idea in the viewer’s mind.

• Juxtaposition shows thoughts and emotions.
• Juxtaposition can be used between two symbolic shots.
• Juxtaposition can be used between two scenes, thus linking    
   them together. 
• Juxtaposition can link two stories to show theme.
• Juxtaposition – between voice and image.
• Juxtaposition – between music and image.
• Juxtaposition – between two ideas.

Editing is often thought to be the most important element in movie making. It is where bad shots are discarded, good shots arranged into scenes, and the scenes into a finished film.

The picture, of course, is not the only element that gets edited – so does the sound. Location dialogue is edited, fixed and enhanced. (After shooting, actors may return to the studio to record lines.) Background ambiances such as crowd noises, traffic, barking dogs or birds are added. The music is scored and inserted into the appropriate moments.

It is during the “post-production” stage that special effects are added, as well. These include opening and closing titles, scene transitions (fades and dissolves) and computer generated special effects.

Editing Theory

Editing has a theory and history that dates back to Russia and the silent era. It is called “montage”. “Montage” is a French term that means “edit” or “put together”. Soviet filmmakers felt that, above all else, it was a film’s ability to change images that made it an art form. In editing, a shot can go from one person’s point-of-view to another’s – we can be a killer in one shot and the victim in the next. We can also instantly move from one location to another or through time (see how cleverly the Winona Ryder film “Girl, Interrupted”, shifts back and forth in time).

Soviet filmmakers believed that montage gave cinema its art and power – that shots in isolation were meaningless, but intention emerged when shots were combined and juxtaposed together.


In the 1920s, a soviet teacher by the name of Lev Kuleshow experimented with montage by shooting an actor looking at something off screen using a neutral expression. In sequence one, he cut from the actor to a bowl of soup and back to the actor’s reaction. In a second sequence, he cut from the actor, to a girl injured, then back to the actor’s reaction. Audiences shown the scenes believed that the actor’s face was able to express hunger in one scene and pity in the other. In fact, the actor was expressionless in both scenes – the effect was created only through the art of editing.

Sergei Eisenstein

No discussion of editing theory is complete without mention of the Russian filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein. It was Eisenstein who claimed that film space and time was constructed by editing and by the space photographed by the shot. For example, an actor looks off screen. We cut to a fire, followed by the actor’s reaction shot. The audience assumes the hero is looking at the explosion, but, in reality, the explosion could have occurred somewhere else in the world and at another time.

In the 1925 silent classic, “Battleship Potemkin”, Eisenstein further demonstrated that although an event might only take a few seconds in real time, its importance might be significant enough that it could – and should – be lengthened through editing. (Real time, of course, could also be condensed.)

In films made today, the viewer is rarely aware that an edit has occurred. Movie action, for the most part, is presented in a progressive and continuous manner. Editing theory, however, is useful in understanding the power and effect editing has on moviemaking. Many of Eisenstein’s theories are used in commercials which routinely juxtapose beautiful, happy people with soft drinks, cars, beer, and other consumer products.

The Role of the Movie Editor

It is the editor’s role to turn the rough, non-sequential rushes into a complete, “organic” film story. Think of this raw material as an out-of-shape body and the editor as a fitness instructor. The editor turns disjointed, discontinuous footage into a lean, streamlined body with an independent presence.

The focus of editing is always on story over technique. The editor must accomplish this metamorphosis without drawing the viewer’s attention away from the primary narrative image.

A talented editor works with the image and performance to adjust all of the tones, balances, and relationships to create the best possible visual story.


Four Editing Steps

There are four main editing steps in the editing process: Log footage, input the source media, edit the sequence and output the material.


Logging simply means recording information (time code, name) about the shots so you can refer back to them easily in editing. Make sure that each tape for your project is clearly labeled. Footage on source tapes can be logged during or after the shooting process. Be recording the time code of shots you want to use in your sequence. You will be able to go back and find them quickly even if you have hours of footage.


After the raw footage is logged, it can be input to the editing system. This is often called digitizing, since the footage is recorded digitally to the computer. Footage can either be batch digitized from a log list, or shots can be individually digitized while you watch the footage. Name each clip so that you can easily tell what it is—CU, wide, low angle, by shot number, by the action that takes place, or by who is in the shot. Footage is organized into bins within the editing software. Bins are like folders that store footage, sequences, effects, etc.


Start putting the pieces together. Assemble a rough cut first in order to tell the main story. You can use scratch music and voiceover and not worry about making everything perfect – one benefit of nonlinear editing is that you can always change your mind. Continue making adjustments until you have told the correct story, in the correct amount of time, and you (or the client) is pleased with the edit. Once you have the sequence completed, add transitions, effects, titles, final music, voiceover, etc.


Outputting the finished product may involve cutting the piece on a broadcast tape, running multiple VHS copies, archiving for later use, or whatever the project demands.


Some “The Making of...” programs about the making of television programs and films provide valuable and interesting insights into many aspects of presenting and exploring the moving images of visual language in television and films. However, such programs are not so useful when it comes to the essential aspects of cutting and editing.

Editing is the post-production process in which the material is organized to achieve the purposes of the filmmaker. Editing is a vital part of exploring and using visual language and is essential to achieving the meanings and effects that are intended.

During editing, the final film is brought together in the most interesting and dramatic way by selecting, arranging, and ordering the shots available. Editing determines how viewers interpret or “read” images and sounds. Editors seek to provide a sense of unity of time and place in order to link, relate and structure different elements of the narrative and to achieve logic, rhythm and pace in order to arouse interest and excite emotional involvement and response.

Important considerations are:

• shot duration – how long each shot in a sequence lasts and

• juxtaposition – how shots and sequences follow and are related to each other.

A cut is a change from one shot to the next. It may be from a wide shot to a close-up, from an exterior to an interior scene, from someone starting an action to completing it, or from one scene to the next. Cuts connect people, places, and objects. There might be a cut from the street to the inside of a car driven by one of the characters or from a person going up in an elevator to being inside a room high in a skyscraper. Another cut may then be from the character in the car to the car’s involvement in a chase or accident or to the person in the room jumping out of the window. Such cuts also allow for the use of stunt people or dummies.

Transition from one scene to the next is important. A cut makes the transition by connecting the last shot of one scene to the first shot of the next scene. Sometimes a transition is executed by a cut from a transition shot, such as a plane taking off to a scene of a building, to the first shot of the next scene. In a swish pan, the scene ends with the camera suddenly panning so fast that the image blurs. A cut to the next scene follows.

Overlapping sound can help to smooth transitions by anticipating a scene’s visual beginning with its auditory beginning: a character may refer to the location of the next scene while a cut to it is made, and the conversation continues while the visual image of the new location comes into view.

Off-screen narration or voiceover, usually made by a character, can help keep the film together and maintain our interest, while communicating a story economically. Off-screen sounds, such as crowd noises, an echo, amplified heartbeats or a scream may increase anticipation, suspense or excitement, revealing a private emotional experience and raising our level of involvement in the characters’ dilemma.

Other transitional devices include special effects like fades, wipes, and dissolves. In a fade-out, the image rapidly becomes black, and a fade-in of the next scene follows. In a wipe, one shot is covered up by another shot moving horizontally across the screen. In a dissolve, one shot fades out while the next fades in on top of it.

Cutaways are common transitional devices. It might be a reaction cut of one person listening to what another is saying or responding to what somebody is doing. Reaction cuts are popular in televised sports events, where the editor will cut to show the reaction of individuals, the crowd, or a play to such moments as a boundary in cricket or a match-winning netball shot. Cutaways can be used to link to what somebody is thinking, talking about, or seeing. They can also compress time without losing continuity or expand time in order to build tension or emphasize a dramatic moment.

Instead of a cutaway, a matched cut may be used where no part of the action is omitted, although the camera angle or distance may change. In continuity editing, a sequence is cut together to preserve the continuity of the action without showing the whole of the action.

We don’t notice most cuts because of our expectations and familiarity with the conventions of editing. Accordingly, the action usually seems to blend smoothly from one shot to the next.

When two shots are intentionally not matched, we have what is called a jump cut. We stay with the same subject, but there is a discontinuity of physical movement. The subject may seem to jump from one place to the next, or the same subject may remain on frame and the location will change. In this way, a lot of ground, time, and action can be covered economically at a swifter pace than when continuity is preserved, and a faster transition from one scene or sequence to the next can be achieved. But when a cut that should have been matched is not, the effect can be quite jarring and obtrusive. A compression of time which is too abrupt may confuse us.

Intercutting cuts back and forth from one subject or event to the other. With this technique, the events appear to be happening at the same time. In parallel editing or parallel cutting, also called cross-cutting, the sequences or scenes are intercut to suggest that they are taking place at the same time. Parallel cutting might show shots of a villain being villainous intercut with shots of the hero or heroine coming to the rescue. Most chases use parallel editing, switching back and forth between pursuer and the pursued. Phone conversations are often parallel edited.

Quick or fast cutting, based on short shots of a few frames, gives the impression that action is happening at great speed, heightening the sense of action and excitement. Quick cuts may be used to bring together events related in theme but from different times and places that can involve different characters in what are called montages. Montages might flash images from a person’s memory or condense a history of someone’s life or the history of a war. TV commercials use 30-second and 60-second montages to create an emotional mood and associate it with a product. Music can be the glue that holds such an advertisement together.

Montages can also be used to compress time and to show the development or deterioration of a relationship by quick cuts that compare situations and scenes.

Assembling a Scene


Logging tapes is the process of viewing tapes and creating a record of every shot. Paper logs or computer logs are used to record Time Code (TC) IN, TC Out, Scene Number, Take Number and Description.

The Rough Cut

The rough cut is a preliminary version of the project that basically assembles all of the scenes together in order without taking a lot of time to refine specific scenes.

Capturing Clips

Capturing clips is the process in which tape footage is digitalized or inputted into a computer-based editing system. In order to increase efficiency, related clips are organized by category into bins.

Assembling a Scene

The process in which a scene is edited or assembled can be done three ways.

 Method 1 – start with a MASTER shot that covers all of the action in the scene. Go back and cut other shots such as close-ups and cutaway shots into appropriate spots in the master shot.

 Method 2 – Assemble a scene by sequentially selecting each shot and laying it in order upon your own and/or your editor’s understanding of the available footage, the intentions of the scene and the scene’s role in the entire story.

 Method 3 – Lay down an audio track, such as music or narration, then go back and lay down the appropriate VIDEO CLIPS “in time” to the audio track.

Motivated Editing

 Every edit in a film should be motivated by the content of the scene.

 Even abstract expression in narrative film should be motivated by story, character, plot and theme.

 The motivation for a specific cut should be immediately apparent to the audience.


Continuity is consistency from one shot to the next.

 Continuity of Action allows you to cut from one angle to another and have the viewer perceive the action as occurring in real time.

 Continuity of Details requires actor’s appearance and props to be consistent.

 Continuity of Direction requires subjects are moving or facing the same direction between shots.

 Continuity of Audio requires audio levels and sound characteristics to match between different shots.


Tempo is the rhythm that develops based on the timing at which cuts are made and the duration of which shots are held.

Compressing and Expanding Time

 Juxtaposition and tempo are used to compress or expand the time in which actions occur or are implied to occur.

 Time and events can be compressed or expanded by the use of montages, slow motion and by intercutting scenes.


Fade from Black and Fade to Black – provides a strong sense of beginning and closure as well as a change of time.

 A Cut provides a sense of continuity from one scene to the next.

 A Dissolve creates a sense of a passage of time.

 A Wipe creates a greater sense of urgency.


• A Cut is a change from one shot to the next. Cuts connect people, places and objects.

• Cutaways are common transitional devices and are used to link what a person is thinking, talking about or seeing.

• Match Cuts occur when two shots are edited to create a continued sense of action even though the camera angle or distance has changed.

• Jump Cuts are two shots which intentionally discontinue physical movement of the subject.

• Parallel Cuts or Cross-cutting occurs when two or more sequences or scenes are intercut to suggest that they are taking place at the same time.

Cutting Tips

 Hold on to a shot only as long as required to communicate its purpose.

 Cut on action to help improve continuity.

 When cutting a person exiting one shot and entering another, cut as the person’s eyes exit the frame. Then cut in the next scene about six frames before the person’s eyes enter the frame.

 Use cutaway shots to cover jump cuts.

Reviewing the Rough Cut

 Look for scenes that work.

 Look for scenes that don’t work.

 Find memorable moments in the film that stand out.

 Cut out the boring moments.

 Get input.

Pick-ups and Re-Shoots

 Pick-ups are shots of footage that you don’t have, such as B-roll.

 Re-shoots are when you completely do the scene over.

Final Cut

Final cut is the process of creating a polished final master copy of your project.

• Fine-tuning audio tracts

• Sound effects

• Adding pick-up shots and re-shoots

• Trimming cuts

• Voice-overs

• Creating overlapping dialogue if necessary

• Music tracts

• Cutting scenes that don’t work.

• Adding titles and credits


 Record 1:30 of color bars and tone.

 Record a :20 slate detailing the program’s title, length, the date, director’s name, producer’s name and the editor’s name.

 Record on :08 countdown followed by :02 seconds of black.

 Record your project from this point.

Editing Tools

Fade-out is where the scene rapidly becomes black.

Fade-in is when a black image rapidly transitions into a full scene image.

Wipe is where one shot is covered up by another shot moving horizontally across the scene.

Dissolve is when one shot fades out while the next fades in on top of it.

Cut is a change from one shot to the next.

Cutaway Shots are shots that are used to make the motion on the screen seem continuous. They can be used as transitional footage to avoid a jump cut.

Screen Direction is maintained by thinking of an imaging line called an “action axis” running through every subject.

Reaction Shots are cutaways to a shot that shows the reaction of a subject.

Match cut is editing multiple takes from different angles of the same action together in order to convey a sequence of movement.

Cross Dissolves maintain continuity of time.

Fade to Black is used in the change of time.