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A cut above the others

A flip book. Photo: Youtube  

Have you played with a flip book? When you flip the pages, the series of images that you have drawn appears to be set in motion. It is a classic example of how our brain perceives and interprets a series of images or a sequence. You will realise how the brain ‘fills in’ to make out motion. The process in play here is optical illusion.

This concept explains how we see movement on screen too. When each frame with a slight variation is ‘flipped’ at the right speed, optical illusion plays a trick in the minds of the viewers making them perceive the images to come alive on the screen. This phenomenon is called persistence of vision. To achieve this effect of movement or action, the film should be run at a speed of 24 frames per second.

What’s editing?

In films, shot A is connected to shot B through a process to create a movement and this process is called Editing. A film is composed of several shots joined together to form a scene, and many scenes to form a sequence. The idea behind editing is to make it look seamless, while ensuring temporal and spatial continuity.

Like cinematography, editing is an art by itself. Also called the “Invisible Art,” editing is one of the important contributors of the film’s timeline. Editing plays a key role in not only advancing the narrative but also in giving it the desired structure.

How is it done?

A film editor takes the raw footage, arranges the shots and puts them into one cohesive finished sequence, adding the sounds, music and visual effects as well. A film passes through three stages of editing — Rough cut (first cut done by the editor), Director’s cut (with inputs from the director) and the final cut.


Earlier, editing was tedious, where the editor would do his job with a positive copy of the film. He or she would physically cut and paste together pieces of films with tape or glue. What if something went wrong? A fresh positive print would be taken and the whole process repeated.

Thanks to technology. The process became less laborious, with the invention of a splicer and threading machine. We have come a long way from there. Digital technology is revolutionising the way we shoot and edit films. Software such as Avid and Final Cut Pro are used in digital editing.

Though a lot can be manipulated or changed during this creative post-production process, it does not mean you can shoot anything and everything, assuming that the editing will put everything in place.

A good film is made with a precise plan at every stage of the making. A cut is not just a cut; it has an emotion to carry forward, a story to continue and a rhythm to maintain. Editing just ensures effective storytelling.

We will look at how different techniques of editing like cut, fade in/fade out, dissolve and wipe can be used to achieve a smooth transition next week. Stay tuned.

(The writer is an assistant professor at the Department of Visual Communication, Loyola College, Chennai.)

Did you know?

The Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa both directed and edited most of his films.

Early films were one long static shot. One of the first films to use the concept of editing was Come Along, Do! by British filmmaker Robert W. Paul in 1898.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 4:53:32 AM |

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