MATCHES, OR TECHNIQUES OF CONTINUITY EDITING
Continuity editing is a system of joining shots together to create the illusion of a continuous and clear narrative action. When a scene is broken up into a sequence of shots for the purpose of achieving greater dramatic emphasis in mainstream narrative films, the shots are usually reconnected smoothly so that viewers do not notice the cut or lose their orientation in screen space. This is often achieved by using matches or match cuts. Some of the common kinds of match or continuity cuts are defined below. For a comprehensive discussion of the techniques of continuity editing, see chapter 14, "Editing the Picture," in Karel Reisz and Gavin Millar, The Technique of Film Editing, from which I have drawn the following definitions.
movement match In a movement match, a movement or gesture of a character begun in one shot appears to be seamlessly continued or completed in the next shot. As a result, the viewer focuses on the movement and not on the cut. If movements from one shot to the next are not matched, that is, if the same action is repeated in adjacent shots or if a portion of the action is omitted from one shot to the next, the effect will be a noticeable jerk and the action will lose its illusion of seamless continuity. Another form of movement match occurs when the camera moves (tracks or pans) in the same direction at the same rate from shot to shot. Here the movement match is on the camera movement.
direction match In a direction match, the direction in which a person or object is moving is consistent across the splice. If, for example, a character exits frame right in shot 1, he or she must enter from frame left in shot 2. If the direction is not matched, it will appear that the character has suddenly turned around and is moving in the opposite direction. eyeline match The glances of characters in separate shots seem to meet. In order to create this illusion, the direction of their glances must be consistent. For example, if the character on the left looks in the direction of screen right, the character on the right should look in the direction of screen left. shot/reverse shot A technique usually used to photograph two characters in conversation. Rather than photographing them in a two shot, that is, a shot in which two characters are shown together in the frame, the shots alternate between the two characters. First we see one character and then we see the second character from the reverse angle. Over-the-shoulder framings are common in shot/reverse shot editing: that is, the camera alternately photographs one character from over the shoulder of another, with a shoulder prominent in the foreground of each shot. axis match The angle from which the camera shoots the action remains the same from shot to shot. For example, if the first shot is a long shot and the second a medium shot, the camera moves forward without changing the angle from which the action is photographed. If the angle changes slightly, it will appear that elements in the background of the shot have shifted slightly, and the continuity will not be perceived as smooth. If there is a marked change in camera angle (in which the camera moves through 90 degrees) the shot will be perceived as smooth because the background will be markedly different and not create a confusing "jump" in the position of background objects. position match The position of an object or person remains in the same area of the frame from shot to shot. In a cut from pursuer to pursued, for example, the pursued person would appear in the same area of the frame as the pursuer.
graphic match Any juxtaposition of graphically similar images, such as a cut from a spinning umbrella to a spinning train wheel. Vivid visual effects can also be achieved by deliberately contrasting graphics from one shot to the next so that, for example, a composition emphasizing vertical lines clashes in the next shot with a composition emphasizing horizontal lines.
rhythmic match Any juxtaposition of images with actions moving at similar rates or speeds. In the above example, the umbrella and wheel would be spinning at the same rate. jump cut A continuity mismatch in which the rules of continuity are violated, often resulting in the disorientation of the spectator. In jump cuts the characters seem to jump around in space against a constant background or the background suddenly changes while the characters remain in the same position. Jump cuts are sometimes deliberately created by directors who wish to call attention to the medium. Creators of experimental or art films often deliberately violate the rules of continuity cutting. Examples of the deliberate use of jump cuts can be found in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1959).
These devices, often created in an optical printer, give a certain amount of pizzazz to transitions between shots. They are used to give dramatic or visual emphasis to marked ellipses in time and space, although they can be employed to enhance the technical smoothness of the transition between shots as well. Optical devices can also help to regulate the pacing of the film and can be used to emphasize symbolic associations between conjoined or adjacent shots. Common optical transitional devices include:
iris-in A shot, found most often in silent films, that opens from darkness in an expanding circle of light. In an iris-out, the opposite happens. fade-in A shot that begins in darkness gradually brightens. In a fade-out, the shot gradually darkens until the screen goes black. dissolve A dissolve is the superimposition of the end of one shot onto the beginning of the next, so that the two images briefly overlap. In a lap dissolve, the superimposition of the two shots lingers, sometimes (as often happens in Citizen Kane) to make a symbolic point about the relation of the two shots. wipe In the simplest form of this technique, a vertical line appears to travel across the screen, removing (wiping out) as it travels the content of one shot, while simultaneously replacing it with the content of the next. Wipes can also be made using horizontal lines, diagonal lines, spirals, or circular shapes.
Developed early on in narrative film history, these are editing techniques that work to increase the spectator's mental participation in the action of the film.
point-of-view (pov) or eyeline shot A POV shot is the shot that immediately follows a shot in which we see a character looking at something offscreen or beyond the borders of the frame. The camera is positioned where the character's eyes would be. Viewers are cued mentally to construct the shot as if they were viewing it from the point of view of a character in a film. The use of POV shots can establish powerful identifications between the specta tor and the characters on the screen. Mentally, we merge with the on-screen characters, seeing the world as they do, from their point of view. Usually, POV shots are from the viewpoint of a protagonist with whom we are supposed to identify, but complicated effects can be achieved when the point-of-view shot is seen through the eyes of villains or monsters. Since POV shots create a strong illusion of being spatially contiguous or in close proximity to the person who is looking, they can achieve interesting effects when they regard objects we know are literally far away. For a disconcerting or surreal effect, a person standing in front of the White House can look offscreen and in the next shot appear to "see" an image of the Eiffel Tower. Soviet theorists called this effect "creative geography." reaction shot A shot following a POV shot, revealing the reaction of the character from whose point of view we were looking. cross-cut A cut to another scene or line of action that is usually (but not always) spatially remote from the original line of action, but which seems to be happening simultaneously in time. A common use of the cross-cut that never seems to go out of fashion is alternating shots of an imperiled person with shots of another person coming to the rescue, generating in the viewer's mind the question: Will the rescuer get there in time? One or more lines of action are often crosscut to create dramatic irony (in which the film viewer is given information of which the characters are unaware) or otherwise to "thicken" the plot.
contrast cut Cutting back and forth between two contrasting actions so that one action strengthens audience response to the other. Shots of a starving man contrasted with shots of a glutton, for example, will increase the impact of both shots, making the former seem more pathetic and the latter more disgusting.
associational cut A cut made for symbolic purposes to an object which often is not present in the world of the film's story (its diegesis). Pudovkin referred to these as symbolic cuts, and Sergei Eisenstein called the technique intellectual montage. In October (1928), Eisenstein cuts from a vain, ambitious dictator to shots of a gilded, mechanical peacock. In the cult film Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1972), after a psychiatrist asks Harold how he feels about his mother, there is a cut to a huge medicine ball crashing into a brick building. flashback, flash forward A cut which takes the action to a prior or future time in the plot.
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