Editing styles

The importance of editing in film-making cannot be stressed enough.

At its simplest editing can remove bad takes and shorten sequences, but when film-makers fully harness its power they can create meaning where none existed and take audiences on emotional journeys.

Continuity editing

The most common form of editing is continuity editing. In this editing style, shots from different angles are cut together to create a sense of continuous movement and continuity.

Continuity editing

If you're not sure about what shots are needed, remember the three shot rule. First shoot the person.

This creates the impression that time and space remain consistent within the scene, even if the shots have been filmed at different times.

A key aim of this style is to ensure that no single cut calls attention to itself and that nothing strikes the viewer as confusing or inconsistent.

When continuity editing is applied correctly we may not notice the individual cuts.

However, continuity editing itself cannot work if film-makers do not follow these rules:

  • The 180 degree rule means that the camera must always stay on one side of the action in a scene. The camera angle can change as long as the camera's position does not cross the line.
  • Directional Continuity means that actions and movements must always seem to move in the same direction from shot to shot. If a character is seen in one shot crossing from the left hand side of the screen to the right hand side, cuts to him from another angle should still preserve that sense of direction. If the next shot showed him walking from the right hand side to the left, the audience would assume that he has changed direction.
  • The 30 Degree Rule states that the camera must move at least 30 degrees between shots. If the framing of two back to back shots is too similar it will look wrong to audiences and will disrupt the flow of the film. The term for the jarring effect which occurs when two overly similar shots are cut together is a 'jump cut'.