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The development of editing in film

The first ever motion picture was produced in 1978 names ‘The horse in motion’ by Eadweard Muybridge. It showed a horse in motion, and was simply 12 photographic images put together to create the effect of movement. Then in 1888 Louis le prince created a two second film made up of 24 frames showing his family in a garden. This is believed to be the first film shot using a motion picture camera on celluloid film. Thomas Edison was producing Kinetoscope machines A series of motion pictured followed but still these images were limited to being viewed individually. This was the beginning of what was going to be one of the biggest and most influential industries in the world.

The lumiere brothers wanted to take film to the mass audience and instead of showing the motion pictures to and individual they wanted the public to be able to view motion pictures. They set out to develop a way of projecting these moving images. In 1895 ‘workers leaving the Lumiere factory’ was produced. First it was shown to a private audience and after its success it was shown to a paid audience of 30. It became know as the Cinematographe theatre. This was the beginning of Cinema, as we know it.

Motion pictures were being shown around the world and shocked and amazed audiences. These films still consisted of one camera shooting until the film ran out. In 1903 Edwin s porter produced ‘Life of an American fireman’. He is known as the founder of film editing as this film used different camera angles to develop a narrative that had not been seen before. The film showed a woman being saved by a fireman as her house burnt down. In this the camera showed first the outside of the building as the woman screamed for help and was saved by a fireman. Then the inside, this was the same woman being saved by the same fireman but from a different angle. The film also used a close up shot of a man calling the fire department and series of cuts between different shots. In addition the film used two shots displayed on the screen at the same time this was used to create or show what the fireman was thinking about. I wouldn’t consider it cross cutting as its not made clear that the action is simultaneous. This was the birth of motion picture editing. This technique of showing the same series of events twice from different angles had be used by Georges Melies previously and was considered to be part of porters inspiration. ‘Viaje a la luna’(a trip to the moon) 1902 Georges Melies showed a similar technique to the one used by porter but is considered not to the same standard or to the same effect as used in ‘The life of an American fireman’.

In 1915 a film ‘Birth of a nation’ was produced by director D.w Griffifs. The film shows violence and racial stereotypes portrayed after the civil war.  It was extremely racist and showed the Klu Klux Klan as hero’s. The film is considered to be controversial but also a work of creative genius. Griffifs used as variety of techniques in this film to create an unmatched series of creative narrative. It is considered to have been the start of different camera techniques but also of film editing. Griffifs uses cross cutting in the film to show scenes happening simultaneously, for example two women leave the house unaware of the danger approaching. As an audience we are then shown the danger and violence that is literally just around the corner. It the cuts back to the two woman to show them as they realise what is happening and we watch them panic and try to re-enter the house we have just watched them leave. Then again the camera cuts to inside as a man comes to the door then back out again to show them enter. This use of cross cutting revolutionized film editing and now is the norm, it’s hard to imagine otherwise.

This style of editing started to develop further throughout cinema. Hollywood was becoming know for its continuity editing within film allowing the audience to watch editing sequences without being aware of drastic cuts or the illusion created by certain effects. Continuity editing became key to the success of an effective narrative as it kept the viewer engaged with the story without question a cut or change in light, sound or colour.  Techniques used to create this continuity were rapidly developing in the world of film and the role of an editor was becoming key to the success of the film. Fades were being used to show a change in scene. Ensuring a match on action was key if a director wanted to show action from two angles. This also ignited the effect of a match cut again used to create a smooth edit. Stanley Kubrick is famous for a match cut in his film 2001 a space odyssey in which an ape or monkey is playing with a bone, he then realises that this bone can be used as a tool but also a weapon. He is pleased with his findings and to celebrate throws the bone in the air. As the bone is shown spinning threw the air it cuts to a satellite in present day. The match cut is simply the shape and motion of the two objects in completely different locations and even time. The match cut is not only visually coherent but also the two objects represent the development of weapons and tools by man. Other techniques used to maintain this continuity in editing is the 180 and 30-degree rule. The 180-degree rule is key to avoiding confusion to the viewer. The edit must not cross the line of action, for example a convocations line of action would be between the two actors sitting opposite each other. The shots must remain to the left or the right of the two actors. The camera can move onto the line and anywhere on the correct side. The reason for this is that when shooting from the left of the two characters x will be located on the left and y on the right, if you change to the right side, x will move to the right and y to the left. Therefore confusing the audience breaking the 180-degree rule and the continuity system as the audience become aware of the change and the edit. The 30 degree rule simply stated that each shot should cut at least 30 degrees away from the previous shots angle on the same action. These rules are now broken by some editors and filmmakers to intentionally create confusing amongst the viewer. For example Stanley Kubrick breaks the rule in the Shining when two characters Gary and jack have switched roles within the narrative of the film. A clear example of the success of the 180-degree rule is shown in Lord of the rings when a character with a split personality talks to himself but by simply following the rule it gives the impression that the two are having a face to face convocation.

Sound is also key in the success and effectiveness of editing. Originally in films such as ‘the birth of a nation’ sound was non-dietetic and music was simply played over the image to create a mood and to build tension within the film narrative. With the development of editing and the continuity system sound editing also had to evolve. In 1923 lee deforest developed ‘sound on film’ and films such as ‘a few moments with Eddie Cantor’ included actors speaking, singing and telling jokes to a camera with music being played simultaneously. Sound developed directors began using a mix diagetic and non-diagetic sound to create atmosphere. It down to the edit to ensure that the sounds were at the correct volume level, speed and timed appropriately. Then came sound effects, used to capture a scream, door slamming or a gun firing without having to record it whilst filming. Sound effects were also used in the background to show and change in narrative. Combining sound and video editing was another tool for continuity editing.

Up until this point all editing was linier tape was cut and pasted together to create the final product effects and fades were layered and editors had to work with every frame to create the image they desired. A positive copy of the film negative would be used to ensure the original was not damaged, this was called a cutting copy and the editor would use a splicer to cut and thread film into the viewer allowing them to view the edit.  In 1971 the cmx 600 was produced this device revolutionised film editing and was the first non-linier machine to be produced. It allowed for footage to be stored as clips and instead of having to go through all the footage frame by frame it allowed the editor to simply choose the shot he wanted to edit then apply changes. Digital technology was rapidly changing the way that film was edited and viewed. This was just the beginning. Advances in non-linier technology over the last 40 years has changed dramatically. In 1989 avid released avid/1 that was available on Macintosh systems. It allowed the creation of clip bins, a collection of shots kept together being logs as appropriate. The key to avid’s success was the timeline allowing a sequence of events being presents in order. Avid was the leading programming for editing technology for many years whilst systems developed so did the programs available. Adobe released premier pro in 1991 for Macintosh which became a obvious competitor for avid. Avid was still the leading software but became windows based allowing apple to release final cut pro in 1999 which at the time was not taken seriously has now become a leading editing software and is now highly regarded by industry professionals.

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