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  • Writer's pictureDorsa Sajedi

Editing Class 6: Executing Rhythm

For this class we were provided the footage to a scene from Lethe, and were tasked to construct it to execute rhythm and build tension. We looked at the different types of rhythm, as mentioned in my previous post, and tried to apply it. I will reflect on what worked/didn't, tips and tricks, and briefly touch on some of the feedback that we all got that I found helpful, and so on.

How do we actually communicate tension? I feel that I'm quite confident when it comes to technical skills - if theres something I don't know how to do, I'll just quickly google it and then do it. When it comes to cutting between shots, I have a habit of going with my gut feeling - this doesn't mean that I don't cut with intentions in mind, I more so mean that I make subconscious choices and don't realise I've actually made them until someone else brings it up. Realising this, I'm definitely going to try and approach editing differently so that I can pay more mind to the little things hidden within the footage.

Rough/Brief notes:

  • What classes as a 'reaction': If you don't have actual shots of an actors face but you have shots of their movement or any other part of their body, you could pick out the strengths in those bits of the footage to get across a reaction through their body language.

  • Intentionality cuts: Minimal movements which suggest/speak a lot to the audience etc. can be used between cuts to suggest what will happen next as it depicts what the character's intention is - for example, they look up at a house from the outside, and then in the next shot they are inside the house.

  • Cutting out what doesn't work: Of course with communication with the directors, but often there are times where theres too many 'clues', especially with the scene that we worked with today. I felt that I had to include all of them, but there were some of us who cut quite a few out and it seemed to work better. Idea of show-don't-tell! Also remember to constantly ask if each shot is achieving anything!

  • Establishing geography: This is important, sadly in the scene that we worked with today there wasn't any 'geography' shots that I was fond of, but I tried my best to make it work.

  • Intercutting: Helps with building tension -- one thing that one of us did today that I liked and felt was the most successful in building tension is intercutting away from a shot of the actor's reaction to a different location BEFORE showing us what she was actually looking at.

  • Moving to sound design: Communication with other HoD's is very important. Getting things down on the timeline for the sound is still worth it even though the sound isn't really up to you as an editor. At the very least it gets across your intentions and the ideas that you had when doing the edit.

  • Importance of eye-trace between shots: Moving the energy from one shot to another, its a satisfying to watch transition and helps consistently draw out the desired rhythm.

  • Creating harsh cuts: Specific example, moving from a shot of a letter (to which the camera is fairly stationary but also allowing the audience to read it) to a shot with a lot more movement. This helps to build tension as it feels 'harsh' and 'abrupt'.

An important thing that also came up was the consideration of running time when it comes to editing several different scenes. At this point, at university, we've mostly worked with single scene clips - or at the very least, very short scripts/pieces. But if you're working with, say more than 10 scenes, then theres two different ways you could approach the edit (speaking on basic terms). Either making a rough draft of the entire film and then fine tuning across each individual scene (so that you can get a sense of the pacing throughout the entire film and keep it consistent) OR going by it through each scene and starting off with rough cuts of each. Of course each has its own pros and cons, but this is something I've never had to think about before so it was a helpful note that came up.

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