Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
One of the questions you'll probably ask yourself most often is, when should I cut? And that is the constant question of the editor. We're going to be using some old movies here to help us figure out when we should cut. One of the times that we should not cut is when we want to show a period of transition from one period of time or space to another. For example, in this clip from "Night of the Living Dead" this guy is building these barricades on the doors and windows to secure himself and his friends from zombies.
And so he is just starting to put up the first board here, and that's not a good cinema. We don't want to sit here and watch him put up boards around the windows and doors, just constantly throughout the whole house. And so there is a transition here, there is a fade, a cross dissolve, as we'll talk about later in the transitions chapter. Cross dissolve from when he starts to when he finishes. Thankfully George A. Romero who directed this picture knew that it's not good cinema to watch this guy go through a Home Depot project, so now we're just seeing the final results. Hence a transition is used.
Here's another time where a transition was used. In "Plan 9 from Outer Space," noted by many to be the worst movie ever made, we have this woman here who is apparently killing someone at night, and then as we go to the next scene, which is the house during the day, there is again this fade to black and a fade from black. So again, when we are moving in time or space for great distances, then we use transitions as opposed to a cut. So, that is one thing. A cut is when we go straight from one clip to the next.
Now we also cut to get rid of bad stuff. If we go to the "get rid of bad stuff" comp, you'll see what I'm talking about. There is another clip from "Plan 9 from Outer Space." Pilots are sitting here in an airplane minding their own business, having conversation. All of a sudden there is a UFO that flies by and it knocks them for a loop. Now if you watch this pilot on the right, long after the UFO does a driveby, and long after the light is gone, and even long after the pilot on the left has come to his senses again, this guy is still freaking out over here on the right-hand side.
So let's watch that. (Pilot: American Flight A12 requesting?) (Whirrrrr.) So, now it's over and it's time for them to be still and he keeps going. (Clack clack clack) (laughing) And so, we go from that cut from this scene to seeing the UFO, which is actually just kind of sitting there, not really moving. But it was a pretty traumatic experience apparently. And what the editor should have done is cut it right here, because basically we want to show the pilots messed up, and then he looks over at the UFO and then we go to the UFO.
There's really no reason to have this extra jolt in there. It really takes you away from the movie, because now you're wandering why this guy is continually rocking back and forth even after the UFO episode is done. So, that is your job as an editor, to look at pieces of footage, even if the director has shot it, even if he wants to keep it in there, your job is to look at the story and say, "you know what, this little piece is not necessary and we need to remove it." Now, another reason that we cut is for the rhythm of edit. So we'll talk about pacing a little bit later in this chapter, but here's the good example of how the rhythm of the edit can be really off.
In this clip, I think it's from "Hercules Conquers the Moon Men," there is this giant mountain that is eating people. I didn't write it, but that's what the story is,. The mountain is eating people, and this light is the mountain that's eating people. And then we cut from the mountain that's eating people, that has just taken sacrifice of human life, and then we go to a throne room. And when we go to a throne room, these people are kind of already talking, so we're here with the mountain, apparently there's like a drawbridge that's closing or something, and then we cut to the throne room. These people were already talking and it's just very jarring to have this huge difference in time and space and be already kind of in the middle of a conversation.
So, let's play this edit and see what I'm talking about here. It actually starts a little bit later. We don't need to watch this whole mountain thing. (Music playing.) (Male speaker: Queen Samara, your?) So, again we have this mountain thing, there is treacherous music, and then we're right in the middle of a conversation. (Music playing.) (Male speaker: Queen Samara?) We really didn't have a breath to take that in. And so, again, as an editor it's your job to give it that breath. There could have been a dissolve or they could have more footage to show this guy walking in to the room. Anything to make this kind of drawn out a little bit more.
We could have taken the music cues or we would have allowed the music to fade out a little bit before making that cut. Anything that we could do to make it so that this scene kind of fades away and we have a chance to catch our breath before we start listening to dialogue. Now, it's also an editor's job to watch for storytelling issues and continuity. So, as we have here again, this clip from "Plan 9 from Outer Space," as I've showed you before in this movie, we have Vampira going to kill some people here. And the people that she's killing-- if we back up a little bit further, here's her coming into the scene here-- are apparently these guys who are somewhere where it's daytime, and then they see her and she is somewhere where it's apparently night, and it cuts back to them being day.
This is what referred to as a continuity issue. This is probably one of the worst you'll ever find, but still it does a good job to illustrate the issue of continuity. Oftentimes, directors will not realize that an actor will have their watch on maybe their left-hand in one take, and then they will go out to lunch and take off the watch or whatever piece of clothing they are using, and they will put the watch on the other wrist. So, if at all possible, it's your job to watch for those things and to fix them so they don't take people out of the story. So hopefully these examples will make a little bit more clear about when we ought to cut.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
93 Video lessons · 29053 Viewers
135 Video lessons · 63638 Viewers
79 Video lessons · 21644 Viewers
350 Video lessons · 106563 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.