In film and video approaches to editing can be talked about as either creating continuity between shots or emphasizing discontinuity. There are a whole variety of ways to achieve both of these. You can match action, cut in and away, and match eyelines. A more exhaustive list of editing techniques is available here. These techniques are not so much rules as traditions that inform the way many audiences have learned to see and experience films and videos. Avoiding the expected cut away, lingering on a close-up, or confusing the established spatial relationships can set the audience on edge, creating a sense of unease or expectation.

In addition to playing with continuity and discontinuity, editing also involves an intuitive relationship to the content. There is a kind of rhythm to the flow of material, the performance of the actors, and the motion of the camera that combine to dictate when to make a cut. Intuition can be a hard to thing to explain as it resides at the level of feeling.

Cutting with and to music can give structure to this style of intuitive editing. Often editors will even edit to temporary or “temp” music
prior to knowing the final sound track. But as editor Oliver Peters warns, this can lead to being wedded to a rhythm that doesn’t necessarily fit your final soundtrack. His list of “12 tips for better editing” is a practical list of approaches to editing that includes such hints as editing based off of the eyes of actors, cutting tight, and avoiding so-called “dragnet” style edits.

And to close out this post on editing, below is a clip from Alain Resnais’ 1963 film Muriel, wherein cutting on action is done to create a feeling of unease by confusing the characters while preserving the same action.

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