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How To Edit
Lucy Harris
How to Edit


Different types of edits will create very different rhythmic structures.
Analyzing a film through it’s editing structure is one methodology practised in film theory, sometimes termed ‘the visual language of film’. Different types of edit are recognised and categorised. Listed below are some of the most frequently used terms.

Plastic cut

This is where movement within the frame is carried across a cut.
As our eyes are naturally attracted to movement, two separate shots will cut together more seamlessly if movement from one shot is picked up in the next. The eye/brains desire for logic encourages us to read/perceive the film as ‘continuous.’ Beautiful rhythms are often created through this form of cutting as movement (whether of camera, object, or subject) is used to make forms flow into each other.

In Jayne Parker’s film “K” the sequence of hands and arm movements becomes a choreographed dance through the editing. ((In George Barber’s film “Walking off court” the cameras movement across an urban landscape creates a circular rhythm reflecting the film’s narrative.))

Direct cut

The real timeframe of a scene is compressed through the editing. This is commonly used in conventional films. For example a man walks up the stairs and then appears in a room. In ‘film time’ the audience logically connects the stairs to the room, and even places them in same house. The artist Stuart Croft uses direct cuts in his film installation “Century City” where his central character is pacing from room to room in a film studio. Through fast cutting different camera angles together the audience perception of the geography of the film studio is constantly distorted, and adds to the tension of the film.

Match cut

Two disparate scenes that are linked by the repetition of an action. For example a woman pours a drink, and in the next scene in a clearly different location, a man takes a drink. So a connection is made between the two different spaces, simply by the common action of pouring a drink.

Flash cutting

Very short shots that succeed each other quickly, often used to create a dynamic climax. Used creatively by John Smith in Worst Case Scenario where a sequence of still photographs are edited together with different durations. The rapid cutting creating the illusion of movement and small gestures become exaggerated.


Creating a narrative by cutting between two different scenes/locations. For example, in the film Salamander by Tanya Syed, action is intercut between the interior of a fast food takeaway, and the exterior nocturnal cityscape.

Jump cuts

A fixed shot where material has been removed, so any movement within the shot is exaggerated at the cuts. This is used as a device to compress ‘dead’ time, or as a way of ‘telling’ the audience that material has been removed (e.g. in interviews) Since the French New Wave, it has also been encorporated into the mainstream as a stylistic device.

Most artist’s films do not fit neatly into these categories, as much work investigates existing conventions.
For example William Raban’s film Autumn Scenes appears to be jump cut together, as the sequence looks like a succession of fixed shots with a ‘jump’ happening at each cut. However, the continuity of a man walking indicates that things are not as they initially appear, and we realise that Raban is using the conventions of editing to expose the ‘illusion’ of continuity in film.

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