Some Technical Terms

Hope you enjoyed the clips today (I’ll give links at the end of this post). There were three main terms I was interested in. They were:

  • Continuity editing;
  • Parallel editing; and,
  • Single shot / Steadicam.

Continuity editing:

refers to the established convention of telling a single story/narrative episode in a strictly linear (one thing follows another sequentially) fashion. In short, the story should flow in as unobtrusive way as possible. In practice, almost every story you will have written in English will have been like this!

In terms of film/TV, there’re a couple of things you need to remember when analysing or creating a product.

  1. 180˚ Rule, and
  2. Eyeline match.

Both of these terms are fully explained (and exemplified) on the film110 wiki. There’s also a handy slide deck on Slideshare that explains the key concept well enough for our needs. Here it is:

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 19.28.41And for those with more time to spare, there is a really good documentary about film editing available on YouTube. It’s 100 minutes long, but fascinating and will teach you lots about the power of editing in telling the story. Click the picture of Spielberg if you want to watch it… and yes, it is worth watching!

Parallel editing

This is an edit that uses cross-cutting to link two separate narratives. There is a clear and concise explanation of this on the worthwhile Elements of Cinema blog. LINK.

Single shot/Steadicam

The introduction of lighter cameras and then, in 1976, the Steadicam, allowed filmmakers to find new ways of realising their visions. I used a well regarded example from Goodfellas. The joy of the ‘steadicam’ shot in Goodfellas is that it is used quite deliberately to bring us (the audience) in to the gangster’s world. It opens outside the club with the car being ‘parked’ ($20!) before Henry (Ray Liotta) and Karen (Lorraine Bracco) cross the street. They walk through (across) the queue, and descend into the club’s basement area. The wall decorations as they descend depict a bright jungle scene (lots of toucans!), but does this suggest Copacabana (the name of the club) or is it an allusion to the innocence of the Garden of Eden? (She is ‘innocent’ at this time… and being Jewish, is less likely to have encountered the ‘goodfella’ mafioso culture of his world).

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 19.52.16
Click to embiggen!

The doors open to a red corridor (red carpet, walls, ceiling and doors) and waiters in red jackets. Henry leads Karen through the kitchen (note that they go in what is essentially a pointless circle…) mainly to establish that Henry knows everyone and everyone knows Henry. They enter into the crowded club where the owner immediately says hello before ordering a table to be prepared for them right at the front. They sit, and Henry says hello to the men sitting behind them before being presented with a bottle of extremely expensive champagne by some men at a table to our left. Karen is, understandably, extremely impressed and leans over to ask “What do you do?”

It’s a tour de force of cinema as it marries the technology (steadicam) with the literal descent into the club, and a metaphorical descent into hell (you’ll need to see the whole film to work out why!).

Anyway… that’s more than enough to keep you busy and/or entertained for now! The clips we watched in class were from:

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 19.56.30 , Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 19.57.27 & Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 19.58.27

Click the poster to be taken to the imdb page for each. 🙂

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