An unsung editing step

Editing is more than the just an assembly of footage. It is the placement of multiple pieces of information in an order that creates a bigger meaning to that information. And that meaning is the intrinsic value that comes out of the pieces of information at hand.

Kuleshov explains the intrinsic value as such:

If you add a shot A to a shot B, the result is not AB or BA. The result is C. Which is the meaning that rises from the combination of these two shots.

Any theory without proof is as good as piece of steak for a man without teeth. So kuleshov created an experiment.

He took a piece of footage of a man looking at the camera and he called it shot A. The he took 3 different pieces of footage and named them X,Y and Z. X was a shot of soup. Y was a shot of a child in a coffin. Z was a shot of a sexy woman.

He creates 3 different sets

Shot A + X

The shot of the face + the shot of soup

Shot A + Y

The shot of the face + the shot of a child in a coffin

Shot A + Z

The shot of the face + the shot of a sexy woman.

Kuleshov then plays these 3 different cuts to to 3 different groups of people. He asked each group to tell him what was the man in the shot thinking.

The first group agreed that the man seemed hungry.

The second group agreed that the man seemed sad.

The third group agreed that the man seemed in love.

That proved to kuleshov that shots gain meaning beyond their own meaning once merged with other shots.

Hitchcock, years later, adds another dimension to Kuleshov’s theory.

Hitchcock explains the power of editing through examining 3 shots instead of 2.

He says that the meaning of 3 shots combined together can be completely altered by replacing the middle shot of an ensemble of 3 shots.

He says:

You have 2 shots of a man

Shot A: a man looking

Shot B: a man smiling

Hitchcock takes the picture of the man looking followed by a shot of a mother playing with her kid then the shot of the same man smiling.

Hitchcock says that the audience will feel that the old man is a nice man, a family man.

Hitchcock then takes the middle shot out and replaces it with a shot of a girl sun bathing in a bikini.

So now, it’s a shot of an old man looking, followed by a shot of a girl in a bikini then a shot of the man smiling.

Hitchcock argues that now the audience will see the character as a dirty old man.

The character and it’s attributes can be change simply by changing the shot that links the character to the action.

It always goes back to the relationship of the action and reaction.

I’m sure by now you are wondering, what is the point of all this and how does it relate to the unsung step of editing.

It is simple. WATCH EVERY MOMENT OF FOOTAGE BEFORE YOU START CUTTING ANYTHING. It is simple. Would you start cooking before you go through your fridge and freezer!?

A lot of people tend to skip this step and they start cutting right away. This issue with that is you are making final decision on what gets to stay and what gets go on the first path of your edit, without knowing what else do you have.

Example 1:

This shot you just threw away, might fit perfectly with a shot that is 1 hour later in the footage.

Example 2:

This shaky shot that you are working hard to fix because you real like, has waisted 10 minutes of your time, yet the cinematographer got the same shot without shaking 5 minutes later in the footage.

We are all very excited to start cutting a project but you HAVE to watch the footage first. All of the footage. You have to know what you are working with. At the end of the day a good edit only happens when you let the footage tell you what the footage want to be.

So be more like Kuleshov and more like Hitchcock

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