Video editing has evolved a lot since “The Great Train Robbery” (1903) and the theories and opinions about the part that video editing is taking in filmmaking art has evolved too. Basically, we can agree that the video editor’s main job is to attach together using a number of shots in order to create continuity in the film that does not draw attention to the video editing itself and continuity editing is an excellent tool for that.
In this article, we’ll talk about what is continuity in film and in editing. what types of continuity are there in films, and I will introduce you to some impressive continuity editing techniques.
Continuity editing is a part of film grammar. Some call it a technique, but I’m not sure it’s the right term. The definition is a film technique of combining two shots (or more) in a way that is almost invisible to the viewer. It is made by keeping the elements of each shot consistent. That may look obvious for us now, but it took time for video editors to understand it.
The continuity needs to be in :
Continuity in lighting, for example, means that the colors and lights in the different shots are the same. The editor’s job is to do whatever it takes to fix the discontinuity elements. In this case, the editor may need to do some color correction to fix the problem. Let’s talk about those elements for a second.
The art in the scene needs to be the same through all the shots. If a bottle of wine in the first shot is half empty and in the next shot it’s full, we have a discontinuity.
When a character starts an action in the first shot, the next shot will pick up from where the action in the former shot ended. It is also recommended to pay attention to how the character is standing or sitting in both shots.
The direction that the actors are looking at will guide the audience’s eyes. If we want the actors to create an illusion that they are talking to each other, each one of them needs to look in the right direction. In the Cinematography for Directors course, we have a few lessons that talk about that, but basically, if one actor look to the right of the camera, the other one needs to look to the left of the camera in order for them to look as if they are talking with each other. It’s the video editor’s job to fix it if they don’t do it.
You never shoot the film in the order of the script. Even inside the scene, the order of the shooting is determined by location limitations, the actor’s schedule, etc. Since the shots are not shot in the order of the story, the chances of discontinuity between the shots are big. There will usually be a script supervisor that will watch out for these things, but mistakes always happen. it’s really hard to pay attention to everything that changes in the scene.
Make it a ritual before starting to edit a scene to look for discontinuity possibilities and the way to fix them, and when you finish editing the scene, look for them again. For example, if a character is facing right and on the next shot it is facing left, you can fix it with a flop effect (an effect that changes the direction of the frame). If there is a discontinuity in the actor’s action or an object in the scene, a good solution can also be putting the third shot in between the problematic two if it’s possible.
Other problems that can cause discontinuity can be in backgrounds, sound, and the most “popular” mistake – a discontinuity in object placement. For example, when one of the characters is smoking a cigar and the size of the cigar changes on the different take (first it’s long, then it’s short and then long again).
Another good example can be when an actor is holding a glass on the right hand and on the next take he is holding it on the left. In this online film editing course, we cover many editing techniques and in this lesson, we’ll learn techniques that can help you cover the discontinuity and we’ll go over them in this lesson
The important thing to remember from this lesson is that your main goal as a video editor is not to get an edited film that is continuous, but that is dramatically effective. continuity editing is just a tool that will help you get there.