Every Cut has a Meaning

this article is in note form considered only for those who attended the “Masterclass –  Cinematography for Editing” (lesson 122)

Why we call “cutting” “editing”

cutting means chopping apart – editing comes from latin exdire = express – compose – tell – to collect, prepare, and arrange

The cut interrupts the natural flow of an event.

It either shows less of the event if a part is missing or it shows parts of an event more times.

The cut was invented when the story moved to an other location and the cameras were heavy, they could be set up somewhere else to show an other perspective.

Later the economy of story telling could be improved. Unnecessary events could be dropped. And the story could be told in a condensed way.

Through assembling elements which were not together in reality, a new meaning can be suggested. Our mind works in a way that we always try to create a mening of what we see. Even randomly assembled scenes or elements of a scene make us believe that what we see makes sense. At the end the audience create their meaning themselves. We can actually cut everything randomly together.  Random meaning will be the result. The same with cooking. We can mix spices randomly together and always will be something eatable at the end.

But what if we want to tell somthing with a structure. beginning – conflict – cilmax – end. show stringent caracters with a need. We have to be precise in what we show and when.

Every cut should have a meaning to create a substance. Abusive and unsensitive use of editing and “coverige” througout the filmhistory has destroyed our ability of developping a narrative structure of a film. Mediocre and visionless directing and acting is the reason why the “Safety cut” and “Safty blocking” called the “coverige” are standard of filmmaking even in high standard Cinema.

Why does a scene need a cut? A cut interrupts the continuity of an action. It tricks the audience to change the perspective and to see a part of a scene from a diferent point of view. This is the magic of cinema but also a trap to reveal and to destoy also the secret. The audience needs its own phantasy to be activated. If you show every detail in close ups and in the best perspective, it is like you would serve a dinner already chewed. Throug not showing everything the yudience gets curious and in tension. When the tension is built up, and the curiousity at highest level the right moment for a close up creates a relieve and dissolve. Similar to music where a sequence of tones make the audience “expect” a certain tone to complete the harmony, the cut should follow the desire to lead into the close up, instead of presenting it too early. We can call it the Montage Cadence.

The trap for the editor is, that he chooses the most intensive shots (close ups of frontal faces) instead of seeing the whole sequence with its tonal arc and keeping the Close Ups causiously for the right moment of the climax of the scene.

1st step

what is the climax of the scene

2nd step

where do I need to see the space and environment of the scene

3rd step

who drives the scene? (not necessarily the lead caracter)

4th step

what are the key moments of the character

5th step

do I realise the expression of a character even from behind or profile, or even in wide shot?

7th step

does the bodylanguage demand a wide shot of a character? Which I dont see in a close up

cadenses editing & montage – music

Cadences generally represent a pause in rhythmic, melodic or harmonic movement. They often combine a momentary standstill of rhythmic motion with the use of common two-chord patterns to finish a phrase.

There are four different types of harmonic cadences: perfect (or authentic) imperfect (or half), plagal and interrupted (or deceptive).

Perfect Cadences:

Perfect cadences sound complete and often end a piece of tonal music.


Plagal Cadences:

Though it is often used at the end of a piece, it has a ‘softer’ ending and sounds less final than a perfect cadence.


Imperfect Cadences:

This cadence sounds incomplete, as though the music has paused in the middle of a ‘sentence’. Therefore, the imperfect cadence will often be followed by a perfect cadence at the end of the next phrase.


Interrupted Cadences:

Interrupted cadences deceive the listener into thinking that a certain chord will follow the previous chord, but instead another chord is presented. This is why this cadence is also called the deceptive cadence.


(c) Chloë J. Hobbs

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