Reading The Screen – class notes from 2 weeks ago

December 1, 2008

been lazy again – my bad – here are my class notes from 2 weeks ago…

THE SHOT = smallest unit in film

– overshot = protective shooting to make sure all of the angles were covered (Shane is an example)
– Edwin S. Porter in 1903 = The Great Train Robbery (introduced cross-cutting / parallel editing)
– cutting back and forth between the sheriff, the townspeople and the robbers

D.W. Griffith – Intolerance was his masterpiece

– cutting to continuity – walking cycle across the room can be condensed for example from beginning to end
– establishing shot – how you introduce a story – geography shot (Lawrence of Arabia opening shot)
– cut to a full shot for example to zoom closer in as you bring in main characters
– in classical editing, the more information you place in the frame, the longer you hold the frame
– edit for dramatic intensity
– used closeup for intensity whereas before it was used solely for information
– thematic cutting / montage – different timelines intercut to break up linear storyline
– contemporary films showcase this primarily in romantic comedies now (usually short and doesn’t involve dialog)

Roger Spottiswood?
– when the audience absorbs all the information they need to receive, that’s when you need to cut
– if you cut too early, they will wonder what they are looking at – if you cut too late, they will get bored

– they embraced the camera in order to educate the world about communist ideology


– thought Griffith was brilliant but thought closeup could stand on its own
– especially if it is juxtaposed with another closeup
– inspired by Pavlovian theory about feeding dogs – putting meaning together with bell ringing and feeding the dog

– put one closeup with another closeup = greater meaning
– audiences fill in meaning when faced with ambiguity
– built stories around completely separate images by editing them together to make meaning

– the essence of existence is constant change / conflict is the synthesis of opposites
A + B = C (Thesis + Anti-Thesis = Synthesis) / light versus dark / mass of people versus single person
– if you photograph reality, then you create a truer reality in jolting the audience (masses being exploited by the bourgeois)
– compiling these shots was very different from German films
– they used long shots and takes to follow the scene

ODESSA step scene


Enter The Dragon (similar scene)

– Orson Welles 1948 – married to Rita Hayworth at the time (broke up by the end of shooting)
– 24 two way mirrors and 80 regular mirrors were used to create the shots

What happens when you join two pieces of film together?

Graphic connection
– match cut (similar position, colour, lighting,
– mildly discontinuous (contrasting shots to play off of each other – Pulp Fiction diner scene – clash in their positioning as they talk in the scene)

Rhythmic connection
– 24 frames per second and if you set cuts to specific number of frames for editing
– intense shots tend to be shorter and to decrease tension, shots become longer
– many experimental films base their editing on graphic and rhythmic editing (Ballet Mechanique)

Spatial relations
– editing creates space for the audience – they need to understand where they are in the plot, location, timeline…
– if you provide with important information, the audience will fill in the blanks
– cross cutting like in The Godfather part 2 between 1950’s Nevada to 1910 New York

Temporal relations
– constructs and manipulates story time
– Incident at Owl Creek is best example of this
– assumption that sequential scenes are linear, but this isn’t always the case
– elliptical editing = an action is presented so that it is edited to speed up the process
– punctuation cut (fade in, fade out to important information)
– empty frames (man walks up 2 stairs then man walks out of frame, then show top of stairs and walking on last 2 steps)
– cutaway (man walks up the stairs then cut to inside his apartment)
– overlapping editing (prolong the action in different angles, perspectives longer than it would happen in real life)
– jump cut (signifies spatial and temporal cutting)
– if the camera moves into a close up then the camera would ned to move 30 degrees or else it will be a jump shot

TRIUMPH OF THE WILL – Leni Riefenstahl

– Adolf Hitler’s muse film maker

Continuity Editing
– you need to tell a story clearly and it needs to be edited to reinforce the continuity
– graphic continuity is respected – important people, settings are in the centre third of the frame
– respect for cause and effect of what will happen to these characters
– spatial continuity 180 degree axis and when we film characters, the camera cannot cross this line otherwise the scene is flipped
– same principle applies to cars
– match cut = action that compresses time and space
– reverse shot = dialog scene cutting from person to person (helps audience if people’s eyelines are the same)
– cheat shot = Lord of the Rings type of effect to play with perspectives, sizing…
– in action films, you can cross the line, provided that the last shot is on the line (Mad Max)

– writer Nora Effron and Director Rob Reiner – diner scene

– onlooker who is watching the whole scene and they have the last line, which makes us laugh so hard = Rob Reiner’s mom
– classic example of not crossing the 180 degree line as well – also with Billy Crystal looking over at the end and then editing to Rob Reiner’s mom

– clean straight cut
– fade in / fade out
– dissolve = taking 2 frames of film super imposed = more significant link between the 2 scenes
– wipe = like a windshield wiper (also flips – 1968 version of Thomas Crown Affair is a good example of this)

A PLACE IN THE SUN – dir. George Stevens

– good use of dissolves to link different scenes together


– film is so strong due to its editing

The Heart of the World (2000) – dir. Guy Madden

– inspired by Elita Queen of Mars (Russian silent film)


– very few times were all of the characters in the same shot to show distance between them