On Some old editing techniques

thurs. 2/16/2017 11:45am

The three works we watched in class were all works particularly eye-opening at the time, I’m sure. By that point in the 20th century (the three films all produced in the 1920s), film had only been around for about twenty/thirty years, so it was still a very young concept to people. But, of course, with the 1920s came a lot of fascinating innovations, one of the most notable of which was the utilization of editing in order to further a narrative/tell a story.

Last semester, I took an editing class in which we watched the whole of the Man with a Movie Camera. I wondered how much time Dziga Vertov must’ve put into this masterpiece because editing technology of back then was nothing compared to what it is now. With all of the double-exposures, split screens, stop-motion and jump cuts, I can only imagine how the audience of the past must’ve reacted to the film.

However, the most notable similarity between all three of the films we watched was the attention to close-ups. In order to tell the story, whether it’s following the gaze of a man or “zooming” in closer to help the spectator get a better look, many shots were followed up by a close (or extremely close) shot of the subject in question. For example, during the step scene in Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein does an incredible job of revealing to the audience the general mood and panic of the civilians by intercutting various facial reactions amidst the wide shots of the entire steps and soldiers. To me, editing (and post-production) is one of the most crucial parts of making a film, and it was very enlightening to witness how some of the very first “masters of editing” did it nearly a century ago.


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