Understanding Film Editing: Techniques and Terminology

Classified in Arts and Humanities

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Continuity - This is the kind of logic implied between edited shots, their principle of coherence and organization.

The Five Basic Styles of Editing:

The Sequence Shot

- A single lengthy shot that usually involves complex staging and camera movements. This is the least manipulative style because it contains no editing at all.

Cutting to Continuity Shot

- This is a type of editing in which the shots are arranged to preserve the fluidity of an action without showing all of it. It’s an unobtrusive condensation of a continuous action. It condenses the time and space of a completed action. This style of editing was devised in the early 20th century.

Classical Cutting

- This is a style of editing which was developed by D.W. Griffith, in which a sequence of shots is determined by a scene’s dramatic and emotional emphasis rather than by the physical action alone. The sequence of shots represents the breakdown of the event into its psychological as well as logical components. Reaction shots and point of view shot.

Thematic Montage

- This is a type of editing in which separate shots are linked together not by their literal continuity in reality but by symbolic association. The shots are connected in a subjective manner. These shots are commonly used in documentaries, according to the filmmaker’s thesis.

Abstract Cutting

- This is a purely formalistic style of editing, totally divorced from any recognizable subject matter.


Jump Cut

- An abrupt transition between shots, sometimes deliberate which is disorienting in terms of the continuity of space and time.

Establishing Shot

- Usually an extreme long or long shot which is presented at the beginning of a scene, providing the viewer with the context of the subsequent closer shots.

Reestablishing Shot

- It’s the return to an initial establishing shot within a scene, acting as a reminder of the physical context of the closer shots.

Reaction Shot

- A cut to a shot of a character’s reaction to the contents of the preceding shot.

Master Shot

- This is an uninterrupted shot, usually taken from a long or full shot range, that contains an entire scene. The closer shots are photographed later, and an edited sequence, composed of a variety of shots, is constructed on the editor’s bench.

Cover Shot

- This is an extra shot of scene that can be used to bridge transitions in case the planned footage fails to edit as planned. Long shots are usually used to preserve the overall continuity of a scene.

Reverse Angle

- This is a shot taken from an angle 180 degrees opposed to the previous shot. This means the camera is placed opposite its previous position.


- This is the alternating shots from two sequences, often two different locations, which suggest that they are taking place at the same time. Parallel editing.


- This is the positioning of the camera and lights for a specific shot.


- This is an editing technique that suggests the interruption of the present by a shot or series of shots representing the past.

Flash Forward

- Is the same editing technique as flashback but instead of the past it’s a shot or series of shots representing the future.


- Any unobtrusive technique, object, or thematic idea that’s systematically repeated throughout a film.


- This is a soundproof camera housing that muffles the noise of the camera’s motor so sound can be clearly recorded on the set.

Synchronized Sound

- It’s the agreement or correspondence between image and sound, which are recorded simultaneously, or seem so in the finished print of the film.


- The addition of sound after the visuals have been photographed. This can either by synchronous or non-synchronous. Music in movies is usually non-synchronous, providing background atmosphere.


- This is a pre-visualization technique in which shots are sketched in advance and in sequence, like that of a comic strip, allowing the filmmaker to outline the mise en scene and construct the editing continuity before production begins.

Notable Figures:

Andre Bazin

Neorealism - An Italian film movement 1945-1955 realistic, documentary aspects of film, actual location, focus on poverty, social problems.

D.W. Griffith

- The Father of film

Alfred Hitchcock

- Master of Editing

Exploring the Manipulation of Time and Space in Film Editing

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