In a strange way, the art of editing is the art of going unnoticed. Of course, it’s much, much more than just that, but the primary objective of film editing is to piece together hundreds of shots and scenes into a cohesive and compelling whole. To do this, cuts and transitions between scenes can’t call too much attention to themselves, lest the suspension of disbelief shatter under the weight of the present artifice. Even with its own Oscar category (Margaret Sixel took home the trophy this year for her work on “Mad Max: Fury Road”) it’s a shamefully overlooked art.
To break down some of the finer points of cuts and transitions RocketJump Film School (via A.V. Club) has put together a great new video essay. The video starts with the basics, like cutting on action, the cut away, and the cross cut; the things that make up the bulk of most films, the majority of which go completely unnoticed and help to make scenes, actions, and conversations seamless. From there, it dives into more stylistic cuts, techniques that help to build tension, pass time, shift focus, and move the plot. Of course, no single cut or transition can carry a film, and the best scenes and movies use a variety of them in tandem.
For budding filmmakers, “Cuts & Transitions 101” is a necessary breakdown of the essentials of editing. For cinephiles, it serves as a great reminder of just how much time, thought, and effort goes into every aspect of a film — even the ones we’re not even meant to notice.
Check out “Cuts & Transitions 101” below and weigh in with your favorite editing work in the comments below.