Ask video essay fans what their favorite series is on the web, and you’re bound to hear Every Frame A Painting countless times. This intellectual and accessible series of video essays provides movie fans with startling insight into the ways in which certain films and filmmakers construct their movies. Topics have ranged from the way in which Buster Keaton assembles a gag to the poetic details in the films of Lynne Ramsay, and that’s just the surface of how deep and wide-ranging the series goes into dissecting all aspects of moviemaking.
The latest episode comes courtesy of Tony Zhou and is devoted to the art of film editing, particularly how editors figure out when to cut and how they determine just how long a shot should be held. In the essay’s description, Zhou writes, “For the past ten years, I’ve been editing professionally. Yet one question always stumps me: ‘How do you know when to cut?’ And I can only answer that it’s very instinctual. On some level, I’m just thinking and feeling my way through the edit. So today, I’d like to describe that process: how does an editor think & feel?”
Using a range of different films, from “Empire Strikes Back” to Wong Kar-wai’s “In the Mood for Love,” Zhou provides context for the decisions editors make every day. “Editing is in the eyes,” he says while studying a scene from Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters.” He explains that emotions take time, and it’s all up to the editor to feel out each scene so that there is enough time for the viewer to study a character’s face before and after he or she says a line of dialogue or performs a certain action. Editors need to decide how much time to give each emotion, and that decision can be a brutal and painstaking task.
Watch the video essay above, and take part in Zhou’s experiments to see how you would edit a particular scene for maximum emotional impact.