continuity editing

Quick Reference

In film and video post-production, a technique of removing moments of redundancy in a moving image while still presenting the illusion of the continuous passing of time. This is achieved in three main ways: firstly, by cutting to a different shot, as in a shot/reverse‐shot; secondly, by a match cut; thirdly, by using a cutaway. Continuity editing is a practice that focuses on narrative continuity and that evolved and became ubiquitous in the realist feature films developed in Hollywood. It is still the dominant convention in mainstream film and television. Cuts are intended to be unobtrusive except for special dramatic shots. Content is foregrounded and form and style are backgrounded. Invisible editing is intended to support rather than dominate the narrative: the story and the behaviour of its characters are intended to be the centre of attention. The technique gives the impression that the edits are always motivated by events and that the camera is simply recording the action rather than being operated out of a desire to tell a story in a particular way. The seamlessness convinces us of its realism, but its devices include: motivated cuts; match cuts (rather than jump cuts); the *180-degree rule; establishing shots; the sound bridge, and so on. Together, these devices constitute a system of related conventions. The editing is not truly invisible but the conventions and the system have become so familiar to visual literates that they no longer consciously notice them: indeed, they feel ‘natural’ rather than merely conventional. From the practitioner's point of view, the main limitation of continuity editing is that in order to make cuts invisible, interesting footage sometimes has to be rejected simply because it cannot be edited seamlessly into a sequence. See also eyeline match; compare jump cut.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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