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ESSAY #7: CONTINUITY EDITING AND “RUSSIAN MONTAGE” Copyright Frank Scheide, 2003 ESSAY OBJECTIVES: Explore the concept of “film form” and identify the major components of continuity editing and “Russian montage”. I. The Basic Structural Units of Editing and “Film Form” “Film editing” refers to the process of putting the parts of a motion picture together in post-production. This construction, not surprisingly, influences a film’s appearance and content. The overall appearance of a motion picture is usually described in terms of “ film form ”. The form, or structure, of a film is determined by the way its parts are put together. One way to grasp the notion of “film form” is by comparing a motion picture’s structure to that of a building. How a building is constructed - with bricks, wood, concrete, or plastic - is partially determined by the function of the structure that is being produced. In the same sense a film’s form both dictates, and is the result of, the editing/building process. Taking this analogy further one can instantly conceptualize the general image of a “barn”. The overall form and structure of this type of building, as a single unit, is fairly clear in our mind’s eye. Our mental image of our “barn” gets more complicated if we are asked to start breaking its structure down into roof, floors, foundation, boards, and bricks. These details make it somewhat more difficult to envision the “form” of a barn. Remembering the basic image of our barn helps guide our understanding of how its smaller components contribute to making up the whole. As was noted in Essay #2, a simple “one-liner” is useful for describing the general content of a movie. If one loses sight of a film’s basic makeup the general nature of that movie can get lost in a sea of details. Still, one must have an appreciation for how the “basic brick” is affecting this structure. The editor and the critic must keep two concerns in mind as they concern themselves with a film’s form - an overall notion of the identity of the total structure and an appreciation for the individual parts. The various components or “building units” of a film’s form can be divided into four primary types: frame, shot, scene, and sequence. Returning to our building analogy, an individual film “ frame ” or picture could be compared to a brick. A film frame is usually considered the most basic unit of a motion picture. As was noted earlier, a film is made up individual frames, or still images, that pass through a projector gate at the rate of 24 fps. For a ninety-minute motion picture an editor would have to work with 129,600 frames. As our mise-en-scene analysis of various individual images from The Gold Rush can verify, even more minute elements of information can be found in the detailed visuals found within a frame. Unless she or he is doing something like animation, most filmmakers seldom write a
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This note was uploaded on 04/17/2008 for the course FILM LECTU 1103 taught by Professor Student during the Spring '08 term at Arkansas.

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