Chapter 5

Continuity Editing

Film is quite new in comparison to other art forms. It was established, rules were devised and a fast-paced technical development took place within 100 years. Scientific research into psychology, communication and cultural sciences was of great benefit to the filmmakers who also adopted artistic principles and conventions of a narrative used in visual arts, literature and theater. Film was, and still is, a big field of experimentation.

For a long time film was a very expensive art form. The early filmmakers had to be either very wealthy or they had to incur extensive liabilities to get into the financial position to produce a movie.

From the very beginning Hollywood was a main player. Productions were funded with great amounts of money in this dream factory. A save investment was crucial for creditors. Nobody wanted anybody to take a risk with artistic experiments. To be commercially successful, movies had to draw a big audience. In order to have a minimum guarantee, guidelines for film production were introduced at an early stage. The intention was to make sure that everyone, no matter what cultural background, understood the film and for the audience’s attention to be inevitably drawn to the starring actors, the story and the great feelings on display. An unusual shot with a camera or a noticeable cut should under no circumstances call the viewers' attention and thus reminding they was merely watching a movie. The audience was supposed to feel as if they were watching a continuously on-going narrative.

The so-called Continuity Editing had the purpose of achieving and keeping a flowing ‘soft’ connection of the single shots. This is called the narrative tradition of classical cinema and it was already being developed as early as the 1910s. Together with the techniques derived from it, they are still up to date and in use as tools for film productions of all sorts, no matter what medium or genre. Because of the great visual experience of today’s viewers there is no need to apply these rules slavishly. But it does make sense to know the way human perception is functioning and how it is influenced by the established conventions. To be able to achieve ‘Continuity Editing’, enough coverage of each scene has to be available. The shooting has to follow the 180-Degree-Principle. It is what the following pages are about.