Rhythm of time – editing film/video

Youtube channel Every Frame a Painting (Tony Zhou) has featured on this blog before, illustrating action gags on film by Buster Keaton.  Today, I got caught up in another of his masterful short 10 minute videos “How does an Editor think and feel” – about finding rhythm in film/video editing.  However, as I listen, I hear it as more than that, it’s about finding rhythm in poetry, in speaking, in life – and the importance of time for thought process, belief and experience.

People aren’t machines – we need time to feel the emotion – and if the movie doesn’t give it to us, we don’t believe it – Every Frame a Picture

Film editor (“Raging Bull”) Claudia Schoonmaker comments on the difference between slower paced films before, and today’s pace:

“I’m finding in movies recently that I’ve seen a lot of things I don’t believe.  People are sticking stuff out there and asking you to believe it, but they’re not making you believe it”

Every shot has a natural rhythm

As this short video says about timing: every shot has a natural rhythm.  It’s setting aside a rule book and listening to yourself, your gut feeling.

No less a person than the co-editor of the iconic film “Apocalypse Now”, Walter Murch, says:  “There’s an in-built relationship between the story itself and how to tell the story and the rhythm with which you tell it and editing is 70% about rhythm.”

(I like that when he said ‘70%’ he didn’t read it off a handbook, but you can see by the narrowing of his eyes that he is roughly calculating it from his experience, his nouse, his gut)

Back to Tony Zhou – “If you watch something over and over again, you eventually get the feeling where the shot wants you to cut”.

Classical Hollywood editing, he says, is so natural that you don’t notice it.  And he showed an example as he said this.  In fact, I disbelieved that there had been a cut, and had to play that clip back over again – and yes, there was a cut, but I had to be looking for it. Then there’s a brilliant example of editing scenes to show a person’s agitation, and a good example of not cutting away, but purposely holding the viewer’s gaze on a small but moving detail.

How to develop editing rhythm

Aha, here we are told it’s like dance – you have to practice it, to develop your own personal rhythm.  Practice.  Practice.  And it will be unique to you.


Creative Takeaways

Creative Takeaways – for readers new to this blog – is where I look at what has just been blogged and look for what creatives can take from it as a prompt for making, or principle to use or practice.

for poets – what can we learn from this, to help us find a good rhythm in our poetry?

speakers – for next speech’s notes, look for the natural rhythms and mark them up (often, we are already doing this naturally – but worth remembering that if many of your sentences are exactly the same length, you’re heading for a delivery that will not encourage listeners to be excited and listen)

life – it just so happens that I’m writing this post on the last day of a year (2017) in the UK calendar- but for any time you choose to examine how your life is going – ask what is the rhythm of it?  is it monotone?  or varied?  how does that pace fit your personal rhythm?

time – are you struggling to get to grips with a change or understanding what is going on in one area of your life?  it may take time, as the editor says, to believe it

faith – if your faith is an integral part of your art work, are you giving yourself enough time for this part of your life, to process deeply?




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