Most people think of film editing as a technical job. However there is a reason the editing award is grouped with the other creative awards during the Oscar ceremony - because film editing is an art, not a science. If you've ever wondered what it is that film editors do, this article can open your mind to a world of creativity and artistry.
Film editing is one of the primary creative roles in film making, however, the editor's job does not begin until the film has already been shot. Once the director has finished filming the last scene in the documentary or action film, all of the footage is handed over to the editor and the editing magic begins. Editors have a big job which requires them to archive, watch, and select scenes from hundreds of hours of footage, so they generally have staff which includes assistants to help them with the grunt work.
It is the editor's job to view the many different scenes the director has shot - including each separate take, which can be captured on three or more cameras placed at different vantage points, and choose the shots and angles which best tell the story of the movie. It is the editor who decided when to cut away from a conversation to show what the characters are arguing over, when to show both characters, when to show only one, and how everything should all be fit together.
For a sequence such as a montage, often the disparate elements of the montage will be shot separately and it is the editor's job to decide which elements should be incorporated and when to best represent the product in a commercial or a theme in a movie. Editors will also generally have to work with the director, who will have notes and feedback on the editor's choices and may ask the editor to change some of what he or she has done.
In the early days of film editing, editors would have to cut and splice film negatives together seamlessly to make the final product. Though some editors still work this way, it is more likely that they will work on computers. For film-shot movies, this means scanning all the negatives into a computer. For digital films it is a much easier process of downloading all the footage to a powerful computer.
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