Reading: Examples of editing techniques


Look for examples of time being contracted or expanded in movies and write up your analyses of these on your blog.

I looked at a range of editing techniques used by filmmakers to represent the passage of time.

Transition wipes in ‘Star Wars’ (1977)

George Lucas uses transition wipes throughout ‘Star Wars’ to show the transition of time. He uses a range of wipes that give the film a comic book effect, like turning a page between scenes.


Shot 1 – Long shot of Luke Skywalker climbing aboard landspeeder
Shot 2 – Long shot of land speeder

Lucas uses a straightforward wipe from left to right across the screen to skip from Luke Skywalker climbing into the land speeder and to him racing through the landscape a few moments later. This helps keep up the momentum of the action, moving things quickly along from one scene to the next. The direction of the wipe, from left to right, follows the movement and pace of the land speeder, wiping across the first shot of C-3PO and R2-D2 watching Luke get onto the vehicle.


Shot 1 – Long shot of sandscrawler
Shot 2 – Medium Long Shot of stormtroopers

Lucas uses a clock wipe between two scenes to show the passage of time between night and day. The wipe sweeps clockwise around the scene, revealing the Imperial stormtroopers searching for C-3PO and R2-D2 in the desert. The clock wipe is provides a comic-like transition showing the passage of an extended period of time, from C-3PO and R2-D2 inside the sand crawler to the stormtroopers int he desert.

Foreground wipe in ‘Stranger Things’ (2016)


Shot 1 – Close up of character centre frame, looking at laptop
Shot 2 – Close up of character centre frame, from behind

A more recent use of the transition wipe. In the first shot, we see Eleven looking at the screen of a laptop. The camera tilts down, filling the screen with the back of the laptop. From there, the camera tilts up, revealing the back of a chair in another location in which Eleven is sitting. She is still seated, in close up, though in this shot she is seen from behind.

The technique is used here to transition into a flashback, a different time zone entirely. This is not simply the representation of the passage of linear time. It indicates an important shift in time and place, around a single character, revealing a scene in which we discover a little more about the character’s back story.

Transition cutaway in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (1965)


Shot 1 – MS/two shot
Shot 2 – Close up
Shot 3 – MS/two shot

David Lean uses a transition cutaway as a way of showing the passage of time and change of location.

Loud noise cut in ‘Don’t Look Now’ (1973)


Shot 1 – Close up
Shot 2 – Close up



Transition cut in ‘Seven’ (1996)


Shot 1 – ELS
Shot 2 – MS/two shot

An example of a straight cut to show the passage of time within the same setting.

In the first shot, we see detectives Somerset and Mills on a sofa in the precinct hallway. This cuts to the next shot, in which we see the same two characters asleep on the sofa.

The transition indicates the passage of several hours. This is reinforced with the title card indicating we are now into Thursday, the next day of the investigation.

Fade to black in ‘Fitzcarraldo’ (1982)











Towards the end of ‘Fitzcarraldo’, Herzog uses a fade to black to indicate an extended passage of time. Do Aquilino offers to buy Fitzcarraldo’s ship. Fitzcarraldo tells the crew that Aquilino is the new owner of the ship. Fitcarraldo takes the Captain aside and hands him some money and asks him to buy to items, then whispers an instruction in his ear.

It is clear that a significant amount of time has passed between Fitzcarraldo’s conversation withe the Captain and the arrival of the boats from Iquitos. The fade to black at this point in the film also acts as an important structural device within the overall narrative. It marks the end of the main bulk of the story, Fitcarraldo’s failed business venture into the jungle and his attempt to take the ship overland between two tributary rivers. It marks the beginning of the final sequence, in which Fitcarraldo fulfils his dream of bringing opera to the native indians.

Transition dissolves in ‘The Grapes of Wrath’

John Ford uses the dissolve in the opening sequence of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, in which we see Tom Joad travelling home on foot following his release from jail. The film opens with an extreme long shot (ELS) of Joad walking towards camera along an empty highway, with crossroads in the foreground.

The shot is cut and dissolves into a second shot from the same camera position, this time showing Joad approaching and walking through the crossroads we had seen in the previous shot. The dissolve indicates a short passage of time. The second shot pans with the character as he walks through frame, revealing a roadside restaurant with a truck parked outside.

Transition dissolves in ‘Dr Zhivago’

A wonderfully composed sequence demonstrating an economy of shots. In this sequence there are nine shots, covering a screen time of 3 minutes 18 seconds.

This example shows how you can develop a narrative covering an extended period of time with only a handful of shots.

The sequence, starting in Yuriatin Park and ending in Varykino, contains three transition dissolves:

  1. between shots 1 and 2
  2. between shots 6 and 7
  3. between shots 8 and 9

The first dissolve indicates a fairly short passage of time, between Lara and Yuri leaving the park and arriving in the lane leading up to Lara’s apartment.

Shot 1 – LS of the two characters sitting on a bench in the park. They stand and walk through frame, from right to left.

Dissolve – creates an overlay of white graffiti and a red star painted on a wall

Shot 2 – as the dissolve completes, the two characters enter the frame from the right, creating an MS/two shot. The camera pans with the two characters as they walk along the lane away from the camera, creating a Long Shot of the characters. The camera holds for a few seconds, then tilts up, revealing the window of Lara’s apartment in MS.

Shot 3 – cut to interior of Lara’s apartment.

The first dissolve in this sequence contracts time, cutting out the bulk of their walk from the park to the apartment.

It also creates in interesting graphic quality, hinting at the turmoil of revolution underpinning the story.

In the second dissolve, the passage of time from Lara and Yuri entering in the apartment to waking up the following morning, cutting out the intervening evening and night.

Shot 6 – MS of the two characters, centre frame, kissing

Dissolve – creates an overlay of the rooms of the apartment

Shot 7 – MS of Lara’s apartment. Through an open door in left of frame we can see movement in the bed and the sun rise through the bedroom window. We can also see a vase of daffodils on a table at the right edge of the frame, presaging the field of daffodils two shots later.

One thing I have learned from my analysis of the ‘transition’ as an editing technique is that it needs to be seen within the context of the whole sequence in which it is employed.

The dissolve, for instance, is not simply a cross-fade between two shots. It is much more than a decorative way of joining two images within a film together.

With the opening sequence of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, the three dissolves are key to portraying the progression of time within the narrative flow. They allow Ford to contract time within the opening of the film, by skipping the irrelevant events and emphasising the important moments of Tom Joad’s journey home on foot: Joad walking along the dust highway; Joad hitching a ride in a truck; the conversation between Joad and the truck driver; and Joad meeting Cory at the roadside.

The three dissolves in the ‘Reunited’ sequence in ‘Dr Zhivago’ perform a similar function, contracting time in order to emphasise the key moments within the scenes at this point in the story: Yuri’s first impressions of Lara’s apartment; and Yuri and Lara in bed the following morning.

I think these three dissolves also perform a secondary graphic function in the way that they link the scenes together: the barren patch of ground across which Yuri and Lara walk, overlaid with graffiti and the red star; the symmetrically framed couple kissing, overlaid with the empty apartment from a different angle; the close up of the couple in bed, overlaid with a field of yellow flowers.

Contracting time, whether through a transition or any other editing technique, is fundamental to moving image storytelling.


DVD: ‘Archipelago’ (2010) Directed by Joanna Hogg

In the context of my work on assignment two, which focused on the creation of a strong sense of atmosphere and feelings within a short film, my tutor suggested I look at Joanna Hogg’s film Archipelago (2010).

I was impressed by Archipelago, right from the beginning. Hogg’s shooting style is very economic, both in terms of image and sound. Most of the shots are static, wide and lingering. The sound, both ambient and dialogue, is natural, punctuating the silence in which it occurs. It reminded me of the tone and style of the films of Eric Rohmer.

In the opening sequence we are introduced to the location, four of the characters and the family relationship between three of these characters. Within only a few shots, we are taken from the landscape, to a family reunion and to the rented holiday home in which the family are staying. It’s a sequence in which every shot counts and contributes to moving the narrative forward.


Fig. 1.

What is particularly striking about the opening sequence is the way in which Hogg uses long, lingering shots. The film opens on the canvas at which an artist is working, then moving out to show both the artist and the landscape in which he is working, which helps set the geographical context for what follows.

There is then a close up of the artist working his brush in the paints. From there we cut to another view of the location, possibly the road below the artist’s elevated position. A solitary bicycle moves slowly along the empty road. We watch as the bicycle gets further away, while at the same time we hear the sound of an approaching helicopter, which eventually comes into frame in the distance.

In the following shot, the helicopter has landed on an airfield and the passengers are disembarking. One of the passengers is greeted at the gate by his sister and mother. Their dialogue is drowned out by the sound of the helicopter. Instead of hearing their conversation, we watch as the characters greet and embrace each other. Their body language telling the story.

The use of body language continues into the next three shots, as the characters make their way along the road, the young man in the back of a small lorry, smiling at his sister and mother who are cycling behind, smiling back. This joy of this moment is very endearing. The wide shots, although moving, adopt the same pattern and pace as the preceding long, lingering shots.

We then cut to an exterior shot of the two bicycles leaning against the walls of the rented holiday home. This is quite a long shot, in which nothing happens. A single static wide shot of the scene. At which point I got the sense that this was going to be the general style and pace of the whole film.

We then cut to an interior scene, in which the three characters are standing on the upstairs landing discussing sleeping arrangements. It’s an awkward conversation, in which the young man is reluctant committing himself to choosing a particular room. Again, the action unfolds within the frame of a single static wide shot.

Hogg adopts this approach throughout the film; allowing the action to happen within single static wide shots unhindered by the constant cutting from shot to shot that we are familiar with in most films.

After watching the film, I carried out some research in order to gain a greater understanding of Joanna Hogg’s approach to filmmaking. An online search of the UCA Library using the keyword ‘joanna hogg’ provided me with a list of eleven articles, mostly from Sight and Sound magazine, that discuss her three films Unrelated (2008), Archipelago (2010) and Exhibition (2013).

Hogg’s approach in Archipelago is one in which the artificiality of shooting master and coverage shots for a scene is removed, leaving the viewer to watch the action within the frame unhindered by the usual conventions. In an interview with Graham Fuller for Film Comment, she says: ‘I don’t like to repeat a scene from different angles. I’ll do a primary master shot, so to speak, but then I don’t want to then re-create artificially with a close-up what I’ve just managed to capture very naturally’ (Fuller, 2014).

Hogg goes on to say that ‘it’s also about my interest in body language. The movement of a body in space often tells you more about a person and what they’re feeling than a close-up. I think you feel more by seeing things from a certain distance’ (Fuller, 2014).

This is an interesting idea and one that places the viewing experience of the film in a similar sphere to that of watching a stage play. Watching the whole body moving in the space in this way on screen, in a single wide shot, uncut, was unexpected and a little strange to watch at first. However, it soon became apparent that watching this film was meant to provide the audience with a different viewing experience than they would be familiar with. The long wide-shots and lack of close-ups contribute to that experience.

Of Hogg’s cinematic style, Jonathan Romney says: ‘the still camera and long takes create a sense of analytical detachment, but this is countered by a lovely looseness in the dialogue. We feel we’re spying on real people with their defences down’ (Romney, 2010:27).

Another feature of Hogg’s film is its visual texture. The characters are framed in a ‘downbeat natural palette [and] the house’s aquarium-like grey-green semi-darkness matching the tones of the surrounding country’ (Romney, 2011:49).

I was interested to discover that art is an important influence within Hogg’s work. Archipelago is ‘distinctive in its interiors, echoing the paintings of Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi. His muted, claustrophobic rooms provide models for images such as a shot of Edward at Patricia’s bedside, head turned three-quarters from the camera, daylight touching his neck – a concise picture of intimate desolation’ (Romney, 2011:49).

Fig. 2.

Vilhelm Hammershoi used a limited colour palette of greys, desaturated yellows, greens and other dark hues in his paintings. His pictures record the simplicity of everyday life. The figures are often turned away from the viewer.

Fig. 3. ‘Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor’ (1901)

Fig. 4. ‘Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30’ (1901)

I’m also interested in Hogg’s very different approach to screenwriting. She says: ‘the writing I do is not conventional screenwriting. I have endless notebooks on the go and rather than translate these into a neat screenplay, which would kill my ideas stone dead, they get poured straight into the film as it is being made. This is via a document that reads more like a piece of prose or fiction, illustrated by my photographs’ (Hogg, 2011).

While I like the idea of preparing a ‘document’ based on endless notebooks and illustrated by photographs, I think I’ll still go that one step further and write a screenplay which then becomes the blueprint for a moving image.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable film and the research I have carried out in response has given me the confidence to look beyond the obvious and conventional. Joanna Hogg’s approach to filmmaking is definitely one I will consider when planning my own moving images – the notebooks and illustrated ‘document’; looking at artists for inspiration; and cinematic style.


Archipelago (2010) Directed by Joanna Hogg [DVD] UK

‘Interview: Joanna Hogg’ (2014) Fuller, G. In Film Comment At: (Accessed on 15 August 2017)

Hogg, J. (2011) ‘A very ordered image’ In: Sight and Sound 21 (3) p.49.

Romney, J. (2010) ‘The Scilly season’ In: Sight and Sound 20 (11) p.27.

Romeny, J. (2011) ‘Island records’ In: Sight and Sound 21 (3) pp.48-49.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Archipelago (2010) Directed by Joanna Hogg

Figure 2. Archipelago (2010) Directed by Joanna Hogg

Figure 3. ‘Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor’ (1901) Vilhelm Hammershoi

Figure 4. ‘Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30’ (1901) Vilhelm Hammershoi


A2: Tutor feedback and thoughts

It was very heartening to see that my tutor enjoyed the film and that it answered the assignment brief in terms of creating atmosphere.

This assignment seemed fairly straightforward, in that it asked me to choose an everyday scenario and an atmosphere or mood and to create a short film in which to represent it. I chose ‘walking the dog’ as my scenario and ‘solitude’ as the mood. In practice, however, making this film was much harder than expected, and I think my tutor’s feedback highlights the main problems with the film that need addressing through further investigation and reworking in order to make a film that demonstrates a better sense of my personal moving image voice.

Interestingly, my tutor suggests that ‘there are signs of a film that could develop into a more interesting short in its own right’. This was not something I had considered, as I was too focused on creating a film that fit the brief of an ‘everyday scenario’, such as walking the dog, with a running time of no more than 3 minutes. I see now that I had inadvertently placed restrictions on my creative vision before I had even started. Instead, I should, as my tutor goes on the say: ‘see if you can push the film further to contain evidence of your personal voice, some ideas that you may want to investigate through the medium or a stronger sense of narrative.’ I particularly like the notion of using the film medium as a way of investigating ideas. This is a challenge I am more than happy to accept as I move forward on the course.


Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

My tutor makes several specific points about both the strengths and weaknesses of the film in his feedback.

Section 1: 00.00.00 – 00.00.43


‘This section works really well. The cuts between the sound of the road and the desolate seascape is jarring and engaging. There is a sense of a journey without really knowing what the purpose of it is. It offers the potential to be read in different ways, a simple journey to the seaside? Something darker or more ominous, soul searching, suicide? This mystery adds to the sense of atmosphere that you have created.’

I’m pleased that my tutor liked the way in which I had edited the sound and picture in this section. That it can be read in different ways is great, as I was hoping this would be the effect here. I wanted to create a sense of mystery right from the start and it seems to have worked as intended. I suppose the question now is: how far do I want to push the film? Suicide was never a consideration. But soul searching is a good idea. It would be interesting to see how darker and more ominous I can push it, should I take it in that direction.

Section 2: 00.00.44 – 00.00.58


‘This shot where the main protagonist is gazing out to sea is a really important one. It tells us that this person is thinking about something, again heightening the sense of mystery but also means that we start to care about her and her motives. How deliberate is the pace of the hand lifting to shield the eyes? I like the fact that it feels deliberate and acted but if this is not your intention be careful.’

The pace of the hand lifting to shield the eyes in this section is very deliberate. I wanted to show the character thinking about something, not yet revealed. I directed Nessa to raise her hand after a few moments so as to shift the emphasis from her thinking within the landscape to her looking at the landscape; to indicate a ‘movement’ from inner self to outer self; the landscape within us to the landscape outside of us.

Section 3: 00.00.59 – 00.01.07


‘This moment is important to the flow of the film because it is the moment where the atmosphere changes from dark to light, the sense of foreboding that you have so far created is shifted to a simple dog walk. It is for this reason that you might want to think about about lingering on the car for a little longer. The dent in the back by the light adds another possible reading, has she just been in an accident? Has this something to do with what she is about to do? It is really important to be in control of these small details because the viewer, almost subconsciously, picks up on these things and it can add or distract from the way the work is read.’

It’s interesting that my tutor identifies this shot as the one in which the atmosphere changes from dark to light. Although I hadn’t been thinking in these terms while filming, I knew it would be a pivotal image in the overall sequence of the film as it shows the dog for the first time. Also, I hadn’t thought about the small details and the need to control them as my tutor suggests here. This is something I overlooked and I will need to take tighter control over this when planning the mise-en-scene in future films. Although the car is old and has suffered a few knocks over the years, I liked that it was blue and would add to the colour palette of the film. Since shooting this scene, our much loved blue car has died and been replaced with a newer car, so re-shooting this part of the film is no longer an option.

Section 4: 00.01.08 – end


‘For me, it is this section that needs more work. Once we have established that this is a dog walk, what would you like the viewer to think? If it is simply celebrating this activity then maybe the sound should return to something more like reality? I guess the main problem with this end section is that it is not clear what you are intending to achieve with it. The hand held shot of the character works well in terms of the feel that you create at the beginning of the film but is at odds once it switches to the more playful second section. The shot of the tennis is ball is visually nice but how does it add to what you are trying to tell the audience?’

My tutor has identified a major flaw in the final section of the film that needs fixing. Interestingly, this clarifies the gut feeling I had while editing the footage; that there was something missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I see now that the film just fizzles out. The sense of mystery and foreboding that runs through the start and middle has dissipated, leaving the ending ‘at odds’ with the rest of the film. Rather than trusting that gut feeling and going with the flow that something needed fixing, I settled on an ending that is far from perfect. The result is a film that does not really work as a whole. I need to rewrite the end section, perhaps by giving it a less ‘playful’ feel and focusing more on the mood established at the start of the film. I also need to re-think what I am intending to achieve with the film, carry out further investigations into the ideas such as ‘solitude’, ‘inner-self/outer-self’ and the correspondences between ‘human’ and ‘nature’, and the re-shoot the end sequence.


Suggested Reading/Viewing

My tutor suggested I look at the films of Joanna Hogg, and at Archipelago in particular, as it relates to the atmosphere, pace and feel of this assignment film.

See post of 15 August 2017: ‘Archipelago (2010), dir. Joanna Hogg’


On Reflection

On reflection, I don’t think I was was clear in what I was intending to achieve with the film, and particularly in the final section. In light of my tutor’s comments, I am now asking myself what was I ‘trying to tell the audience’ in this film?

This raises an important question as to how I move forward as a moving image practitioner and use the medium of film in creating an art work. I think the answer lies in the point made above about how I need to spend more time thoroughly investigating ideas through the medium of moving images and developing a stronger sense of narrative in the work I produce.