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Demystifying Final Cut Pro XMLs by Philip Hodgetts and Gregory Clarke

XML is an acronym that gets used a lot in editing and the transfer of media in the FCPX ecosystem. But what exactly is XML?, how is it used and how can you begin to understand the power of the plain text language? Workflow experts Philip Hodgetts and Greg Clarke start with the basics of XML and…
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Want moving textures in Final Cut Pro X? Plugin building expert Fox Mahoney shows us how to construct a moving water texture in Motion and publish it to FCPX. Great knowledge that will extend the capabilities of 3D text even further. Link to the free finished moving water texture generator plugin…
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Controlling shapes: The mysteries of OSC in Final Cut Pro X revealed, Part 2

If you ever want to build an adjustable line or shape in Motion for use in Final Cut Pro, there is only one way to get the On Screen Controls to work. In the second part of the series on OSCs, our resident Motion expert, Fox Mahoney shows us how to control shapes in plugins for FCPX. He's also very…

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the editing of star wars

Just in time for holiday reading, a new book looks at the editing craft behind the seminal 1977 sci-fi film. Did you know there are 2177 cuts in the film? No? Let's take a closer look.

Linton Davies, the author of 'The Editing of Star Wars' very kindly emailed us here at FCP.co with the manuscript for the book. We get many press releases for new software and hardware, so it's always nice to get news of a product or book that talks about the craft, not kit.

 
Linton agrees too:
 
"As a long suffering editor in the trenches I became frustrated about how little this side of filmmaking is discussed in relation to actual 'cuts', not just in purely technical ('my RAM's bigger than yours') or philosophical ('you just have to feel it!') terms. The book seeks to address that, using one of the most popular films of all time as a peg to go into the practical cause and effects of the choices editors make. I'm a little biased but I think it's worth the time of anyone whose interested in either the Star Wars franchise or the process by which movies actually get made, which I'm guessing makes up a pretty hefty percentage of your site's readership!"
 
The book which retails at about $14 for the hard copy and $6 for the Kindle version isn't the longest publication ever, but it does go into some amazing analysis about the editing of Star Wars. Shot length is plotted out on graph against time and compared to other films, the rhythm of the cut is discussed as are other techniques such as parallel action and character focus.
 
We've taken an extract from the chapter on rhythm:

"Just as accelerated rhythmic editing can emphasise a climax, it also helps create a type of narrative climax of its own. A quickly cut sequence increases the perceived significance of what happens on screen, not least because it paradoxically tends to increase the overall duration of the sequence by repeating various actions from a number of different angles and perspectives. This is the case in Star Wars when the rebels overrun the prison block in a quick-fire gun battle. The scene is cut extremely rapidly, with a two second ASL, and the action it covers is brief: the rebels simply shoot down the guards and the security cameras. However the extremely quick editing creates a feeling of confusion and disorientation, and Hirsch is thus able to use shots of the same pieces of action occurring from multiple angles, subtly increasing the dramatic effect of the scene. In fact the same shot of a camera being smashed is used three times in fifteen seconds, but the frantic pace of the scene means that the repetition goes unnoticed by the viewer. This is a turning point in the film, and the chaotic editing style reflects this feeling.

Arguably the best way to explore and better understand rhythmic editing is by counting and examining the positions of the cuts directly, in order to acquire a less abstract perspective of how rhythm is constructed across a film. However this method too has its limitations. Although editors use durations to affect a film’s rhythms, such choices function alongside or in response to the rhythm already inherent in the material. These come from the movement in the actors’ performances, the camera’s positioning, the mise-en-scène and the rhythm of the sound. That as well as ‘tonal movement’, which is reflective of what’s going on within the context of the story.

Such disparate elements of course cannot be quantified or accounted for by an examination of shot duration alone. The flashing of a neon sign or the acceleration of a car chase each has strong visual beats in and of themselves, all of which have a significant affect on the film’s flow. While the duration of the cuts generates an external rhythm, created by the editor, the internal rhythm created by these other factors is also relevant and should not be forgotten28. Eisenstein indirectly warns of this when discussing metric montage, explaining that forcibly applying durations to shots without regard for their content will result in “montage failure”. He describes the different elements within shots as “attractions”; the more attractions there are he says, the more the shot will focus the audience’s attention. The denser a sequence with these elements, the quicker the rhythm will feel."

Not the quickest book to read either as there's a lot of information in there that requires digesting. A good thought provoking read though, we're going to finish it off tonight.

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