The Goldilocks Law of Film

If you can tell it was edited, you probably did it wrong.

This sounds a bit harsh, I know, but it’s what Louis Malle, a Cannes Film Festival Award Winner, claims to be one of the most important parts of editing. Editing require a multitude of elements to that it camouflages in with the project like it was just about perfect to begin with. Some of these elements include shot order, relationship, and length, and the continuity of shots, meaning how they transition from one to the next. These and many more are all discussed in chapter 8 of Ronal J. Osgood & M. Joseph Hinshaw’s book, Visual Storytelling.

To start, I think that shot order is fairly self explanatory. Unless it goes along with some sort of theme for the work, you generally need your shots to be in chronological order. Now, whether you actually filmed them in chronological order or not doesn’t necessarily matter so long as when they are put together, you can make your way, as the viewer, from the beginning to end without getting wildly lost somewhere in between.

The relationship between shots is also very important. For example, even if the same conversation continues from one shot to the next, they still need to be in the same location. That is, you can’t keep some things the same and change others unless it’s something that could naturally happen in reality. Thats the easiest way to think about it: if it wouldn’t happen in reality then it probably shouldn’t happen in your film. The relationship between shots also ties into how you move from one shot to the next, or how you transition. A good transition is one that the viewer doesn’t even notice. For examples of terrible transitions, just open up iMovie on any mac computer and scroll through the transitions. Most of them are more of a spectacle than anything else, making the viewer wonder why they just moved from one place to another by turning to the new side of a box or going through a magical circle thing. Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about: 

The last thing I’ll say about film shots is that you never want a shot to be too long or too short. Too long and you will lose your viewers attention because they will be bored out of their mind. Too short and you will lost your viewers attention because they can’t follow along with everything that is happening. So basically be like Goldilocks and find the one that is just right or else you will lose your viewer.


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