cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM BOOK Découpage by Timothy Barnard





GRAPHIC Decoupage 2 [hand-drawn]
{1}


Découpage


By Timothy Barnard (Out in Autumn 2014, Caboose)


The first 36 pages are available in scribd


Catherine Grant in Film Studies For Free has also showcased the book:


On Cinematic Découpage


– including a set of associated source materials and a video seminar at Sussex U:


REFRAME Seminar: “DÉCOUPAGE and Otto Preminger’s CARMEN JONES” by Christian Keathley




45 mins. Better things to do with your film time? Confused? Quick answer? Why not look at diagrams of découpage [not the cutting up bits of paper and material ones..] in Google Image.

I’ve written several posts on découpage, quoting some books and papers on the bare essentials. Christian mentions long footnotes on découpage. When I looked it up this seemed to be the only place where it was explained, set against the other techniques – synopsis, traitement, continuité dialoguée, and then finally découpage techniqué.


When I eventually bought Colin Crisp’s Classic French Cinema 1930-1960, things got a lot clearer. From the first 36 page freebee pre-publication taster of Timothy Barnard’s Découpage, seems like it might be the one to get to put this baby to bed. Well, at least for a while.

Until the next Découpage post. A bientot.



May 3, 2014 Posted by | decoupage | , , , , | Leave a comment

FILM decoupage VII (Encroyable! Bien plus? Sûrement pas?)



Are there any examples of decoupage? This would be a lot easier than trying to work out what it was from a welter of different ideas. The main thing is that film analysts and theorists see finished films, rarely scripts and certainly not shooting scripts.


The only example I’ve come across, which has been linked to before for anyone following these decouage posts through on an internal blog search, is in :


French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/Anthology 1907-1939 by Richard Abel (Google Book)

An extract from “Le Filmage,” Le Cinema (Paris: Renaissance du livre, 1919), 145-68 by Henri Diamant-Berger (1895-1972), a French director, producer and screenwriter, has an example of decoupage written by him as an illustration:








He explains that “This scene, as cut up into twenty-six pieces in the scenario, calls for fifteen camera set ups and measures 50 metres in length. You will notice, of course, that a scene thus exhibited out of context carried a completely arbitrary significance and that, according to to its placement in a film, it should be treated in a manner that is either more or less synthesised or balenced.”

Also: the median length of a shot is 2-5 metres (1 meter might be about 2 seconds). There is mention of ‘extremely special decoupages’. Footnote 2 of this extract – or is it a whole article – giving as examples where they can be found in Gance’s J’Accuse (1919) and Griffith’s Intolerance (1916)


He finishes with:

The decoupage is as indispensable to the cinema as dialogue is to the theater or punctuation is two writing…..



This presumably is decoupage technique.


Another way of looking at decoupage would be to look for specific mention of decoupagers in credits. The only one I’ve found so far is is for Falbalas or “Paris Frills” (1945).

Maurice Aubergé (scenario and adaptation)

Jacques Becker (scenario and adaptation)

Maurice Griffe (scenario and adaptation)

Jacques Becker (decoupage)

Maurice Aubergé (dialogue)




January 18, 2012 Posted by | decoupage | | Leave a comment

FILM Mais non! Pas encore de le découpage! VI



The classic French cinema, 1930-1960 (1993)


by


C. G. Crisp


Stages in development of a script, from p. 300.

page 301:


There were [..] five stages listed in script development “manuals”: the synopsis, the traitment, the continuité, the dialogues or continuité dialoguée, and the découpage techniqué. Frequently, mention is made of a prior “stage”, the idée de film, which might be an anecdote noted in a few lines or at most a few pages.



This quoting is a bit complicated – p.301 came from a previous search on the GoogleBook. The recent search had p.301 missing. You’ll have to buy the book, sorry. I just did.


p.302

…the complete five-stage process was not necessarily followed for every film. Sometimes there would be more like three stages — synopsis, traitement through continuité dialoguée, and découpage technique; and if all five stages, they did not necessarily or even normally succeed one another temporarily: each flowed and overlapped with the next. The addition of dialogue in particular might well not be a separate stage, but an ongoing procedure beginning at the traitement stage and not be being finally completed till shooting began (or even after). Consequently, the term for this fourth stage fluctuated more than did the others, from adaptation to découpage artistique to continuité dialoguée; many writers simply use a descriptive phrase such as “addition de dialogues.” The term scenario itself was used for the whole process, but sometimes for the synopsis or traitement stages. The earliest of these post-war commentators, writing in the period 1944-1946, showed particular uncertainty as to how to label the stages, as if the range of terms was still there being developed and had not firmed up. “Scenario, synopsis, adaptation,” says Style en France in 1946, “continuity, dialogues, découpage artistique, découpage technique — this flurry of prestigious and recondite terms cluster around the work.”





January 15, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, film-making | , | Leave a comment

FILM BOOK Montage, Découpage, Mise en Scène: Essays on Film Form



Montage, Découpage, Mise en Scène: Essays on Film Form



Jacques Aumont, Timothy Barnard, Frank Kessler with a foreword by Christian Keathley


This book is to be published by caboose in a series called Kino-Agora [Series editor: Christian Keathley, Middlebury College]



January 15, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, mise en scene, montage | 1 Comment

FILM montage / découpage / mise-en-scène V



After reading the Christian Keathley paper Catherine put up on FSFF about découpage [Bonjour Tristesse and the expressive potential of découpage ] can see that the title of my original post on découpage should really be montage, découpage and mise-en-scène. But then I didn’t really understand the connections before. This is a learning experience!

Looking around for découpage vs. mise-en-scéne has brought a few more explanations.



Useful:


mise en scène analysis needs a reunion with theories of montage (long left fallow in Anglo-American cinema studies, though not elsewhere) — or, at the very least, découpage (‘shot breakdown’, shot-patterning), an intermediate term between mise en scène and montage that was once strongly alive in the writings of Noël Burch and Brian Henderson, and informs the regular reviewing of Jonathan Rosenbaum. And découpage, pushed a little further back to its origin, returns us to an often censored element in *mise en scène* criticism: namely, the script!



from


Placing Mise en scène: An Argument with John Gibbs’s Mise-en-scène


by Adrian Martin in Film-Philosophy Journal, vol. 8 no. 20, June 2004


Buried in the middle of Romance of the Ordinary [on Chantal Akerman], Jonathan Rosenbaum’s post on Belgian film-maker Chantal Ackerman, is a section on découpage and mise-en-scéne. And in the middle of that:

….découpage. In terms of its popular French usage, it has three separate but interlocking meanings: the final form of a script, the breakdown of a film into separate shots and sequences prior to filming, and the basic structure of a finished film. (The verb découper means “to cut out” or “to cut up.”) The term découpage implies that there is a continuity between script and editing — a continuity imposed not by a writer, director, or editor, but by a filmmaker who carries the project through from beginning to end — and that mise en scène becomes a means toward an end in this continuity rather than an end in itself.



Right after that, this paragraph:

If the term mise en scène implies an industrial model of cinema, the term découpage implies an artistic or artisanal model. The latter term makes sense in France, where a filmmaker’s right to final cut is a part of actual law; it makes very little sense in a country like ours, where even the writer-directors who have an unusual amount of creative freedom — Woody Allen, for instance — do not produce a découpage in the sense that Robert Bresson does. (As we know from Ralph Rosenblum and Robert Karen’s book When the Shooting Stops . . . the Cutting Begins, practically all of Allen’s features are restructured and re-created in the cutting room, and the original scripts are quite different from the finished products.)



It’s all over the place. This from a Criterion Forum, What does a cinematographer do? :

Mise en scène began life as a generic term in French cinema in the 20s and 30s to generally indicate the director – “mise en scène de…” The term gained greater force of meaning with the post war critics, and of course the famous Politique des Auteurs. In fact, a distinction grew up between directors whose mise en scene (to cut it short “means of expression”) were clearly expressive of a distinct directorial personality, or directors who were merely “metteurs en scene” – to cut it short, second rung directors whose felicity of expression did not however manifest a distinctive directorial personality – thus endless feuds and arguments between cinephiles of various stripes over many years. I still have a seriously cineliterate friend who regards Powell and Pressberger as metteurs en scène. I think he’s nuts.

It ought to be pointed out also, the French term decoupage which, during the thirties had a substantially conjunctive meaning to mise en scene, was originally used in essence to express the general filmic rhythms vis a vis cutting, camera movement montage – in short the grammatical “layout’ of the film’s visual style.

But like mise en scène, decoupage got into the hands of English language critics and by the 90s or earlier was becoming so overused that the original meanings have simply become debased.



Section 4 of part 1 of How Movies Work, by Bruce F Kawin [1992], titled Montage and Mise-en-scene in the Narrative Film [starting at page 87], does a very good og job of explaining Mise-en-scene and Montage in separate sections, only once briefly mentioning decoupage:

The French term for simple continuity editing is decoupage: it denotes “ordinary” sequential cutting, where one shot follows another in a linear, easy-to-follow manner



This section is followed by by detailed examples of how mise-en-scene and montage work.


Then there is paper in Continuum:The Australian Journal of Media & Culture, vol. 5 no 2 (1990)


‘The mystique of mise en scene revisited’ by Barrett Hodsdon



January 14, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, mise en scene, montage | Leave a comment

FILM découpage / mise-en-scéne IV



Film study: an analytical bibliography


By Frank Manchel


Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1990

The four volumes of Film Study include a fresh approach to each of the basic categories in the original edition. Volume one examines the film as film; volume two focuses on the thematic approach to film; volume three draws on the history of film; and volume four contains extensive appendices listing film distributors, sources, and historical information as well as an index of authors, titles, and film personalities.



Google Book


Has a short section on page 112 on decoupage and mis-en-scene. 15 lines on mis-en-scene and then






This forms part of Chapter 1. You’ll find yourself scrolling back and forward from this section finding other interesting things. This quote in the section on The Narrative Film starting on page 107


Note 5 in André Bazin Revisited: André Bazin: Part 1, Film Style Theory in its Historical Context

Donato Totaro, 2003

There are two terms used by Bazin which either take on a different meaning in their English translation or don’t have an equivalent. Montage in English terminology implies a rigorous and expressive editing style. Most editing sequences juxtapose shots of varying space, time, and content combining to create an over- all idea, meaning, or tone. Editing implies the formal construction of the film from one shot to the next and is not nec­essarily expressive. Bazin uses the terms interchangeably. The second term, decoupage, has no English equivalent. The French definition is “to cut,” but applied to film the word is better described as construction. Noel Burch, in Theory of Film Practice, defines the three terms for which decoupage is inter­changeably used for as: 1) The final form of a script replete with the required technical information. 2) The practical breakdown of the film’s construction into separate shots/sequences prior to filming & 3) The underlying structure of the finished film, which has probably deviated from the original “decoupage.”



Film editing: The Art of the Expressive, Valerie Orpen, p.2:









January 14, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, film [its techniques], mise en scene | Leave a comment

FILM More on decoupage



Translator’s note on découpage.

What is Cinema? by Andre Bazin. Translated by Timothy Barnard. Caboose 2009.

Mentioned in Girish in post, A Cinema Haunted by Writing, 3 may 2009, on cinema as writing.



August 31, 2009 Posted by | decoupage, film [its techniques] | | Leave a comment

FILM EDITING montage/découpage



GRAPHIC TABLE decoupage technique


Everyone who has read a little bit about film remembers montage as what Eisenstein did. But Découpage?  Unusually, wiki does not provide an answer.

Note 5 in a 2003 essay/paper by Donato Totaro in Offscreen:

André Bazin: Part 1, Film Style Theory in its Historical Context

 

There are two terms used by Bazin which either take on a different meaning in their English translation or don’t have an equivalent. Montage in English terminology implies a rigorous and expressive editing style. Most editing sequences juxtapose shots of varying space, time, and content combining to create an over- all idea, meaning, or tone. Editing implies the formal construction of the film from one shot to the next and is not nec­essarily expressive. Bazin uses the terms interchangeably. The second term, decoupage, has no English equivalent. The French definition is “to cut,” but applied to film the word is better described as construction. Noel Burch, in Theory of Film Practice, defines the three terms for which decoupage is inter­changeably used for as: 1) The final form of a script replete with the required technical information. 2) The practical breakdown of the film’s construction into separate shots/sequences prior to filming & 3) The underlying structure of the finished film, which has probably deviated from the original “decoupage.”

 


Jonathan Rosenbaum posts up his découpage entry for what he says was an aborted Oxford Companion to Film.

GoogleBook of Film Editing By Valerie Orpen, elucidates more and ties it in with editing.



The Classic French Cinema, 1930-1960
By C. G. Crisp

page 301: Stages in development of script

There were [..] five stages listed in script development “manuals”: the synopsis, the traitement, the continuité, the dialogues or continuité dialoguée, and the découpage techniqué. Frequently, mention is made of a prior “stage”, the idée de film, which might be an anecdote noted in a few lines or at most a few pages.



There are a few pages missing here and there, but the discussion on découpage runs on up to page 15, where there is a quote from Rene Clair:

“When I have finished writing the découpage, my film is made.”



French Film Theory and Criticism By Richard Abel


has three beginning pages of  “The Decoupage” by Henri Diament-Berger from the “Le filmage” section of a book called Le Cinéma.


This is very useful because he gives an example of a decoupaged scene: a numbered list with meters of film to be used in each shot. He then goes on to mention logical decoupage.


How meters of film convert to mins/secs, would be nice to know. Suppose if one knew how many frames per meter (we already know 24 fps), tout a fait.


On the History of Film Style by David Bordwell
{GoogleBook}


This Screening the Past review of Valerie Orpen’s Fim editing: the art of the expressive, points out the not always obvious point: editing as cutting and joining.


The Classical Hollywood Cinema by David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, Kristin Thompson


Chapter 6.   Shot and scene.  As usual there are vital pages missing, but enough to get the general idea plus some.


Look on these annoying missing pages not as a reason to have to buy the book, more like the discovery of a pile of dusty out takes  from which you are painstakingly reconstructing the mind of the long gone editor of some unnamed film.


For the beginner, the first paragraph can be quite sufficient to mull over. Though what there is of the rest of the chapter is fascinating stuff.  Anyone know what a timer is?  Well, here you learn this job was to work out the total running time of a script.


Using the search option in GoogleBook to find the other mentions of decoupage.


Film Editing By Don Fairservice


An over 300 page book – no index; no mention of découpage.



December 30, 2008 Posted by | decoupage, film editing, film [its techniques] | , , | 1 Comment

FILM VIDEO ESSAY Layers of Paradox in F for Fake





GRAPHIC HEADER MAG [in]Transition




Catherine Grant highlighted [in]Transition in one her posts a few weeks back. Looks like a jolly good thing, as we say in Blighty, rather than arsum as you good ‘ol boys say in the US of A. If you use the ars**[**] word and you are from Blighty, stop it immediately. Things, as we know in the old country, are usually not quite as aw…shucks I nearly said it…as they appear to be.

I’ve side-linked [in]Transition under film blogs/mags/jounos.

As an example, Benjamin Sampson’s Layers of Paradox in F for Fake.

This is a thought-provoking, well-produced, good-looking video essay (often the delivery of the commentary lets a video essay down..) – an example of what [in]T has to offer.

NB: curators notes [i.e. from Drew Morton, the poster] accompanying the video, which lasts 17 mins., and a single comment by Chiara Grizzaffi, a film PhD student, writing about the oft-on-the-lips-question about the video essay – What is it? [etc.] – and then a reply by Drew Morton. Both of these are well worth reading, providing a lot of info, ideas and questions.

In the editor’s introduction to [in]Transition, by Catherine Grant, Christian Keathley and Drew Morton, the point is made that there are video essays, audio-visual essays and visual essays.


Benjamin Sampson is a second year MA student in Cinema and Media Studies at UCLA. He worked for four years as a freelance videographer and video editor. His current research focuses on the later films of Orson Welles, audience segmentation in the 1950s, and essay films.


F for fake was on British tv many decades ago, but I can’t remember them putting it back on in the intervening years. Pity.


And I can’t remember if I have posted on the video essay, but certainly it’s a thing that all film enthusiasts have thought about. I’ve seen a lot which strike me as being pointless [= failing in intended object] except in that they do use the visual (excerpts from films/stills) – and diegetic and extra-diegetic audio in some cases – to deal with the visual, while failing in the overall premise by relying on the commentary to be the essay. Just a slide show by another name. It’s good to have film clips or stills examples to go with a text but to me it’s not a video essay until the visuals themselves are a significant part of the explanation/interpretation/analysis. In other words: many audio-visual presentations are put out as being video essays. Benjamin’s Orson Welles video essay is most certainly a video essay and not a text tagged onto film clips. But the whole issue must include whether a video essay is any different from a made for t.v. film documentary, that is apart from it’s webby DIYness. And of course it’s shortness.

(side-thought : think how poor the stills are in most film books…I’m reading Valerie Orpen’s Film Editing. Even this good book on a subject which is marginalised in film writing, has too-small stills looking like poor photocopies…o.k. it’s the editor’s fault not hers, but it’s her text and those still are meant to represent some aspect of editing she’s going into in great detail)

In many cases the video essayists are not themselves experienced video/film-makers so falling for the Godard-ism* of not grasping you can’t rub your head and pat your tummy. (And should we say in Godard’s* case expect more than his 1000 to watch ans appreciate his films if he makes them in French in away that is impossible to unscramble as a film experience in another language) There are endless papers, not about film per se, explaining how you can’t talk and attend properly to what the eyes are looking at (e.g. on a mobile phone while driving). It should be obvious you can’t look with a critical eye at a series of film clips if the video essay is one long talk. The trick as demonstrated in Layers of Paradox in F for Fake is to make the clips really short and tailor the delivery to avoid too much overlap. Mind you in this case it’s not a film but a documentary about a film being video essayed, where Welles can be allowed to speak for himself in a way that a character in a film can’t. Film clips of a fiction film can stand for themselves in terms of mise en scene, editing and so on, but they tend to have to be laboriously explained in words, because the moving images themselves are no trusted to do the job. (I’ve been reading the final chapter of Orpen which deals with the way the film’s mise en scene/ decoupage/editing is used to highlight the star. So thinking about how that could be done in a video essay.)

As is made clear in editor’s introduction to [in]Transition and the comments accompanying the video essay, the video essay is evolving, and it’s evolution alone, by the look of it, is providing fodder for a few score research papers and PhDs.

* Jamais deux sans trois? if you can always try to get the word Godard in a post three times at a minimum.

There is that thing about 6 degrees of separation on any subject till the conversation gets round to Hitler and the Nazis. I like to think this is true of Godard. Just like the Actress and the Bishop Joke [in it’s endless forms], which can be fitted around any conceivable topic and situation, it should be possible to write a post on film and always manage to say the G.-word at least once.

NNB. A few post back I introduced the God./ God distinction. God. [full-stop > ‘God-point’ is a lot easier to mouth, though strictly it might sound suspiciously like something meteorological]. So from now on, ‘God. thinks he’s God’ [or someone else says he thinks he is or say they think he is..] is now quite clear and not mistaken for some sort of theological atheist argument. Though I’m sure someone could write 3 A4s on God. and G** with no trouble at all.



June 5, 2014 Posted by | F for fake, video essay | , , , | Leave a comment

FILM Fellini 8 1/2 – First impressions on a new viewing





mastroianni




There are two ways to watch 8 1/2:  sound on/sound off. Only when the incessant shouting and histrionics of Italian women is removed, is the sheer briliance of the cinematography fully seen: the organised movement of the camera and the magical editing, and also that special thing about the films of geniuses: that almost every frame is a photographic work of art.


img_0965


First, it is a film which illustrates cool to the nth. degree just by showing Mastroiani with his eyes almost looking over the top of his Raybans.

If we are going to be all technical here, it is the brilliance of the decoupage which has made 8 1/2 a classic. Though, of course, one suspects  much of the filming is ad hoc.



April 12, 2009 Posted by | film directors, film editing, film [its techniques] | , | Leave a comment

Fear of death is intransitive becomes cutting on the action

img_1178

After a sudden inspiration, and a little consideration, it seemed a good idea to change the name fear of death is intransitive (which is, in any case, meant to be more motif than title) to cutting on the action to reflect my growing interest in and preoccupation with film and photography. Cutting on the action is often expressed as cutting on action, but it does not quite say what I want it to say beyond film technique.

Match cut means the same thing, roughly, but does not transfer out of film into other realms, as I like to think ‘cutting to the action’ does.

Cutting on the action is nicely explained in Basic training: cutting to action page in videomaker.com.

There are quite a lot of Youtube videos, such as Horrors of War EDITING 1 web doc, which also do it well. They don’t get the interpretative value of a good title when they post in YouTube. Here, Horrors of War refers to a film used to explain the technique not to the editing process. Genus => species => variety, guys – please – and all will be much clear. So first say what it is about, then what about is about.

~

Solzhynitsyn once defined an intellectual as someone who had an insistent and persistent concern with the spiritual, which I take to mean soul: what man is or thinks he could be. Whether that meant overall or if one could be obsessed with one little corner of how men act and think and feel,to some effect, who knows.

rubins-vase

fear of death is intransitive seemed like a good idea at the time – a word vase illusion: about how words are only as good at expressing what the author meant for them, as the care with which they were laid down one by one in a certain order – but the novelty has worn off now, and it is probably off-putting to many who think the blog might be focused on death: there must be an awful lot of people on the internet who have been looking for some way to overcome their fear of death who have ended up here reading about film and books and stuff.

The version of the vase illusion above appeals to me because it itself is more subtly designed than your average vase illusion and so flip-flops more readily. The bog-standard vase illusion in black and white often needs a bit of a perceptio-cognitive push to make it transform between faces and vase. And so, in a way, with words: sometimes they are so perfect they create a whole world without any help form the reader of them; sometimes just good enough to take you on a smaller, though not in itself not insignificant mental journey; often completely impenetrable and, in turn, in their way, as if created by a random sentence generator – or a deranged mind. Do they have a larger proportion of deranged intellectuals in France than elsewhere? (Reference to the myriad of totally impenetrable writers France seems to produce….)

girl-and-deer1

What photography and film are, can do, means has become overidingly important to me. You watch hundreds of films in a life time and then wham, something happens – you get it. You really see why the greats of the stills and movie camera were so obsessed with their crafts. Not unlike looking at cubist paintings for years and then realising that while, before, you understood one of the principles of cubism as showing different views at the same time, now you live the feeling you imagine Picasso had at getting to that point in his artistic journey.

image01

Cromer Pier 14 November 1993

The journey I have travelled to get to this point – reaching a sheer dazzlement at what film is and does – was not an epiphany out of the blue. I reached a similar point with photography 30 years ago. And somehow getting photography – though not how to take well executed photographs! – laid the ground for my much later getting of film, nurturing my ‘insistent and consistent’ desire to be a film-maker.

Girl and a Deer was one of the hundreds of duds on contact sheets which were never printed. Years later, once I had made up my mind this photo had really said something – would say something –  I spent several pleasurable hours framing and reframing it with sheets of white paper and paper clips to try to make the best of a bad job, and to make it mean to others what I saw one day in a second in a wildlife park in the lake district.

I sent it in to The Observer weekly competition. It was published the following sunday.

It was not well executed shot: I had not got the hang at all of using my then new toy, a semi-automatic Nikon. One day, many years after taking the photograph, I overcame my rejection of the shot, because it was a poorly exposed photograph, made a few prints at photography night class and cropped with a vengence. I sent an A4 photo with a neatly cut out of a sheet of A4 showing the crop, and was gratified to see they accepted the crop exactly.

The photograph was taken very quickly.  As they are.  I think I remember the deer approaching people, or at least not running away, and was drawn to the situation. With a Nikkormat there was control over shutter speed and aperture, but they were linked (as they are…) through the light meter. If you chose the speed route for shake (no slower thatn 1/60th.), aperture was then set by middling the light meter needle; if aperture was set (do you want depth of field or not?), the speed in its turn was fixed by metering. And, yes, you had to focus manually.

I am trying to re-imagine what I would have done: speed or aperture.  I guess speed. A professional can tell which I chose from the photograph: it should be possible to work it out now. The background is over exposed and out of focus. The smaller the f-stop number, the bigger the aperture. I might have known enough to set the focus to infinity for maximum depth of field, but because I didn’t know all the permutations at that stage, I probably relied on what in a digital camera at the press of a button sets shutter priority, hoping for the best. It was a very bright day but the two figures were under a tree, in shade. A no-win situation, as they say. You focus on figures 15 feet away and you get a bleached background.

I had wanted that arm round the deer at any price (I wondered later, looking at the image many times, if the deer did a little side line in posing with all the children…) so the technical element went out of the door. However, the people assessing the cropped A4 size photograph I sent in must have accepted it was “all in the eyes”,  like I had done, and were prepared to publish a poor shot for the sake of the greater art, so to speak.

When the girl suddenly put her arm round her new deer friend (I can’t help think she is a she), I saw the photograph and what I thought it meant before I pressed the button. This is sort of decoupage. A detailed ‘pre-planning’ of the result in three seconds rather than hours slaving over a timed script.

The conviction I had the photo right when I took it was confirmed a decade later when it was published so quickly: exciting, shocking and vindicating.

The shot of Cromer Pier was also a disaster. Couldn’t improve it with printing. I knew next to nothing of taking photographs with a fancy camera or developing and printing.

It seemed, from the numbers passing up and down the front, every professional and amateur in the area had honed in, as if by telepathy, on Cromer in atrocious weather on that particular November day. I was the unlucky sod who was duped into standing in a foreground shot for a professional: as I did so, a massive wave rose up, curled over the concrete rolled lip of the sea wall, and dumped itself on me and my precious Nikon, which I frantically swathed in kitchen roll to get the worst of the salt water off. Years later I had to have the internal mech. de-rusted. The water marks on my pier photo show I had already taken it before he got me to do his biding. After its soaking, I did not feel very confident to try winding the film on any further. I wonder who he was and what his photographs were like. And if he deliberately tried to ruin my camera, or really did need a foreground subject. Let me know if you are he and reading this.

In my mind that day, I was taking photographs like these by Richard Trim.

Today, with digital editing, an artistic smudge does wonders:

image02

April 1, 2009 Posted by | blog name change, cinematography, cognitive illusion, culture, film editing, film [its techniques], photography | | Leave a comment

Film editing {2} – fiddling with the footage: learning and pondering

What is impressive is how a short experience of editing demonstrates what all editors write –  editing can happen before the cuts and joins, at the script and shooting stage.

Plenty of “Ah, yes” moments reading this essay, Film editing – a hidden art? by  Vinca Wiedemann for anyone who has set out to intelligently film something,  then begun to inexpertly stitch shots together with digital editing software in increasingly unlikely combinations, slowly beginning to recognise what they tell you anyway: that as soon as the point of a shot is established it is time to move on.  You may enjoy the langorous minutes of a particular shot you have lovingly filmed, but will anyone else? Who hasn’t watched a film/documentary and said,”Yes, yes, yes….I’ve got it”, when the camera seems to hold a scene or figure or face what seems too long?

Though I’m intrigued by the long takes of directors like Bela Tarr, they can be bloody irritating as well. I am struck sometimes by the similarity between extravagantly long takes and film installations in art exhibitions.

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Andy Coughlan in

Film editing: Tips and techniques for creating a compelling story

(There are 5 essay with the same title here, by different authors )

begins his essay by saying:

An old Hollywood adage has it that a film is created three times; when it’s written, when it’s shot and when it’s edited.

This isn’t entirely true. Ideally the three stages should be the work of refining a core theme or idea, the act of creation should be a single ongoing event. It’s only if you are presented with footage shot by a clueless director using a poorly conceived script that you might find yourself in the unenviable situation of creating something new.

This is even more helpful and, more to the point, recognisably true to anyone whose spend nay time fiddling with ‘footage’.

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Shooting a documentrary on a predetermined subject/theme – ad hoc, ex tempore – is not the same territory as a scripted film where the the script itself  is the beginning of the editing process. Editing can start at the shooting stage in documentary too, through such decisions as how much film to generate, how long to shoot individual actions, whether to stop shooting to wait for, or move to, another hopefully significant event,  the inclusion of zooms or rapid pans which are not destined for the final cut but used to delimit one sequence from another. All these sorts of things can determine, and limit, what can be edited later.

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The problem with editing one’s own material is that one becomes overly attached to what one has lovingly filmed, which partially resulted from the inability to stop filming for fear of losing something special!

If you are into long takes because you are attached to the idea of letting the viewers’ eyes and minds roam free within the material presented, it is really hard to drastically reduce timings and edit into subsets of shots.

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The more you read on film the more you learn that in general the idea is to edit in such a way as to establish the meaning intended and not go beyond. This is easier said than done:  when filming as things happen, many interesting things are recorded which you may later feel loath to break up into sub-shots/scenes or prune excessively.

I am struggling, for example, to edit a 1:44 minute video sequence which through watching again and again (and again and again…) shows, in a way I hadn’t recognised before, it tells a self-contained story in the entirety of uncut shot, but not if cut down to 15-30 secs. to make it more zippy.  The attempt at drastic cropping into about 5 shots totaling no more than 30 seconds has shown it is a self-contained three part drama( by what is clearly missing in the shortened version).  This does not mean I can cut to three nice short shots each representing the respective parts of the ‘drama’, and that’s it. (Some camera shake had to be cut, removing with it, in a few frames, some telling expressions I would have prefered to leave in, and zoom  excised which was built in to the shot to mark a cut for later editing.

Arriving at the latest cut, where the original is cut to 5 shots totalling less than half the original length, only came about  through trying  to make the whole scene as short as possible – which simpy demonstrated how everything interesting  in the original shot disappeared!  Now I am roughing out a total time of maybe 45 – 60 secs from the original 1:44 mins, which will remove redundancy but keep the  magic of the impromptu filming.

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A term like decoupage is something one should understand, partly because it illustrates one part of the journey early film makers took in  mastering  their art.  But also more nuts-and-boltsly because the examination of the word, right down to its etymology pinpointing this key issue of cutting and joining which can begin to take place in the mind of the script writer.

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The lost art of film editing by Jessica Winter Boston Globe, 13 August, 2006

Film Editing: History, Theory and Practice By Don Fairservice {GoogleBook}

wiki:film editing

The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960

By David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, Kristin Thompson

{GoogleBook}  The book is about 506 pages long. This extract stops about 360 (with the odd missing pages throughout) but there is enough there to make it worth reading.

The Rediscovery of editing in French cinema, 1930-1945 Colin Crisp

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Bela Tarr, film editing, film [its techniques] | Leave a comment