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Grammar of the Edit, Second Edition

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Roy Thompson

"This book is excellent at presenting the material in a logical manner. The author even explains at points why the information in preceding chapters is crucial to the overall "Big Picture" of the editorial process." --Joey Goodsell, USM

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Roy Thompson
Genre: Computers & Internet, Entertainment
Publisher: Focal Press
1 review about Grammar of the Edit, Second Edition

Excellent guide to the "whys" of editing

  • Apr 2, 2009
Like Roy Thompson's original guide, this second edition focuses not so much on the how of editing but the why. There are lots of technical guides out there for editors, that tell you what you can do and how to do it, but what good editors really need is understanding of what works and why. An editor who understands what to do and why to do it can easily apply that understanding to this or that editing technology. For understanding basic principles of an edit that "works," I don't think there is a better guide than this one (which, for contemporary readers marks a valuable improvement on the previous edition).

Basically, what you can find here is a set of simple rules for what will "cut well" together. The book clearly describes several basic guidelines or principles for how to put shots together in ways that flow and effortlessly convey simple meanings. Of course you can break these rules, and some very good editors have broken them. I think, however, that the author is right to suggest that in such cases the power of such effects rests upon the fact that the editor was well aware that he or she was breaking the rules and wanted the effect upon the audience that would result from the jarring or unsettling (or novel) feeling of something not quite natural (or at least distinctive) being done.

The book in fact identifies several cases in which there would be an exception to the rules and how to solve such cases. The second edition appears on the surface to be significantly different, and it has been updated significantly with illustrations and vocabulary that will speak more directly to readers who will edit almost exclusively on the computer. While the picture on the cover shows a pair of scissors slicing through a piece of celluloid, the book speaks exclusively of editing rather than "cutting" as did the earlier edition. Still, in its essentials, the book remains as useful as always, and as focused on "principles" rather than "techniques." Like the previous edition, the book also emphasizes that editing is a role within a complex production process, and that the editor has very specific professional expectations that are distinct from those of the director, or writer or cinematographer, even if (as in some independent or non-professional projects) the same person happens to be performing some or all of these roles.

Highly recommended for filmmakers at all levels: it will be useful for cinematographers and directors (and home video enthusiasts) as a guide in shooting elements that the editor will be able, later, to put together into a coherent story form. It will also serve for the beginning editor as a convenient distillation of the principles they should take into account in order to avoid jarring the audience and taking them out of the story.

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