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How does good editing go unnoticed?

Updated: May 9, 2023

Edits are cuts in the “reality” of a film or television show, so they should be jarring. So why don’t we really notice them?

Bertolt Brecht was a famous playwright and director of the early twentieth century. His approach towards theater was to alienate the audience to remind them that they were watching a production and not something real.

While other playwrights focused on engaging the audience to a point where they felt like a part of the narrative

Brecht used techniques such as breaking the fourth wall, displaying placards that informed the audience of the location or time of the scene, and including song and dance. This essentially took away the element of involvement from the audience towards the story itself.

These techniques, however, grew infamous to modern day films. However, unlike Brechtian theater, editing in a film does not focus on being noticed. Editors rather choose to ensure their cuts stay as hidden as possible. Of course, BAD editing never goes unnoticed.

Good editing goes unnoticed because it is built on the foundation of how we perceive the world around us. The idea is to constantly keep the audience focused on a story without allowing the cuts to draw their attention away. Editing; ensures to build-up to the story through a single stream of continuous information.

According to Walter Murch, ‘Every theatrical film, except perhaps Hitchcock’s Rope, is made up of many different pieces of film joined together into a mosaic of images. The mysterious part of, though, is that the joining of those pieces – the ‘cut’ in American terminology – actually does seem to work, even though it represents a total and instantaneous displacement of one field of vision with another, a displacement that sometimes also entails a jump forward or backward in time as well as space.’

There’s a reason film editing is often called “the invisible art”

The goal of most editors is to create a seamless finished product, with no trace of their tampering. In reality, their fingerprints are all over the final film, and they are often among the most important figures in the entire process.

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