Film space and film time

On the most mechanical level, we use editing to get rid of any unnecessary space and time.

In everyday life, we talk about real time and space in which the actions of our characters take place. One of the basic features of editing is film space and time, which is in most cases different from real space and time (films which have been filmed in one shot are exceptions).

In film, we can’t show space with only one shot. We must shoot at least two shots for a full experience of the film space. Film space is unrealistic, it’s made from fragments of reality which can be shot in different time periods and spaces. During the process of editing, these fragments get a new spacial meaning. One of the characteristics of film space is editing according to the look. We always consider a shot that follows the close-up of a person looking somewhere as a unified space, regardless where the shot was taken. Another way of creating film space is editing according to motion. Motion is the basic characteristic of film art, which is why we refer to it as motion picture in many of the world’s languages. Editing according to motion is the best editing technique. It enables the creation of a unified film space on screen from fragments of real space. Different fragments of real space will function in a film as a coherent unit of a new film space (more on that in the chapter “Continuity of motion”).

Time in film editing

For a start, if we try to better illustrate and simplify a little, we could say that film is life without the boring parts. With film editing, we can reduce a journey lasting several hours or days to only a few minutes in a film. It’s important to keep the time jump clearly defined, so the viewer doesn’t get confused. Director Stanley Kubrick made a 100.000 year jump in the editing of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. From the movement of the flying bone thrown by the prehistoric man, he cut to a space ship, “floating” through space. Time in film editing can be shorter than real time, as in most cases, because we combine different actions and “throw out” uninteresting parts. Film time can also be longer (to create tension or to repeat spectacular shots of explosions from different angles).

If viewers don’t have a clear idea of the uninterrupted action in the film, an editing transition might confuse them. For this purpose, an establishing shot is used at the beginning of the story or a new scene.

Let’s take for example the following scene:

– several characters – looking at something

In this case, after the establishing shot, we freely decide how to cut or condense the real time and space. In the given example, we expanded the real time and reduced the real space with the use of close-ups.

A specific example of film time is slowing down (slow motion) or speeding up (fast-motion) the footage.