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Cutting Rhythms: Shaping the Film Edit 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0240810140
ISBN-10: 0240810147
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A pioneering effort to capture lighting in a bottle. The most powerful aspect of the craft is also toughest to explain. Pearlman's introduction of dance and movement theory is impressively leveraged for exploration and her cognitive-developmental approach is solidly grounded. No serious student of editing will come away from this book untouched."~Loren S. Miller, Instructor, Emerson College

"Pearlman combines her knowledge, skills and experience from her different creative and educational practices in this book. In fact, it is her work as a dancer and how it informs her thinking about editing that makes this book such an original and refreshing contribution to the literature."--Reviewed in onscreen

Pearlman author of Cutting Rhythms interviewed in Spike Magazine

From the Back Cover

Cutting Rhythms is about rhythm in film editing. It begins with the question, 'What can be said about the shaping of a film's rhythm in editing beyond 'it's intuitive'?' This question leads to an in-depth study of editors' rhythmic creativity and intuition, the processes and tools editors work through to shape rhythms, and the functions of rhythm in film. Through this research, Cutting Rhythms has carved out a number of theories about rhythm in film editing - what it is, how it is shaped, and what it is for. Case studies about creating rhythm in films edited by the author, and examples of rhythm in a range of other films describe and illustrate practical applications of these theories.

Faced with hundreds of hours of raw footage, a film editor must craft the pieces into a coherent whole. Rhythm is a fundamental tool of the film editor: when a filmmaker adjusts the length of shots in relation to one another, he or she affects the entire pace, structure, and mood of the film. Until this book, rhythm was considered a matter of intuition; good editors should just "know” when to make a cut.

Cutting Rhythms breaks down the issue of rhythm in an accessible way that allows filmmakers to apply the principles to their own work and increase their creativity. This book offers possibilities rather than prescriptions. It presents questions editors or filmmakers can ask themselves about their work and a clear and useful vocabulary for working with those questions. Filled with timeless principles and thought-provoking examples from a variety of international films, this book is destined to become a staple in any filmmaker's library.

. This is the only book to address the issue of rhythm in film editing. This is what separates an OK film from a great one!
. Easy-to-apply editing principles help you take the guess work out of making cuts.
. Examples from a range of international films show you practical illustrations of the concepts at work.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition (January 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240810147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240810140
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #844,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The least you need to know is that Cutting Rhythms is an interesting book. I say this in the same way I would say watching bacteria replicate is interesting i.e. genuinely so. This book reads like the thesis work it started out as. Author Karen Pearlman apparently got interested in the science and art of dancing and bodies in motion then, like a true academic, decided to see if she could analyze her chosen profession of film editing in light of her chosen hobby, as it were.

The result is, and I beg your apologies again, interesting. It's always so when one attempts to fuse two things that on the surface couldn't be more different; in my humble and untutored opinion, Pearlman succeeds.

I have heard it said that all capital "A" Art aspires to music and film editing is no different, I expect. Pearlman proposes to dissect something which on the surface appears to defy analysis and in this well-laid-out book, she grabs the reader's interest and doesn't let go. Beginning with the Introduction, in which she describes what she's about to tell you (including this little tidbit: "Cutting Rhythms hypothesizes that the editor's intuition is an acquired body of knowledge with two sources--the rhythms of the world that the editor experiences and the rhythms of the editor's *body* [emphasis mine] that experiences them." This caused me to snicker a bit) through all the 12 chapters in which she skillfully does, this is an excellent bit of work.

I am particularly enamored of Chapter 6, Physical Rhythm, which she describes as "the rhythm created by the editor when she prioritizes the flow of the visible and audible physical movement in the film over other types of movement (such as emotional interactions of characters or larger patterns of events in stories).
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm a (prose) writer and have read about screenwriting (McKee's Story and Truby's The Anatomy of Story) to gain a different perspective on storytelling. But it wasn't until I read Robert Olen Butler's From Where You Dream (Chapter 4, "Cinema of the Mind"; a comparison of film vs fiction techniques), that I realized how helpful it might be to explore other aspects of filmmaking. And then, on cue, came Karen Pearlman's primer on film editing -- an element so crucial to storytelling that she says, "Editors write the last draft of the script."

To be clear, this is primarily a book for film students or editors early in their careers. Focusing on rhythm to shape a story, she first discards the off-putting adjectives that editing is "intuitive" and "magical." Instead, she opens the process to show a tangible set of tools and skills that can be learned, practiced and internalized -- until they do operate in the subconscious background of seeming intuition. It's textbook-ish -- academic in tone (yet very readable) and content (including exercises and case studies), with end notes, a bibliography, and an index. My only quibble is that some of the case-study photographs are printed so dark they're indecipherable.

Then consider this passage:

"Editors compose rhythms in the sense that someone might compose a flower arrangement: not by making the flowers, or in this case the shots, but by choosing the selections, order, and duration of shots.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In "Cutting Rhythms: Shaping the Film Edit," Karen Pearlman tries to talk about editing in a broader way than merely discussing techniques or technology. It's a kind of textbook, and one that most film students and deep film fans will enjoy. For those looking for a more basic book on editing your home videos, you might want to look elsewhere.

A big organizing idea in this book is rhythm -- not only story rhythm, but visual and kinetic rhythm. Pearlman views editing as a sort of performing art -- one that involves a sense of the entire body -- rather than as a skill that is purely technical or cerebral. This theme seems odd at first -- I'm not a particularly "kinetic" bloke -- but as the book goes on, light bulbs begin popping on. At least they did for me.

This isn't a "if you buy only one editing book, this is the one" type of tome. It doesn't try to be. Think of it as a college-level class with a teacher with a novel way of looking at visual storytelling. As such, it's probably best read by people already somewhat familiar with film and film-making.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Cutting Rhythms" is not a manual of techniques, but is a very helpful introduction to a host of considerations that get hardly any attention in other manuals. For example, Pearlman gives a very thoughtful analysis of the difference between pacing generated by different planes of action within a shot and pacing generated at the level of cutting. Her focus, as suggested by the title, is on how film editors employ intuition to create rhythm and how that rhythm both contributes to storytelling and operates independently to give texture and feeling to a sequence. An excellent complement to this book, that focuses more directly on the abstract dimension of rhythm, would be The Visual Story (another very valuable Focal Press title). Rather than provide a list of usual solutions to editing difficulties, Pearlman asks what experienced editors do and how they think when faced with such problems, and considers what questions can be asked to motivate similar intuitions about what works. She draws upon cognitive science and phenomenology and film theory, as well as upon the insights of practicing editors from the beginnings (such as Eisenstein and D.W. Griffiths) to today (such as Walter Murch), in addition to her own experience as an educator and editor, mostly of dance films. She is interested more in the process of invention, rather than with identifying what has worked in the past and is likely to have become something of a cliche.

I'm not sure I understand the reviews suggesting this is an excellent starter book for beginning editors. It's not, and doesn't really pretend to be (caveat below). It's nothing like a "how-to" guide.
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