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Cutting Rhythms: Shaping the Film Edit Paperback – March 20, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0240810140 ISBN-10: 0240810147 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition (March 20, 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: #565,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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.

Customer Reviews

This book is a true textbook adequate for any film course or film school.
C. Scanlon
Don't get me wrong, the author clearly did a lot of research, but it could definitely have used more "cutting" to the point and "rhythm" in itself for the reader.
Kiyo M.
Perhaps if I was more knowledgeable on the subject I would have a different opinion of this book, but alas I do not.
Shawn Kovacich

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Fred VINE VOICE on August 20, 2009
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By emmejay VINE VOICE on June 12, 2010
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cowboy Bill VINE VOICE on February 18, 2010
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amy Y. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book really tries hard to capture the sort of intuitive, ineffable side of editing and put it down on paper. The author does so in maybe the best possible way- by using lots of examples(case studies) and drawing analogies between film editing and other artistic endeavors.

The author focuses a great deal on rhythm and trying to paint parallels between movement and the telling of a story.

The book is broken down as follows:
Ch 1. Rhythmic Intuition
Ch 2. Editing as Choreography
Ch 3. Timing, Pacing, and Trajectory Phrasing
Ch 4. Tension, Release, and Synchronization
Ch 5. Physical, Emotional and Event Rhythms
Ch 6. Physical Rhythm
Ch 7. Emotional Rhythm
Ch 8. Event Rhythm
Ch 9. Style
Ch 10. Devices
Ch 11. Common Scenes
Ch 12. Conclusion

As a professional photographer and amateur filmmaker/multimedia slideshow developer I felt that this book did alot to capture many of the things that I already do unconsciously. I didn't necessarily feel like this book added much to my practical knowledge, rather it provided a different perspective to viwing the filming and editing process. Probably the most interesting chapetrs for me were on Style and Devices, simply because it got me thinking about what I currently do in terms of style and devices and what I could do differently.

Overall, this is a very 'artistic' approach to the film editing process. I think this would be great to add to your repetopire if you are well versed in the technical aspects of film editing and are looking for some inspiration to change your style or identify elements you'd like to add or change. This is definately not for the amateur or newbie and NOT a technical guide by any means.
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