COM 402
Media Aesthetics #11

Editing II

Continuity Editing

•     Continuity, from the root word continue

•     continuing what came before

•     Historically, this is the typical editing style of most Hollywood movies & TV shows.

•     primary purpose is clarification of events

•     designed to tell a story (relate information in narrative form) clearly and coherently


Continuity Editing

•      goal is to create a smooth flow from shot to shot

•      “invisible” = does not call attention to itself or remind viewer they are watching a movie

•      Assumption: viewers are constructing a “mental map” (cognitive map) based on the info they see and hear.

–   both onscreen and offscreen

•      Continuity editing helps viewers to construct and maintain this mental map.


Common Continuity Editing Shots

•      establishing shot = usually a distance-framed shot that establishes the spatial relations among important figures, objects, and setting in a scene

•      cut-in = instant shift from distant framing to a closer view of some portion of the same space

•      shot/reverse shot = two or more shots edited together that alternate characters, typically in a conversation



Common Continuity Editing Shots

•      eyeline match = a cut where the first shot of someone looking at something is followed by a second shot of what they are presumed to see

•      action match = a cut where action taking place in the first shot continues in the same direction in the next shot (action seems uninterrupted)

•      reestablishing shot = return to view of an entire space after a series of closer shots following the establishing shot 


Continuity Editing

•      crosscutting = “editing that alternates shots of two or more lines of action occurring in different places, usually simultaneously”

•      gives viewer unrestricted knowledge of causal, temporal, and spatial information

•      binds varied spatial action together through implication of temporal simultaneity

–   unrestricted knowledge is when viewers know more than characters do

–   restricted knowledge is when viewers only know what characters do, and often less.


Continuity Editing
Zettl’s Key Concepts
(based on vectors)
(He really likes vectors.)

•             graphic vector continuity

•             index vector continuity

•             index vector line (180° line, axis of action)

•             motion vector continuity

•             motion vector line

•             miscellaneous continuity factors


Graphic Vector Continuity

•      spatial continuity = principle of maintaining spatial consistency from shot to shot

•      maintaining a consistent horizon line, both indoors and outdoors

•      similar space & volume from shot to shot

•      does not really indicate a direction


Index Vector continuity

•      important part of establishing and maintaining a viewer’s mental map

•      maintains consistent screen direction

•      maintains consistent eyelines

•      Viewers should always know where characters (and self) are in relation to each other and the screen event.

•      Let’s consider the consequences of continuing, converging, and diverging vectors from shot to shot.


Continuing Index Vectors
(pointing in the same direction)

•      goal = to get viewers to perceive separate shots as one simultaneous event

•      persons looking in one direction in the first shot should continue looking in the same direction in the following shots

•      target object continuity = persons appearing to be looking at someone or something in the first shot should be followed by object of their gaze appearing to be located in the direction in which they were looking

–  applies to both onscreen and offscreen




Converging Index Vectors
(vectors crossing paths)

•      goal = to get viewers to perceive separate shots as one simultaneous event

•      Example: Close-ups of people talking to each other following a two-shot of the same must maintain original index convergence.

•      Example: Having established the spatial relationship between audience members and a speaker, subsequent shots must reflect the original index convergences.


Diverging Index Vectors
(pointing away from each other)

•      goal = to get viewers to perceive separate shots as one simultaneous event

•      If you establish index vectors pointing in different directions, you should maintain the original index divergence in the next shot.

•      Example: two people fighting and looking in opposite directions in initial shot should be doing the same in subsequent close-ups.


Index Vector Line

•      also called “axis of action,” “180° line,” “the line,” or “the principal vector”

•      This is an invisible 180° line that the camera does not cross over in order to present screen action in consistent direction.

–   (person walking down the street always moving from left to right)

•      keeps an object in the same screen area from shot to shot

–   violation of 180° line rule thought to confuse and  disorient viewers (mess up their mental map




Index Vector Line

Established by Converging Index Vectors


Index Vector Line

•      Is not the same as the Z-axis.

•      They can be, however, but only if there are converging vectors along the Z-axis.


Index Vector Line Rules

•      cross shooting:

–   If using one camera, keep shooting from one side of the vector line.

–   If using two cameras, keep both on one side of the vector line—not one on each

•      O/S shooting:

–   keep cameras on one side of the vector line


Motion Vector Continuity

•      important in establishing and maintaining the viewer’s mental map.

•      Like index vectors, motion vectors are continuing, converging, and diverging.

•      Camera placement desiring continuity can get tricky when shots include both motion and index vectors.


Continuing Motion Vectors

•      Having established the direction of a moving object in one shot, you must keep the camera on the same side of the motion vector line in subsequent shots in order to maintain the direction.

•      Preserving principal direction in subsequent scenes.

–   If you have a guy riding a motorcycle to Wyoming and you show this from screen right to screen left, subsequent shots must also show the motorcycle riding from screen right to screen left (unless , of course, ha has become dissatisfied with Wyoming and is returning to Denver).

Converging Motion Vectors

•      If you show objects heading toward each other, they should eventually converge.

•      Camera placement maintains these directions by shooting from the same side.


Diverging Motion Vectors

•      If two objects are shown as going in opposite directions, subsequent shots should be made in order to maintain  those directions.


Zero-directionality Cutaway

•      You may switch sides of the motion vector line in subsequent shots if you interfect a zero-directionality cutaway.

•      This is when you splice in a shot whose motion vector(s) are not related to those already established.


Vector Line

•      In field shooting, crews typically shoot more footage than needed (production phase).

•      For the sake of efficiency, shots are often shot out of sequence.

•      These shots are expected to be properly sequenced later in postproduction (editing).

•      If shooting for continuity, make sure your shots reflect proper camera placement regarding vector lines.

•      Postproduction cannot correct for careless camera placement that violates vector line rules for maintaining continuity.





Action Continuity

•      To ensure maximum continuity, cut during the action, not before or after it.


•      When cutting during secondary motion (camera movement), you should try to continue that movement in the shot you are cutting to (if you want to maintain continuity).

–   pan, tracking shot, tilt, etc.


Color and Environment Continuity

•      Depending differences in weather, lighting, and white balance settings, colors and other onscreen objects intended to be the same from shot to shot may vary between shooting sessions.

•      Pay attention to these factors while shooting.

•      Don’t expect to fix them in postproduction.



•      Establishing and maintaining continuity also depends a lot on your manipulation of sound.

•      We’ll talk about sound in a couple of weeks.



•      continuity editing defined

•      primary purpose is clarification

•      index motion vectors

–    continuing

–    converging

–    diverging

•      motion index vectors

–    continuing

–    converging

–    diverging