FAMU International

Editing Film and Video: History, Theory and Practice

Spring 2006


Instructor: Henry Hills

Contact: henry.hills@verizon.net

Class times: Tuesdays 9:00-10:35 classroom 3

                           +10:40-12:15 (or by appointment) editing room, 1st floor


Course description

This course will be an improved repeat of my editing course from last semester, with less time allotted to the classroom and more time in small groups or one-on-one in the editing room.

In the classroom we will view and analyze a wide range of films and discuss editing concepts.  We will study Vertov’s MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA as a fundamental text, an ideal edit. In the editing room students will learn how to compose their work in Final Cut Pro. Students not making their own film will be given an elaborate editing exercise. Students editing their own projects will schedule consultations as needed.

Editing is a largely subjective activity. No rules exist that cannot just as well be broken. The only ways to learn to edit are by doing it (primary) and by studying what others have done (secondly).


Recommended texts

Lisa Brenneis Final Cut Pro for Macintosh

Sergei Eisenstein Film Form and The Film Sense

Walter Murch In the Blink of an Eye

Edward Dmytryk On Film Editing

Ralph Rosenblum When the Shooting Stops


On-line Resources


www.kenstone.net      the 2 main FCP awesome-gurus

www.lynda.com great on-line tutorials



Nonattendance of classes will be severely frowned upon. Initiative, ingenuity, interest, and imagination will be rewarded. Failure to make an impression could be fatal.


Week one

Course overview. Self introduction by students--where they are, what they know, & what they expect. Self introduction of instructor.

Screenings: “Odessa Steps” sequence from BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN by Sergei Eisenstein and “Ballet Mecanique” by Ferdnand Leger and Dudley Murphy.

In edit room, groups of 3-4: Introduction to the FCP interface (the Browser, the Viewer, and the Timeline/Canvas).


Week two

            Discussion of general editing concepts and procedures.

            Screenings: Slavko Vorkapitch montage sequences and WINDOW WATER BABY MOVING by Stan Brakhage.

            In the edit room, groups of 3-4: same as last week for other portion of class.


Week three


Introduction to the film strip. Film is where moving-image-thinking began. If you don’t understand the basic physical nature of film, you don’t understand the ideas it produced. The parallel mechanisms of the camera and the projector. Introduction to the frame. Demonstration of the splice. Exercises in making splices. Introduction to the viewer & the rewinds. The concept of a negative and a workprint. Introduction to the trim bin.  Introduction to the flatbed.

The second half of class will be a field trip to Studio FAMU.


Weeks 4-5

            Basic proficiency in editing with Final Cut Pro, whatever it takes. Exercises!


Weeks 6-7

         Exploration of Dziga Vertov’s  MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA . Conversely, discussion of Warhol and non-editing.

            In edit room, effects, titles, and advanced features of FCP.


Weeks 8-11

            The classroom portion will consist of screenings and discussion of short films (Maya Deren, Marie Menken, Kurt Kren, Ken Jacobs) and selected portions of feature films (TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, TOUCH OF EVIL, VERTIGO, BREATHLESS, TAXI DRIVER) plus intensive listenings to selected sound recordings (“Williams Mix” by John Cage, “Collage #1--Blue Suede” by James Tenney, “Come Out” by Steve Reich, and selected PLUNDERPHONICS by John Oswald)

            The edit room portion will be primarily one on one by appointment, discussing issues arising from the editing exercise or the student’s own film project.


Week 12

            Lars von Trier  THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS.


Week 13

            Presentation of student work. Talk about reality. Summary and suggestions of places to keep looking.