Montage Editing

Sergei Eisenstein (Born 1898) was an extremely influential Soviet Russian film director, and is considered by many to be the father of Montage. Eisenstein is as important to the montage as D.W. Griffith is to the classic linear narrative.
Eisenstein defined five different forms of montage:

Metric Montage
Every edit/cut is an exact defined length throughout . It is rare for an entire montage sequence to be entirely metric so it is Imageoften found intertwined into other forms of montage. I found an example of this in one of Eisenstein’s films. (Shown below) October 1917: Ten Days that Shook the World (1928) The shots I have chosen are shown in the metric style at very quick succession within another different montage.
This distinct change in editing style adds to the frenzied, and out-of control feel that the overarching montage already illustrates. These faster edits, and the actual content of this metric montage gives the  very simple impression that the people are being fired upon. The tempo of the music also changes to match these faster edits.

 Rhythmic MontageImage
This type of montage was, and still is, very popular in Hollywood and American cinema. It                 involved cutting on movements and/or composition creating visual continuity from edit to edit.
Possibly the most renowned use of this style of montage was used in Hitchcock’s 1960 film                Psycho. The film would cut right before the knife would puncture Marion’s, so the audience never actually sees her getting stabbed, but because of the audience’s expectation, combined with the music, the outcome is just as affecting, if not more so. The edit I have pictured above shows a transitional cut from blood and water pouring down the plug hole, to Marion’s dead eye. The camera even uses a progressing Dutch angle so as to the rotation of the water drifting down the drain.

 Tonal MontageImage
Tonal montage is not concerned with the speed of the edits. The sense and meaning of the scene comes from the content.       That is to say, from the performances, cinematography and sound. For instance the scene where Vakulinchuk is killed from Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) (pictured left) features no graphic matches, or match-on-action, and even no diegetic sound, but the scene still carries a great deal of weight due to the actual content. The chaos and horror of the scene is still being conveyed efficiently because the visual content itself is so affecting and memorable.

Overtonal/Associational Montage
A culmination of Metric, Rhythmic, and Tonal montage. This uncommon form of montage was naturally quite hard to pick out. Yet I have two examples of what tImageo be Overtonal montage. The first is a short montage excerpt from Vsevolod Pudovkin’s 1926 film Mother. (shown right) The scene in question features a large group of revolutionist’s marching through the streets. Each edit is the same defined length (metric) this could mimic the efficiency of the marching. Visual continuity is also maintained because it’s fairly easy to create match cuts when shooting this kind of action. Each cut makes temporal and spatial sense. (rhythmic) The content itself also has an inherent meaning. The simple act of the people marching of their own accord combined with the uplifting music gives the impression of revolution. (tonal)

The second is a scene from P.ImageT. Anderson’s 1999 film Magnolia (shown left). The scene features all 9 of the films main characters singing along to the same melancholy song. Each character (except for the first, who instigates the singing) gets an equal amount on screen time in this montage which obviously implies metric editing, but I think it creates the feeling of an ensemble piece. Each of these characters somehow subconsciously knows the rest of the people are going through the same things as they are. The rhythmic editing of this montage not only comes through via graphic matches (i.e. People sitting similarly or cutting at the end of a slow zoom) but also in time with the song (Aimee Mann Wise Up) the cut takes place in an appropriate moment during the song. For example, last character to begin singing, a young boy (Stanley Spector), his first words are “Give up”, this is fitting as he is, in my opinion, the most hopeless of the this cast of characters.

Intellectual Montage
This type of montage involves taking two different scenes that have individual meanings by theImagemselves, but when combined have different and greater meaning. If you were to remove either of the scenes then the film would still make perfect sense, but an intellectual point would not have been made. Francis Ford Coppola makes use of this type of montage in his 1979 film Apocalypse Now (shown left) During a scene where a highly influential military leader is about to be assassinated, a cow is being sacrificed concurrently. Both of these scenes would work perfectly well alone, but when combined it is greater than the sum of it’s parts. An explanation of the effect Coppola could have been trying to convey is that of a sacred cow. Colonel Kurtz, and the cow both need to be sacrificed for a good of the people.


  • October: Ten Days That Shook the World, 1928. [Film] Directed by Sergei Eisenstein & Grigori Aleksandrov. Soviet Union
  • Psycho, 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. USA: Shamley Productions
  • Battleship Potemkin, 1925. [Film] Directed by Sergei Eisenstein. Soviet Union
  • Mother, 1926. [Film] Directed by  Vsevolod Pudovkin. Soivet Union: Mezhrabpomfilm
  • Boogie Nights, 1999. [Film] Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. USA: New Line Cinema
  • Apocalypse Now, 1979. [Film] Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. USA: Zoetrope Studios

The Moving Camera


Why move the camera? Two static shots edited next to each other will shift the viewers perspective and will still make spatial and temporal sense in the context of the film. Yet moving the camera will afford the director, or director of photography, more diverse thematic  and dramatic tools for telling their story.
“Generally speaking, a moving shot is more difficult and time-consuming to execute than a static shot, but it also offers graphic and dramatic opportunities unique to film. Camera movements replaces a series of edited shots used to follow a subject, to make connections between ideas, to create graphic and rhythmic variation or to simulate the movement of a subject in a subjective sequence.” (Katz, 1991, pg 279)

There are two kinds of camera moves. Stationary or Pivot moves, and Dynamic moves. Stationary camera moves involve pivoting the camera either horizontally (panning) or vertically (tilting) from a stationary spot which would traditionally employ a tri-pod, but can still be achieved hand-held. For example you pan from a person in bed asleep to their alarm clock which is about to go off.

Dynamic camera moves involve moving the entire camera in space. This type of camera move was impossible during the onset of the Sound Age of cinema as the cameras being used were not only quite cumbersome, but were also extremely noisy and would interfere with the diegetic sound. So only when quieter cameras were invented was it viable for the dynamic camera move to become a workable technique.
A tracking shot is a camera move with the intention of following or  tracking a subject.
Mikhail Kalatozov’s film Soy Cuba (1964) employs a stunning one-take tracking shot of a coffin being lead through crowded streets. The camera floats upwards, seemingly of it’s own accord, through buildings and windows. Nowadays tracking shots have the aid of a Steadicam. This camera rig allows for much smoother movement when the camera is being held by a camera man. One the best examples of a Steadicam tracking shot is in Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining (1980) where the camera smoothly follows a young boy on his tricycle around the corridors of a hotel.
dolly shots are usually moving shots where the camera moves closer of further away from the subject. This camera move is the substitute for  a Zoom as film cameras generally do not have this type of lens. You can either dolly-in or dolly-out depending on what sort of shot you wish to achieve. A famous example of a dolly-zoom is in Stephen Spielberg’s film Jaws (1975) when Officer Brody sees the Shark attacking someone in the water. This type of shot highlights the officer’s reaction the events taking place.
A boom shot is achieved when you either lift the camera up or down. (boom up or boom down) This can be done with a handheld camera or mechanically with a boom or jib arm.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The final dynamic camera move is the crane shot. This camera move requires a special piece of equipment called a crane. The camera is attached to the crane and moved high up, and results in a distinctive type shot which is commonly used for establishing a large space. A well-known instance of this type of camera move is shown in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) The camera, attached to a crane, tracks a woman walking towards a door then remains static as she walks through the doorway. The camera then lifts up to a first-storey window where the woman walks into the frame. The camera then continues to ascend until it has lifted over the entire building and shows the same woman walking into town.

The tracking shot might be considered the most immersive of all the shot types available as it not only places you into the heart of the action of a scene, but it can actively move you out of, and away from, the action.  Therefore it has various applications in creating a sense of immersion, and in many instances, anticipation and dread.
“The tracking shot is used to follow a subject or explore space. This can be a simple shot framing one subject or a complex sequence shot that connects multiple story elements varying the staging and composition in a single flowing movement.” (Katz, 1991, pg 295)
As mentioned above; Stanley Kubrick makes excellent use of the tracking shot in The Shining: the scene where Danny is cycling through the corridors of the sinister Overlook Hotel. There are actually two similar scenes, but with a major difference. The camera tracks Danny quite close behind (and as close to the floor as he would be) but just far enough away for him to round the corners before we can see what’s there. This results in a sense of anticipation and fear because the viewer has no idea what is about to happen, especially when Danny goes out of sight for a brief moment. The tracking shot gives the effect that you are travelling toward something. So when the first instance of Danny travelling through the corridors results in not very much happening the sense of expectation compounds to the next scene, and when Danny finally does come across the ghostly apparition of twin girls blocking his way, it is all the more affecting.
Gus Van Sant also makes use of this sense of unfulfilled dread in his film Elephant (2003). The film isn’t much more than a collection of tracking shots following several different, and interlacing, paths of teenagers as they walk around their high school. As each path results in no pay-off whatsoever the anticipation builds and builds until when events do begin to unfold it is all the more the shocking.
The tracking shot doesn’t always have to evoke a negative emotion. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) he uses an intricate tracking shot simply to introduce his cast of characters, and their relationships to each other. Furthermore, in the sublime opening to Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) Welles not only uses the one-take tracking crane shot to introduce the characters, but also to shows Mexican border town in which the film is set and the includes the pivotal moment of the saboteur planting a bomb in a car. Moreover this also induces a feeling of trepidation in the viewer as you have no clue when the bomb will detonate, yet this all juxtaposes with the light-hearted setting and dialogue.

Katz, Steven D, 1991 – Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen, Michael Wiese Productions