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Katrin Heimann

"Cuts in action”: a high density EEG study investigating the neural correlates of different editing techniques in film

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  • Katrin Heimann
  • Sebo Uithol, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany
  • Marta Calbi, Universitá degli Studi di Parma, Italy
  • Alessandra Umiltà, Universitá degli Studi di Parma, Italy
  • Michele Guerra, Universitá degli Studi di Parma, Italy
  • Vittorio Gallese, Universitá degli Studi di Parma, Italy

Film is omnipresent in today’s world, produced and consumed for purposes as diverse as information, advertisement, amusement and art. One might hypothesize that this popularity is due to the fact that film records life events, therefore best simulating perception in real world and is thus strongly involving the perceiver in its depiction. This assumption however, ignores the fact that only in rare cases a movie is raw footage – an unaltered continuous shot of one ongoing scene. Rather, what we commonly refer to with the term “film” differs strongly from what we are used to perceive “off screen” by being a stream of edited moving images consisting of hundreds and thousands of individual camera shots patched together.

It has been suggested, that the ease with which spectators still follow a film is crucially dependent on its skilled production, developed to hide its deviating nature by adapting to the perceivers perceptual and cognitive capacities and needs. A major role here has been attributed to an editing tradition, commonly referred to as “continuity editing” (Bordwell, 1985; Bordwell & Thompson, 2006; Cutting, 2005). This editing technique is based on a number of practical instructions for film postprocessing, precisely describing which kind of shots (regarding objects in focus, length and on-  offset of shot as well as angles of camera position, etc.) should be edited together to best guarantee the still undisturbed perception of a movie. One of the most prominent guidelines among them is the “180° rule”. According to this rule, the initial shot of a scene draws an imaginary line, called the axis or centerline, which divides the action space in two halves: the first one is where the camera is located (as being placed within a circle orthogonally focusing on the (180°) division line, with the action taking place at the centre), while the second one is on the other side of that line (see graph below). This setup then creates a “stage” situation, allowing the camera position to be varied between shots, as long as the centerline is not crossed. 

Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive Science
Pages (from-to)1555-1588
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • Neuroscience of Film, Cognitive Film Studies, Film Style, EEG

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