An Intro to Continuity Editing (2023)

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An Intro to Continuity Editing (1)

Author: Eva Contis

Last updated: Oct 23, 2022

Reads: 12,011

Eva Contis is a New Orleans-based filmmaker and a Commercial Director at WAFilms with over 13 years of industry experience. She studied editing at California State University Northridge. Before long she became an Assistant Editor, then a Post-production Supervisor. She has edited narrative features, true crime and documentaries before she dove into directing.

  1. Introduction
  2. Eye Line
  3. Eye Trace
  4. Matching Action
  5. Continuity of Objects, Etc.
  6. 180 Rule
  7. How Important Is Continuity?
  8. Breaking Continuity Rules
  9. References
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People also ask

  1. What is continuity editing?
  2. What is an example of continuity editing?
  3. How do you do continuity in editing?

If you watch any narrative movie or television show you are witnessing continuity editing.

Continuity editing, also called three-dimensional continuity,1 is the way a film is put together that grounds the viewer in time and space.

It is seamless and intended to be invisible. In order to understand, it might help to know that scenes in movies are often shot by shooting the scene several times, getting the dialog and action from different angles.

It’s the Editor’s job to take these pieces and tell the story by stringing these shots into one continuous piece – hence the term “continuity.”

Continuity editing is not a style or technique. That would be like saying that a technique in photography is “focus photography.” Continuity editing is a part of filmmaking and editorial grammar; and just like any other grammatical rules, they can be thrown out the window.

A Director or an Editor may want to break the rules for artistic intent and sometimes an Editor has to make a choice between a good performance and perfect continuity. But let’s just say, if people notice the editing, they may not be paying attention to the story. So, Editors pay attention to continuity!

Maintaining continuity in editing requires understanding several things, most of which are intended to orient the viewer, but sometimes can be used to distract the viewer so they don’t notice an error in continuity:

  • Eye line
  • Eye trace
  • Matching action
  • Continuity of objects, etc.
  • 180 Rule – two dimensional plane of space

Eye Line

The eye line has to do with where the Actors are looking and must guide the audience’s eyes so they know either what the Actor is looking at or to create the illusion that two Actors are looking at each other during their singles (close-ups, etc.)

Because singles are usually shot with the Actor speaking to a camera, Actors must know where to look – to the right or left of the camera – so it appears as though the two Actors are looking at each other.

Imagine if they both looked to the right of the camera? How would it appear? Also, when an Editor is cutting between an Actor and what an Actor is looking at, the Editor must make sure that the eye line matches the object so the viewer’s eyes will know where to focus in the next shot.

What is continuity editing?

Anna Keizer

Continuity editing is the craft of editing together different shots that together provide continuity in terms of time and space to allow for a smooth storytelling experience.

What is an example of continuity editing?

Anna Keizer

Continuity editing is a mainstay of filmmaking, so examples of it can be found in nearly every movie. However, a simple example of continuity editing might be a long shot of a person riding a bike down the street that is cut with a close up of them performing the same activity. Continuity editing would include that person riding in the same direction in both shots.

Eye Trace

This brings us to eye trace. An Editor must make sure that the eyes of the viewer are guided to the important information on screen. After all, most of what we see in a movie is visual storytelling.

For example, if a character comes into the scene and sits down at the bottom right of the screen, and in the next shot there is important information on the upper left side of the screen, the Editor has to bring attention to this and allot enough time for the viewer’s eyes to catch up. How does she do that? Well, hopefully, the Director thought this through, but an Editor must see where these points take place.

If you look at cuts in a movie, you might start to notice that a car door that slams shut in one shot, and the streetlamp we are supposed to see in the next shot, land exactly in the same part of the screen. If the Editor cuts in or out too soon or too late, she might not guide the audience’s eyes properly and they might miss this critical piece of information.

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Matching Action

This is the most obvious of all the technical skills of an Editor. If a character reaches for a glass of water in one shot, it is natural to cut into the following shot at the same point you left the last shot. The term is often interchanged with cutting on action, but the two aren’t necessarily the same.

Generally, you are always matching the action of the characters in a scene. If an Actor has her hands on her head in one shot, and if in the next shot her hands are on her hips, you are not matching the action and it’s jarring. Cutting on action, on the other hand, is a technique that helps the two shots flow together.

This technique would involve cutting out of the shot as she moves her hands from her head and picking up the next shot mid-action as they land on her hips.

Alternatively, you can have her bring her hands down in one shot and it will match the next shot in which her hands are on her hips. But the former, cutting on action, is an effective technique that simply makes things flow better. It can also mask if the Actor’s moves don’t match well.

Continuity of Objects, Etc.

An Editor must also pay attention to the objects in a scene. If in one shot someone is drinking from a glass that is full, but in the next shot the glass is almost empty, the audience might notice and could be taken out of the moment — and again, miss vital information.

Usually there is a Script Supervisor on set to watch out for these things, making sure that hair and clothing matches from take to take, or to make sure that props are put back in place when they reset a scene, but by the time the footage makes it to the cutting room, there is always something that has been missed.

180 Rule

The 180 Rule is what helps the viewer know where the Actors are in the two-dimensional space of the screen. It helps clarify where the Actors are in relation to each other. Though the Editor must pay attention to this, it really needs to be shot this way.

I’ve seen many people struggle with this concept but it’s less complicated than it seems. Let’s take a scene in which two Actors are facing each other. Imagine that a camera is placed at their profile so that each Actor takes either the right or the left of the screen in a two-shot. When it is put together, the scene might cut between the two Actors’ close-ups and maybe a medium or wide shot.

If you move the camera to the exact opposite side of the Actors, in which their position appears to be switched, it could be disorienting to the viewer. However, that might be exactly what the Director wants to do.

How do you do continuity in editing?

Anna Keizer

Continuity editing can be achieved by keeping in mind the following concepts during both the principal photography and editing phases of filmmaking:

  • 180-degree rule adherence
  • Consistent eye line
  • Harmonious matching action
  • Stable eye trace

How Important Is Continuity?

Very. However, you would be surprised at how many continuity errors are missed because the viewer is engaged in the story. In Walter Murch’s book In the Blink of an Eye (highly recommended reading for anyone who is interested in the craft of editing) he breaks down an Editor’s approach to making a cut into what he calls the “Rule of Six.

2 The “Rule of Six” prioritizes the things an Editor should consider when making a cut, and everything I mentioned above is toward the bottom of the list. Why? Because editing is about storytelling. It’s about engaging the audience and making them feel something, so his top two motivators for making a cut are emotion and story.

If your audience is emotionally involved, I assure you that they will not notice minor continuity errors. But what distinguishes major versus minor? Take a look at the fun facts in this article and you judge!

Fun Fact: There are over 250 continuity errors in Star Wars.3

Breaking Continuity Rules

If the above examples are continuity editing, what is discontinuity editing? There are ways in which Directors and Editors break the rules and never lose the attention of their audience, the most popular being the montage and the jump cut.

A montage is a way to get story points across without worrying about seamless continuity. For example, a woman gets dressed for a party — we see her swipe lipstick across her lips, we see her zip up a sparkly dress and we see her slip on her glittery shoes.

Each image tells a piece of the story, but none are a direct match. A montage can also take us over a period of time, like the famous Rocky montage, in which we see our hero train for his big fight.

The other technique is the jump cut. A jump cut is usually an edit within the same take (or same camera angle). Let’s use our gal getting ready for a party as an example. The camera catches her in one take at the mirror.

The camera doesn’t move and runs while she combs her hair, ties it up, puts on a hat, etc. Rather than let the footage run in real-time, an Editor can use a jump cut – that is, cut out pieces in between each of these actions – to highlight the things we should pay attention to or create an emotion.

A movie is nothing more than an illusion and Editors are magicians. Continuity errors are unavoidable, so the job of the Editor is to get the viewer engrossed in the story so they aren’t bored enough to spot the errors. If an audience is emotionally engaged, they won’t even notice. It truly is sleight of hand.


  1. 1Murch, Walter. "In the Blink of an Eye". Silman-James Press. published: 2001. retrieved on: 30 August 2019
  2. 2Murch, Walter. "In the Blink of an Eye. ". Silman-James Press. published: 2001. retrieved on: 30 August 2019
  3. 3. "Star Wars (1977)". Movie Mistakes. published: . retrieved on: 30 August 2019


An Intro to Continuity Editing? ›

Continuity editing uses a variety of classic film editing techniques to blend multiple camera shots — some taken at different times or even different locations — into a seamless, consistent narrative.

What is the basic of continuity editing? ›

Continuity editing uses a variety of classic film editing techniques to blend multiple camera shots — some taken at different times or even different locations — into a seamless, consistent narrative.

What is a good example of continuity editing? ›

Continuity editing is the process of ensuring that within a sequence of cuts, each shot shows the same information. For example, picture an over-the-shoulder shot-reverse-shot sequence with two characters speaking opposite each other at a restaurant table.

What are some of the factors important to continuity editing? ›

The 180-degree rule, proper perspective shifts and camera movement are all essential factors in continuity.

What are the two types of continuity editing? ›

The most common types of continuity editing include:

Within the scene, series of shots, or the sound.

What are the three basic steps in editing? ›

The three main editing stages include:
  • Developmental editing.
  • Copy editing (also known as line editing)
  • Proofreading.
Aug 16, 2021

What are the 6 principles of editing? ›

Murch's six rules on editing consist of Emotion, Story, Rhythm, Eye trace, Two- dimensional Plane of Screen, and Three-dimensional Space of Action, which all have different values in order of importance for the cut.

What are the four stages of editing? ›

The four levels of editing and how they fit within the publishing...
  • Step 1: Beta read or manuscript evaluation. This type of editing is a reader's response to the manuscript. ...
  • Step 2: Developmental or structural editing. ...
  • Step 3: Line editing and copy-editing. ...
  • Step 4: Proofreading.
Apr 6, 2020

What are the five stages of editing? ›

5 Basic Steps of Video Editing
  • Step 1: Organized your footage. A) Bin: a folder to store videos in. ...
  • Step 2: Assembly Cut. The assembly cut is also known as the first or the rough cut. ...
  • Step 3: Inserts, Close up & cut Always. ...
  • Step 4: Fine-tuning. ...
  • Step 5: Clean Up.
Sep 15, 2022

How do you maintain continuity in editing? ›

The 180-degree rule

This filmmaking mandate draws an invisible line between two (or more) characters. To maintain continuity, keep the camera on one side of the line so that the characters always have the same left-right orientation to each other.

What is the difference between montage and continuity editing? ›

Continuity editing lends itself much more to the Hollywood style of film-making. Montage editing, however, aims to be much more experimental and tends to draw the viewer's attention to the camera itself.

What is the most common violation of order in continuity editing? ›

Continuity editing typically presents the story events in a 1-2-3 order. The most common violation of 1-2-3 order is a flashback, signaled by a cut or dissolve.

What is an alternative to continuity editing? ›

The main alternative to continuity editing is montage editing. Montage editing can be used to create excitement, terror or startling new meanings. Instead of allowing shots to flow smoothly from one to another, montage editing juxtaposes images for effect and can cut rapidly from wide shots to extreme close-ups.

What is the primary aesthetic function of continuity editing? ›

Continuity editing is a crucial factor to filmmaking and television because it allows the director to tell their story using different shots of the same scene. This helps the audience feel as if they were watching one continuous event, even though scenes may have been shot months apart.

What are the three parts of continuity? ›

Definition of Continuity

Note that in order for a function to be continuous at a point, three things must be true: The limit must exist at that point. The function must be defined at that point, and. The limit and the function must have equal values at that point.

What are the three types of continuity? ›

Answer: The three conditions of continuity are as follows:
  • The function is expressed at x = a.
  • The limit of the function as the approaching of x takes place, a exists.
  • The limit of the function as the approaching of x takes place, a is equal to the function value f(a).

What is the 3 second rule in editing? ›

The rule is this: the shooter (cinematographer, camera op, etc.) captures golden footage that lasts for at least three seconds. This is three seconds of uninterrupted, smooth, usable beauty. If the three seconds of coverage is hindered by anything, then it doesn't count as usable golden footage.

What is the first rule of editing? ›

Rule One: Never make a cut without a positive reason.

Some scenes require no editing at all if the composition and camera movement are strong enough to support the intent of the scene. Other scenarios, particularly action and montage sequences, require constant cuts in order to communicate the scene's intent.

What are the 7cs of editing? ›

If the purpose of writing is communication, then all writers need to be clear, coherent, complete, concise, consistent, correct and credible.

What are the 9 tips to consider when editing? ›

  • Get some distance from your writing.
  • Choose a suitable style guide.
  • Eliminate most instances of passive voice.
  • Cut out filler words where you can.
  • Replace adverbs with stronger verbs.
  • Vary your sentence structures.
  • Be intentional with your tenses and POVs.
  • Always read it one more time.
Jan 13, 2022

What is the most basic editing techniques? ›

Standard cut

This is the most basic edit of them all – a direct cut between shots, where the next shot immediately begins where the first one ends.

What is the first edit called? ›

An editor's cut (sometimes referred to as the "Assembly edit" or "Rough cut") is normally the first pass of what the final film will be when it reaches picture lock.

What is an editing sequence? ›

A sequence is a number of scenes joined together that could be a large percentage of the movie when it is finished. Many terms are used when discussing film editing and how it is done.

What is a good editing process? ›

The goal is to get an idea of what the text is about, what it involves, where it's going and so on. Fix the typos, fix the punctuation, fix usage and grammar mistakes, make sure everything follows style. Make sure the structure of the text makes sense.

What are the basic rules of editing? ›

The 7 golden rules of editing to supercharge your writing
  • Give your words some percolating time. ...
  • Fix typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. ...
  • Listen to your content. ...
  • Check your page structure. ...
  • Check your content structure. ...
  • Be consistent with content presentation. ...
  • Be ruthless.

What are the elements of editing? ›

There are few elements that can help you to understand the work easily.
  • Ideas. A clear understanding of the subject written and having a proper idea about why it's written helps the editing process in a better way. ...
  • Structure. ...
  • Clarification. ...
  • Relevancy. ...
  • Consistency. ...
  • Patience. ...
  • Feedback. ...
  • Interval.
Oct 7, 2021

What is the 180-degree rule in continuity editing? ›

The 180-degree rule states that two characters (or more) in a scene should always have the same left/right relationship with each other. The rule dictates that you draw an imaginary line between these two characters (or subjects) and try to keep your camera(s) on the same side of this 180-degree line.

Which of the three are conventions of continuity editing? ›

Convention(s) of Continuity Editing: It makes narrative sense. Graphic relations are maintained from shot to shot. It maintains consistent screen direction.

What is continuity editing the logic between shots? ›

Continuity editing is an essential part of filmmaking and is used to create a fluid, logical narrative in a film. It is a technique that creates a seamless transition between shots and scenes, allowing the audience to be immersed in the story without interruption.

What causes continuity errors? ›

As I mentioned, a lot of continuity errors occur as a result of the actor slightly changing their performance between takes. To limit the risk of that happening, rehearsing the scene a few times will help keep them on point.

What is a continuity mistake? ›

A continuity error is a lapse in the self-consistency of the scene or story being portrayed.

Is a jump cut continuity editing? ›


They are seen as a violation to typical continuity editing, which seeks to give a seamless appearance of time and space to the story. A jump cut differs from a match cut in that the latter aims to create a seamless transition between two separate scenes.

What is the difference between continuity editing and disjunctive editing? ›

Continuity editing is an editing system that's meant to maintain time and space. Conversely, disjunctive editing is an editing system that's meant to disrupt time and space. These techniques are known as temporal techniques because they refer to the time and place of a film world.

What are the basic principles of editing? ›

Basic Editing Principles for Filmmakers
  • Shoot for editing. ...
  • Select just what the story needs. ...
  • Select the important action. ...
  • Show something new with each edit. ...
  • Vary the shot size and angle. ...
  • Step between shot sizes. ...
  • Use cutaways to hide jumpy edits. ...
  • Use a master shot for an overview.

What is continuity editing quizlet? ›

Continuity editing follows the basic principle that each shot or scene has a continuous relationship to the next; sometimes called invisible editing. A screenplay that presents in detail the action, scenes and dialogue, transitions, and often camera setups, in the order planned for the final film.

What is the continuity editing system for quizlet? ›

A continuity editing rule for positioning the camera in order to maintain consistent screen direction. the camera does not move across an imagined line drawn between two characters, for example, because to do so would reverse their positions in the frame.

What are the 5 C's of editing? ›

Copyediting involves the "five Cs": making the article clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent.

What are the 6 C's of editing? ›

The foundation of this philosophy is what I call the "6 C's": correctness, clarity, conciseness, consistency, commenting, and customization.

What are the five basic rules of editing? ›

The 7 golden rules of editing to supercharge your writing
  • Give your words some percolating time. ...
  • Fix typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. ...
  • Listen to your content. ...
  • Check your page structure. ...
  • Check your content structure. ...
  • Be consistent with content presentation. ...
  • Be ruthless.

What is not continuity editing? ›

Non-continuity editing is when shots are mismatched to disrupt the impression of time and space. This draws the audiences' attention to the process of cutting and disturbs the illusion of 'reality'. An example is the use of flash backs.

What is one of the goals of continuity editing quizlet? ›

What is the ultimate goal of continuity editing? To communicate the story as clearly, efficiently, and coherently as possible.

What are the 4 types of editing? ›

The four types of editing
  • Substantive editing.
  • Copyediting.
  • Line editing.
  • Proofreading.
  • What about developmental editing.
  • How to find an editor.

What are alternatives to continuity editing? ›

The main alternative to continuity editing is montage editing. Montage editing can be used to create excitement, terror or startling new meanings. Instead of allowing shots to flow smoothly from one to another, montage editing juxtaposes images for effect and can cut rapidly from wide shots to extreme close-ups.

What is meant by continuity quizlet? ›

Continuity. Repetition of patterns of thinking and behavious. It can also refer to social trends that have occured over a long period of time.


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