Definitions

cross cutting

Cross-cutting

[kraws-kuht-ing, kros-]

Cross-cutting is an editing technique used in films to establish continuity. In a cross-cut, the camera will cut away from one action to another action. Because the shots occur one after another, cross-cutting is used to suggest simultaneity of action. However, it can also be used to link significant actions that do not occur simultaneously. Suspense is built by using cross-cutting. It is built through the expectations that it creates and in the hopes that it will be explained with time. Cross-cutting also forms parallels; it illustrates a narrative action that happens in several places at approximately the same time. For instance, in D.W. Griffith's A Corner in Wheat, the film cross-cuts between the activities of rich businessmen and poor people waiting in line for bread. This creates a sharp dichotomy between the two actions, and encourages the viewer to compare the two shots. Often, this contrast is used for strong emotional effect, and frequently at the climax of a film. The rhythm of, or length of time between, cross-cuts can also set the tone of a scene. Increasing the rapidity between two different actions may add tension to a scene, much in the same manner of using short, declarative sentences in a work of literature.

Cross-cutting was made famous by Edwin S. Porter's 1903 film, The Great Train Robbery.

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