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Take a look at this piece of film  – what do you see? what don’t you see? Those of you who know something about editing will realize  that there are no cuts, the camera remains in a fixed position, on the front of the tram.

This was the way film cameras were initially used simply to film a continuous piece of action from one POV (point of view)This was the movies in 1906, until film cameras found their way to Moscow in Russia. Then something very significant happened because of this dude Sergei Eisenstein 

Essentially what he did was change the POV of the camera to set up a new shot, and then other, and another,  creating a sequence of shots from different positions. Now he has a number of different shots that are unrelated, but when edited together forming a sequence will make a story.

From Wiki

Eisenstein’s montage theories are based on the idea that montage originates in the “collision” between different shots in an illustration of the idea of thesis and antithesis. This basis allowed him to argue that montage is inherently dialectical, thus it should be considered a demonstration of Marxism and Hegelian philosophy. His collisions of shots were based on conflicts of scale, volume, rhythm, motion (speed, as well as direction of movement within the frame), as well as more conceptual values such as class.

In fact our story making  brain does the Narrative Editing by constructing a Fabula around the separate images. The Soviet Montage Theory that he developed centered around a radical juxtaposition of strong emotional images which gave rise to  many powerful films.

Here is a famous montage from his 1925 film Battleship Potemkin. This is the Odessa Steps scene


Another Soviet film theorist of this time was Lev Kuleshov who added to the power of Montage & gave us the Audience Projected Non Reaction Shot. An editing  technique that proves that the engagement of an audience is an essential feature of the Movie Experience. What he did was show an actor response to a number of different scenes, the audience then commented on the fine acting, the actor had such a fine range of expressions and emotional reactions to the different things he saw. In actual fact the shot of the actor was the same shot inserted into the Montage after each scene. It was the audience projecting their emotions onto the actor. 

Once the power of Montage was released around the world, the potential of this new medium was realized as the Medium to tell a Story. Of course the addition of sound via an audio track in 1920 and color in the 1930’s would eventually be added to give us modern cinema.

All directors create montage and we will be studying some of them. One in particular created some very clear montages in the genre of Suspense. Alfred Hitchcock the English director had a long career in movies 50 years, and influenced many Horror Genre film makers. You will find some interesting Hitchcock Shot Breakdowns here.

With movie cameras recording a series of single images and then played back at 24 frames per second the eye holds each image for 1 /25th of a second after the image has dissapeared – this is called the Persistance of Vision and gives us the illusion of fluid movement on a screen.

Feature films set out their production montage in the form of Story Boards –

300 storyboard by j-maxfield



With a Digital Still Camera construct a 4 Shot Montage that tells a Story without any text or dialogue.

We will be looking at the types of Shots and Camera movements a director has to build a dramatic Montage in the next posting. 



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