Cutting Room Procedure
The mechanical operations performed in the cutting room are relatively simple. Unlike the cameraman or
sound recordist, the editor does not require a great deal of specialised technical knowledge in order to be able
to use his instruments. All his tools are simple to operate and perform purely mechanical functions. This short
account of cutting room routine work is given here in order to acquaint the non-technical reader with the
order and manner in which the editor does his practical work. It is not intended as a comprehensive guide to
cutting, but merely as a simple exposition of some of the more important processes.
Synchronisation of Rushes
When the fi rst positive prints of a previous day’s shooting (generally called the rushes ) arrive in the cutting
room from the laboratory, the fi rst job is to synchronise the sound-track and picture. This is a routine job which
is either done by the editor’s assistant, or, in some big studios, by a special staff responsible for such work. The
rushes reach the cutting room in reel lengths, each reel containing several takes of a number of different scenes.
The fi rst task is to cut these reels into shorter lengths, each containing the sound or visuals of one complete take.
During shooting a special routine is adopted to facilitate synchronisation in the cutting room. At the begin-
ning of each take a board bearing the number of the scene is held in front of the camera; a wooden clapper is
brought down sharply on to the top of the board and the sound of this is recorded. As a result, a sharp modu-
lation appears on the sound-track which corresponds in the picture with the moment of contact between the
clapper and the board. These two points are now marked on the celluloid and the two tracks are placed in
parallel in a synchroniser. A similar procedure is adopted for each take and the whole series of synchronised
sound and picture takes are joined together by means of paper clips. The two reels, one of sound-track, one of
picture, both provisionally held together by paper clips, are joined on a splicer.
The assembled reel is now projected and checked for correct synchronisation. If this is in order, the two reels
are passed separately through a numbering machine which prints numbers at foot intervals along the edge of
the fi lm. The same numbers are printed on the sound and picture tracks so as to mark corresponding frames
with a single identifi cation number.
The director and editor view the whole reel in a theatre and decide which of the takes will be used in the
Before the editor begins to work with the material the reel is now again cut up into lengths of one take each,
and the takes which have been rejected are fi led for possible future use.

Get Technique of Film Editing, Reissue of 2nd Edition, 2nd Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.