A number of approaches may be taken to suspend the passing of time, which often leads to a sensation of anticipation. The following techniques are effective ways to add suspense to your work and keep an eager audience on the edge of their seat.



A cross-dissolve is a transition between two shots during which the image of the first shot gradually disappears while the image of the second shot gradually appears. This transition crosses frames from the end of one clip with frames from the beginning of the next clip so that the viewer sees frames from both clips at the same time. Using multiple cross-dissolves in a sequence produces a mesmerizing, dreamy effect. This type of transition might be used if the editor needs to direct the eye to a new place or time. But Beware! This type of transition can be an effective way to cover up a bad edit point, an editor should be mindful of using cross-dissolves only when the moment calls for it.

Quirky Phrase with Inserts and Three Windows


A hard-cut is an instantaneous change from one framing to another without any special effects or transitions. This type of transition is primarily used when editing continuous action to accentuate linear time passage. It can also be used in montage editing if special care is applied towards energy and rhythm from clip to clip.

Quirky Phrase

An L-cut is an editing transition where the visual transition does not occur coincidentally with the sound transition. This type of editing technique is often used in a dialogue scene to accentuate what is being said and how the speakers are reacting to the conversation. For a dance for camera, creative sound edits can be used to interest the viewer in the environment or action to follow. Imagine hearing the sound of a train and then seeing the image of the train appear. It is called an L-cut because the edit points on the timeline (say sound edit first and image edit second) create an “L” shape.

Train and Duet Improvisation

Cutting on Action

This editing technique involves choosing an outpoint from the initial clip that occurs before the motion of the subject or camera has ended and an in-point of the following clip that occurs after the motion of the subject or camera has begun. The object is to find an edit point that creates both flow and interest. To “cut on action” in a linear sequence is to edit two clips together where the action begun in one clip is continued in the following clip, most likely from a different vantage point. In montage editing, a sense of flow is created by looking at the direction of motion from clip to clip. When “cutting on action” the success of the edit is often dependent on finding just the right moment to cut. Moving the edit point just a few frames forward or backward can sometimes make all the difference. Because a dance for the camera is so centered on the movement, “cutting on action” is an important tool for any dance for the camera artist.

Bartenieff Phrase

Rhythmic Editing

Rhythmic editing refers to a technique that controls a film’s pace by varying the duration of clips in a particular pattern. The rhythm of your editing directly contributes to the mood of the film. A series of shorter clips will tend to make a film feel action-packed and exciting. Longer clips draw the viewer in and give them time to invest in the action. Clips of equal length make a film feel steady and plodding. Because of the nature of dance, dances for the camera are often set to a musical score. When editing to a musical score, the patterns in the music will frequently dictate the rhythm of the editing. When this happens, the editor’s sense of musicality is highlighted, much like that of a choreographer’s.

Jump In Phrase and X Jump


Duration refers to the amount of time that a clip is viewed from in point (the first frame of a clip) to out point (the last frame of a clip). It is important to note that the longer a clip is, the harder it is to keep the viewer interested. Content becomes very important in longer clips because the audience has ample time to invest in what they are seeing. Changing the point of view through camera movement is a great way to keep a longer clip interesting. Shorter clips do not face this challenge exactly. Instead the success of a shorter clip depends on the editor’s ability to choose the juiciest content of a sequence and then be able to find just the right in and out points for the edit to work. A variation in duration of clips is suggested to create ebb and flow in a dance for the screen.


Pacing refers to the particular speed at which the action in the film takes place. The action is delivered both through the movement vocabulary and the edits. These two elements combined create peaks and valleys within a dance for the screen. As a rule of thumb the following is true in pacing.

“The perception of pace as a viewer is very subjective, as what has come before or after a certain section will affect your experience of it. For example, a static wide shot coming straight after a sequence of short, glimpsed images will seem much slower than the same shot placed directly after another slow-moving shot.”

From Making Video Dance by Katrina McPherson


Successively shortening clips in a sequence will speed up the pacing of a sequence.

Jump In and Bartenieff Phrases


The placement of longer and longer clips in succession will slow down the pacing of a sequence.

Train and Improvisation on the Tracks

Suspension of Time

A number of approaches may be taken to suspend the passing of time, which often leads to a sensation of anticipation.


One way to suspend time is to edit to a still frame (a photo) or a frame where both the subject and camera are motionless. Stillness can be a wonderful way to add potency to a moment and allow for a change in pace and rhythm. Accomplishing an edit to stillness does prove to be challenging. It can often feel jarring to abruptly go from movement to stillness. If you don’t want the moment to feel abrupt then special care must be taken to lead the eye to this moment. However, using stillness as a way to interrupt movement can be a wonderful way to fragment time. To linearly fragment time would be to insert a freeze frame in the middle of an action and then continue the action where the freeze frame left off. This technique suspends time momentarily. You could also freeze the action and then jump forward in the sequence to evoke the feeling of losing time or time passing quickly.

Quirky Phrase

Quirky Phrase

Slow Motion

This filmic “trick” creates the illusion that time has slowed down. It accentuates or stresses a moment in time. When used in dance for the camera, slow motion can be an effective tool for drawing the eye to specific movement sequences. Slow motion magically suspends movement and allows the viewer additional time to see the complexities of the dance more clearly. It also strongly emphasizes the effort of dynamic movement.

Phrase Excerpts

“Watching human movement running even a little slower than normal is usually very beautiful and can have emotional power. You see the shape of the movement more clearly, the dancer and camera movement feels smooth and suspended, as he slow motion crates an almost gravity-free effect.”

“Rather than quickly resorting to using slow-motion effect, see if you can achieve the same fluidity and clarity through the quality of the images you create on the shoot and the style with which you edit.”

From Making Video Dance by Katrina McPherson

“Slow motion can either increase the sense of extreme weight or total weightlessness of the moving person.”

From "Filmdance: Space, Time and Energy" by Amy Greenfield (1983)


A black out occurs when there is an edit to a black screen. The moment of nothing allows for time to reflect on what came before it. It is also a momentary suspension in the action of the film. If this suspension occurs in the middle of an action, such as at the height of a dancer’s leap, the audience is left to imagine the dancer’s descent. Therefore, a blackout can also be used extend the movement of a dancer by utilizing the audience’s imagination.

Fades to Black (Phrase Excepts)

Hard-Cuts to Black (Phrase Excerpts)

Montage Editing

A single definition for montage editing is difficult to say because there exists several theories regarding this editing technique. For the purposes of this website we will discuss two of them. The distinctions between the two theories listed below are minor yet their products deliver the subject matter in significantly different ways. The first of the two methods is the more commonly known theory used in contemporary filmmaking.

“Montage editing is a technique that composes shots associated by subject of theme in a way that conveys mood and ideas. Rather than ordering shots to create an illusion of chronological continuity, montage editing arranges shots by association to create an impression of the subject. If continuity editing attempts to convey a sense of real events taking place, montage editing attempts to express impressions and ideas through the composition of images and sounds.”

From The Art of Technique: An Aesthetic Approach to Film and Video Production by John S. Douglass and Glenn P. Harnden

The version of montage editing described above is widely used in music videos, commercials and opening scenes of movies. In this theory, a montage sequence can condense narrative and suggest the passage of time. It employs imagery of similar subject matter to advance the story along.

Our second, less widely used form of montage editing was created by Sergei Eisenstein, the great Russian director and theorist. For Eisenstein, montage editing includes “creating meaning by means of the dynamic juxtaposition of images.” Using his method, the editor chooses footage of dissimilar subject matter and placed them together to provoke associations that might not have existed before. Eisenstein’s most notable essay on montage editing entitled, “A Dialectical Approach to Film Form,” states that, “…giving birth to concepts, to emotions, by juxtaposing two disparate events le(a)d to…liberation of the whole action from the definition of time and space.” For Eisenstein a montage sequence allows for new ideas to emerge from the collision of dissimilar images.

The imagistic nature of dance lends itself to montage editing. Many dance for camera products therefore include elements of montage technique. This is partly so because the process of montage editing is much like the process of choreography. The only difference is pre-captured clips of movement become your palate as opposed to movement vocabulary developed in real time. The ability to make meaning from otherwise unrelated clips proves to be a tantalizing carrot for many editors of dance for the camera. Montage editing may also be referred to as thematic editing or discontinuity editing.

Rope Phrase and Lift to Floor

“But it is film editing which is the crux of filmdance time. Film editing is essentially cutting up the pieces of film at appropriate places so that each piece of film can be reorganized. In physical terms each and every frame of a filmstrip could be cut along the black line between the frames. Therefore, theoretically, any frame of the film could be placed next to any other, and the communication of chronological events in time could be done away with quite completely. Any filmed motion or part of a motion can be placed next to any other filmed motion. The very substance of choreographic time seems to disintegrate when faced with such a possibility. But if the technique of cutting film is put to the service of a unified concept, one in which the respect for the integrity of human motion is the ground rule, then film editing becomes an immensely creative choreographic method, producing what I call ‘non-chronological dance time’.”

From "Filmdance: Space, Time and Energy" by Amy Greenfield (1983)