Although working in a time-based medium, editing may be used to direct attention to the spatial components within the screen and result in a prioritization of space over time or energy. Making choices in how space is to be manipulated, like the choices that must be made in relation to all content, requires attention to appropriateness.


The simplest of transitions, hard cuts and cross-dissolves, are the least intrusive and often occur without notice. Today’s editing tools offer an array of razzle-dazzle transitions that seem to shout, “Watch me! Watch me!” When selecting a transition, it is important to ask yourself a few questions: What type of transition would support the editing style of this work? Do I want my attention to be drawn away from the content of the clip during the duration of the transition? Spatially, what is happening in the frame that could be accentuated by a directional transition? Could my choice in transition help to transfer momentum or line of motion from one clip to the next? How does this transition relate to the other transitions included before or after? Planning ahead and shooting footage with a particular transition in mind can lead to some of the most successful applications. Whatever the case, selecting transitions is a tricky business! Choose with caution and evaluate the result within the big picture!

Layering in the Z-Axis

Combining clips in post-production by using more advanced editing techniques can significantly extend the choreographic process, particularly in relation to the creation of depth through layering. Let’s consider three techniques, one that involves revealing multiple sources simultaneously by altering opacity, one that “erases” part of the frame to display footage in the background, and another that places a smaller frame in the foreground of the full screen.

A superimposition is a technique in which the opacity of the foreground clip is altered to allow the viewer to see another clip playing at the same time in the background of the same space. It is easy to be wowed by viewing two random clips that may be overlapped in the same screen, but how do we move beyond spectacle and into the realm of artistry? By understanding the potential of this technology, dance film artists may begin to conceive new approaches to choreographing for video. Careful planning of temporal and spatial elements prior to shooting can result in amazingly artful relationships between clips merged through the process of superimposition.

“Another similar optical technique, the superimposition, where one image can be seen through the other, is a more romantic filmdance optical space which goes back to the 1903 American Biograph and Mutoscope film, Nymph of the Waves, in which the dancer is supposed to be dancing “in” the waes. Shirley Clark used the technique in the dream sequence of A Moment in Live, where the sleeping lovers seem to wake up out of themselves, over and over. Walter Strate uses the superimposition in his film interpretations of Jose Limon’s Moor’s Pavane and Doris Humphrey’s Lament. By showing the action simultaneously in close-up and long-shot, and superimposing the images, the dance action seems to be literally taking place inside the dancer’s mind.”

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

Quirky Phrase - Two Different Scales

Keying Effects
Keying in video refers to the elimination of selected hues or values within a clip for the purpose of creating transparent areas that make it possible to see additional footage placed in the background. Commonly used by meteorologists, this technique has amazing potential for creative applications.

Planning a Keyed Shot
Creating a really successful keyed shot requires careful planning. Understanding how different types of keying effects are accomplished is also important in selecting an approach that will work for you. The type of keying effect to be used will also dictate costuming and background choices. Lighting also plays a very important role in generating the ideal footage for keying. Keying effects are most commonly used to remove a background so that an alternate background may be inserted. Think outside the box! How could a keyed shot be designed in a way that explores a non-traditional use of the technology?

Luma Key
A Luma Key effect affords the editor the ability to control the visibility of pixels with varying luminance. This means the editor may select a maximum or minimum brightness or darkness level and “erase” any values that are not within the desired visibility range. This type of effect is most effective when working with a black or white background. But remember, any extreme dark or bright elements in the frame will be affected. So, pay attention to hair color and other details within the footage to be processed.

Chroma Key
Chroma Key effects involve defining a particular color within the frame to be “keyed out.” The most common background colors used for this technique are Chroma Key Green and Chroma Key Blue. By selecting this keying technique you are assured that only pixels within the frame that are exactly the color defined as the “keyed color” will be eliminated. Dancing in a space that has been completely covered in Chroma Key Green or Blue, with lighting that eliminates all shadows, results in the ultimate source footage for placing dance in unlimited alternate environments!

Picture in a Picture
Another technique for creating depth involves placing what is called a “picture in a picture.” Most commonly associated with mass media and videoconferencing, this ability to “stack” clips from background to foreground also offers numerous creative possibilities. Think creatively and begin to design a multifaceted dimensional composition that exploits spatial depth!

Foot Phrase with High Level Picture in a Picture

Hallway Phrase and Hands as Picture in a Picture

Dividing the Screen

The ability to divide the screen into a number of different clips allows the editor to expand upon the creative possibilities of how footage is utilized in post-production. By revealing only a portion of the image recorded in the original footage the spatial composition of video’s rectangular frame may be reconfigured. This split-screen effect may be accomplished by using the cropping features that may be applied to each clip. These techniques can lead to exciting results, as they may be used to create illusions such as suggesting that a single dancer exists in more than one place within the same background. Experiment with making that which is impossible, seem possible!

Foot Phrase

Three Windows Phrase

Enhancing Movement in Space

Even when much thought goes into the planning of camera movement prior to a shoot, the spatial components of movement within the frame can sometimes require a little magical enhancement in post-production. More advanced techniques, such as “keyframing,” may be used to subtly tweak video clips, or may be used in a more extensive manner to create complex animations. Other creative tools for modifying clips include: distortions, changes in perspective, skewing, rotations, etc.

When editing, the use of a variety of vantage points alters the viewer’s spatial orientation to the dancing figure. This approach, particularly when applied to continuity editing, implies motion similar to that of partnering the dancer with freeform camera motion. The viewers can actually feel that they are moving around the dancer as he or she performs. Think of what this does to the concept of front, as related to the proscenium stage!

Keyframed Animation with X Jump

Freeform and Edited (Bartenieff Phrase)

“Even though video is a moving art form, the individual frame is essentially a still photograph. The manner in which each picture is framed can add to or subtract from its perceived movement. There are three basic means of creating movement in either video or film: by moving the subject, by moving the camera, and by editing.”

From Single-camera Video Production by Robert B. Musburger

“While the world of film is sharply defined by the film frame of the selective camera, the camera’s eye can also created an omni-directional space within that frame, so that the viewer, while physically seated in one place, can be transported, inwardly, all around the dancer, above and below the dancer, very close or very far away from the dancer, in a matter of seconds. One can see how this kind of focused but omni-directional film space, when applied to the activity of dance, can create a dynamic, even kinetic, reaction in the viewer quite unlike anything before in dance history.”

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