The intention of most film editing is to create the impression of continuity by editing together discontinuous viewpoints. The continuity editing rules are well established yet there exists an incomplete understanding of their cognitive foundations. This article presents the Attentional Theory of Cinematic Continuity (AToCC), which identifies the critical role visual attention plays in the perception of continuity across cuts and demonstrates how perceptual expectations can be matched across cuts without the need for a coherent representation of the depicted space. The theory explains several key elements of the continuity editing style including match-action, matchedexit/entrances, shot/reverse-shot, the 180° rule, and point-of-view editing. AToCC formalizes insights about viewer cognition that have been latent in the filmmaking community for nearly a century and demonstrates how much vision science in general can learn from film.
Tim J. Smith
David Bordwell (2002) has described contemporary mainstream cinema as a cinema of intensified continuity. When we combine Bordwell's analysis with that of recent cognitive work on attention, especially with work on edit blindness, we discover some intriguing results. For example, the increased rate of cutting in contemporary cinema serves to keep our attention continually aroused, but, at the same time, that which arouses our attention—the increased number of cuts—becomes decreasingly visible. That is, the greater the number of cuts made in the services of continuity editing, the less we are able to spot them. If, while watching contemporary mainstream cinema, the attention of viewers is aroused but viewers are decreasingly capable of spotting the reasons why this is so (i.e., the cuts themselves), then does this also serve to make contemporary mainstream cinema “post-ideological,” because it concerns itself only with “intensified” experiences? Or, as this article argues, does the sheer speed of contemporary mainstream cinema renew the need for the ideological critique of films?
Karin Luisa Badt
Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp's theory of SEEKING offers a fundamental insight into why film spectators are engaged by what they see on screen. This article offers a new reading of Panksepp's SEEKING theory and how it applies to spectatorship, a reading informed by two months of the author's personal exchange with the scientist. The article states that the SEEKING impulse—defined as the emotional instinct to seek resources—applies not only to how the spectator identifies with the main character and his search for resources, but to how the spectator responds to visual and aural cues regardless of the story or characters. The article provides a corrective to spectator theories which focus too narrowly on narrative as a cue for viewer mental activity. An examination of two scenes from The Bicycle Thief and Stalker shows how SEEKING can occur on both the primary and tertiary level, thus breaking the emotion-cognition divide.
cognitive purpose of the rules of continuity cutting, “The Attentional Theory of Cinematic Continuity.” It builds on Smith’s landmark study on the flow of attention across edits by focusing on an anomaly within the example he uses, and asserts
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