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What Is "Complexity Editing?"

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 2/24/2010

Some editors prefer styles that focus on energy and emotion rather than story continuity, and this is a way that home digital video producers can spice up their own video projects.

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    Creative Editing

    Though many home digital video producers are most concerned with communicating their story clearly, as with home movies or independent film projects, some are more concerned with energetic creativity and making an artistic statement. When it comes to editing there is a school of thought that respects this ethos and is based more on emotional than intellectual logic. This is called Complexity Editing.

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    Complexity Editing

    Complexity Editing is a way that film producers and editors take a deeper look at the images they have recorded and intensify the action and energy of the footage. This does not focus on what the footage literally shows, but instead on a host of other aspects including visual elements and socio-political interpretations. Though Complexity Editing can be used through an entire project, it is usually only employed for certain segments of a video.

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    Montage

    One of the most common utilizations of Complexity Editing are Montage sequences. You see these in movies all the time where there are many small clips cut together against music to illustrate something happening to the characters, such as them cleaning a house or falling in love. The idea here is that you put several separate images together that each mean something different, but when paired together end up with an entirely new meaning. This means that there is an entirely new effect that is created simply by adding all of these video clips together. This is a classic visual concept called the "Gestalt principle," which states that human perception will “create a whole from the sum of the parts."

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    Rhythmic Editing

    There are a variety of standard types of Complexity Editing that are commonly used to achieve certain goals. One is called "Rhythmic Editing" and is based on using the length of clips to maintain the energy of a sequence. If you cut from a very short clip to a longer one the pace can disappear, so instead of focusing on story continuity you cut together clips of equal length to maintain the feel that you are establishing.

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    Idea Associative Editing

    Another style is "Idea-Associative Editing," which is where two contrasting clips are cut together as a way of getting a new meaning. There are two main ways that this is done, and they are Comparison and Collision. Idea-Associative Comparison puts two images together to show how they may be similar, like showing an image of a stock broker on the phone paired up to an image of a lion stalking his prey. Idea-Associative Collision wants to focus on showing the contrast between two things, like a wealthy businessman driving a Lexus against a homeless individual riding public transportation. Both of these are meant to illicit a response from the audience, but are not necessarily designed to move the story forward.

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    Try It Out

    Complexity Editing is a great way to interject a new way of viewing images and can be used as a method of separating a small section of your video project from the whole. This can be done by adding a Montage, using Rhythmic Editing, and by employing one of the Idea-Associative techniques. These are just some of the many ways to utilize this editing perspective, and now you too can try and come up with your own style of Complexity Editing!