The Art of Parallel Editing in Cinema and the Softwares Required

Often at times, you must have been witness to such scenes in a film that are happening at the same time but are carrying different storylines. Onscreen, it may seem like two different storylines are unfolding in a parallel world, at different locations but at the same time. This art that baffles and amazes the audience at the same time is known as parallel editing.

What is parallel editing?

The literal definition of parallel editing is the art of cutting between two or more different scenes that have been shot at a single location but are presumed to be occurring at the same time as well. So on the screen, it looks like the two varying storylines have occurred at the same time but at two different places. Parallel editing helps to establish a relationship between the two subjects by cutting from one storyline to the other.

What is the purpose of parallel editing?

Also called crosscutting, parallel editing is used when editors want to add some sort of suspense or pace or to increase exposition to the story in terms of its character, theme, and narrative. You can even use the art of editing scenes parallelly to intensify action scenes or to create context between the two scenes of the characters. Even to create a paradox, parallel cutting can be used. So it helps to engage the audience more into the storyline by establishing a synonymous relationship between the two narratives that are happening at parallel paces on the screen.

Types of parallel editing

There are multiple techniques as to how parallel editing is done for some important and particular scenes of a film.

  • To create contrast: Parallel editing is done to introduce contrast in a film. This is done by editing highly two opposite scenes together that creates a contrasting balance amongst themselves. It is called ‘juxtaposition’ in terms of cinema word. Like scenes in the movie ‘Parasite’ where the wealthy family enjoys the rain while the poor suffer due to it is a classic example of it.
  • To create suspense or tension in a scene: Especially when there is a happening and the characters are moving towards discovering something, parallel editing is then is the perfect way to introduce tension or suspense in the film. You can edit two scenes in a parallel frame by intercutting against each other, increasing and adding to the tension of an unexpected climax.
  • To connect two storylines: Parallel editing is the most used editing skill in such scenes where a relationship has to be established between the two characters. You can easily see multiple TV series doing this. Each character has their storyline that later on mixes into the main storyline. The two characters can be mingled in their own life but later on, their storyline entangled amongst each other at some point in time. This is shown through the art of parallel editing.
  • Even between two different locations: This is one of the most intriguing ways how parallel editing shrinks the world of two different characters and brings them closer to the audience on-screen. This is most commonly seen when two characters are engaged in a phone conversation with each other. One can be in a shabby place living poorly and one can be living in a mansion. This not only created two different locations but also introduced a contrast between the lifestyle of the two characters.
  • Through time: The easiest but the best example of how parallel editing creates two different timelines on screen is that it will parallel place two contrasting time-frames, let’s say, present and past with each other. You can see a character living in its present and how it used to be in his or her childhood. This would show the same person but in totally different two timelines. Sometimes, you can even let the context of the last scene undiscovered fully to let the audience wonder the ending of it in their heads.

There are multiple courses available that will makes you skilled in all different ways as to how parallel editing can be done. You can take up a course as such and learn through it to create your magic by editing and stun the viewers while they watch in on-screen.

How to parallel edit a scene well? 

One of the easiest ways to introduce parallel editing in a film is by manipulating the pace which is the speed or the rhythm in which the shots have been taken. This helps to create the overall mood of the scene. You can just take two different rhythms of two different timelines and place them parallel on the screen.

Using cinematography is another great way to help your skills in parallel editing. Like a stable camera shot in one frame and another one can have a shaky camera shot. So this will help to create a scene with contrasting frames. Long and short, dark and light, such scenes in parallel editing is also a great way to do so.

If you are interested in editing, then you should pick up a good software that teaches the art of parallel editing of the scenes. There are multiple courses which are in affordable ranges that you can pick up and learn how to edit the same to bring impact into the scenes. There are many paid and free Premiere Pro Video software tutorials and courses that you can learn from how to parallel edit some scenes in a movie or series. Learning it through a course will not only help to let you learn the subtleties of editing but also will teach it with finesse and precision. A movie can be well-shot, well-acted as well but it is only brought to life when it has been edited neatly with the perfect skills required for it.

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