During the pioneering times of the film, editing film was limited to cutting the necessary events in their chronological order as required for the narrative. In this case, excitement could not be created by cutting but only by the content of the narrative. Film cutting served reality.
As early as 1901, James Williamson went a step further in his film “Attack on a China Mission”: He discovered that the viewers also let film cutting guide them across larger leaps in time and space if an identical object or person was involved in the setting before and after cutting.
The editing principle applied by editor and director Williamson to overcome time and space is still used today. In an extended form, it is described as causal editing.
Filmeditor speak of causal editing when the happenings in a story are within a context in accordance with the principle of cause and effect across all settings.
Parallel editing of different plots is far more complex than chronological cutting and causal editing because the design and concept are far more demanding. For parallel editing, it is important to tell story lines side by side.
The epos “Game of Thrones” is a textbook example, where up to 8 stories involving different figures at various locations are explained simultaneously. The problem is not only to find the right moment to jump from one action thread to the next. In parallel editing, the viewer not only expects insights into the interplay of the individual action threads, but usually also a merger of all parallel actions at the end.
Without such a merger, filmeditor do not speak of parallel editing but of parallelising editing instead.
The parallelism of the schedule converges with the synchronisation of the rooms for parallel editing.Kurt Hoffmann, Editor
Parallel editing is often used by directors and editors to increase dramatism. This is equally valid for feature films and TV series and docusoaps. Whenever things threaten to become exciting, the image is switched to the parallel plot and continues to narrate it.
We can also find the principle of parallel editing in literature. Authors of simple novels, such as those you can purchase at airports, often apply this principle excessively.
Time manipulation by editing film
Film pioneer, director and editor James Williamson was one of the first to realise: Film and real time are normally only identical at the setting level, but this only if the setting is not manipulated with slow motion or time lapse. While editing reflects the plot time by means of cutting, causal and parallel editing extend and move the temporal and spatial feeling for the viewer.
Editing and parallel editing can only be applied successfully in editing film when the cutter or the editor observe the dramaturgical film requirements. The hereby assumed artistic talent, combined with experience and deep knowledge, is one good reason why films are not cut, but edited.