Soviet Montage - The Origins of Video Editing

understanding the foundational editing tricks of contemporary cinema

  1. Overview
  2. The Kuleshov Effect
  3. Montage Theory
  4. Conclusions



Producing interesting and engaging videos requires practice and skill that is perhaps best achieved through immersion into the world of film mixed with intense hands-on production training in both audio and video.

The Kuleshov Effect


In the beginning of the last century, a Soviet filmmaker and educator named Lev Kuleshov showed, in a now-famous experiment, discovered that the juxtaposition of two shots can evoke a meaning in the viewer that is not present within the shots themselves.

Lev Kuleshov

Images juxtaposed in time

In the experiement, the same shot of an actor with a neutral face are juxtaposed in time next to a variety of still images:

Watch Kuleshov’s original experiment for yourself!


The implication of this experiment, based on viewers’ reactions, was…

Montage Theory


Kuleshov and other Soviet filmmakers of the early 20th century, including most notably Sergei Eisenstein, extended these findings and pioneered the development of a theory of montage, which means “editing”, in French.


Film theorists often attribute several types of montage to Eisenstein and his cohort of Soviet filmmakers.

Metric montage

Where a sequence of shots are displayed, with each shot lasting exactly the same amount of time, regardless of the content of the shot.

Rhythmic montage

Includes cutting based on continuity, creating visual continuity from edit to edit.

Tonal montage

Where the focus is on the emotional content of the action within the scene, and cuts according to it, rather than on any given shot’s metric timing or rhythm.

Overtonal montage

Using combinations of metric, rhythmic, and tonal montage to synthesize an even more abstract and strong overall effect on the audience.

Intellectual montage

A technique where shots from the main narrative are juxtaposed next to shots of unrelated scenes rich in cultural, symbolic, and political history from outside the main narrative in order to show an associative meaning between the two.

Vertical montage

Where each shot in a sequence shows the same event or action, often from different perspectives.


You now have had a quick-and-dirty description of some basic Soviet montage techniques.