Panning is an editing choice that is used so frequently that we as viewers take it for granted. Peter Guttman, in our week 2 reading (Guttman, http://www.classicalnotes.net/griffith/part6 points out that panning can serve the same function as editing, but without the “disruption of perspective”. Moreover, the pan keeps the continuity between the objects and the actors that separate shots would “obscure”.
My example of panning comes from Braveheart (1995). In the scenes of the Battle of Stirling, there are two armies – Scottish and English. Panning is used to show the enormity of the mass of troops on both sides, while staying close enough to see their facial expressions. You could show the size of the armies from a distant shot, but it would be at the expense of the drama and tension you would gain by being able to read their facial expressions.
From viewing of Week 2, I reference The Great Train Robbery. In scene 8 we see the train coming to a stop and the robbers making their escape. The camera pans from right to left – showing the robbers fleeing the danger of the crime scene (the train) into the relative safety of the surrounding valley. This serves as a transition rather than the Braveheart example of giving the audience a sense of the scope of the battle about to ensue.