Not a lot of particularly interesting news from around the traps this week so I thought I would cover a particular editing technique in a little more detail.
One of the most (over?) used types of cuts employed by amateur editors these days is the jump cut. Although when I say that there are a lot of people who think they are using jump cuts when in fact they are not.
So what is a jump cut?
A jump cut is a cut from one clip in a sequence to another in which the camera angle and position does not change or changes only slightly while at the same time the subject changes noticeably.
For example you have a shot of a guy on a sofa talking to the camera in an interview type of set up.
At some point he pauses for a long time trying to formulate his next answer or remember his next line.
You keep the camera rolling and eventually he continues.
If later in the editing process you simply cut out that long pause for the sake of keeping things moving along, what happens is that at the point you make that cut, his head or body position suddenly “jumps” to a different position while everything else stays essentially the same.
The result of that can be quite jarring to the viewer and disorienting to their sense of time because life just doesn’t occur that way.
This is why for many years the jump cut was seen as an editing error and an undesirable element to have in a video.
For and explanation of the jump cut as an undesirable element check out this video below.
Breaking the Rules
Now as is the case with many “rules” of the visual arts, one mans rule is another man’s special effect!
What some editors began realizing was that intentionally using that “jarring” effect of the jumpcut in an intelligent way could actually engage the audience at a deeper level, increase interest and further the story.
In addition to that the resulting disorientation regarding time and events unfolding on the screen was another way in which to achieve greater engagement.
This is especially true of certain types of shots involving people or animals, let me explain.
Let’s say we want to shoot a video and in one scene our hero can be seen at the very far end of an extremely long hallway.
We want to have him walk towards the camera but along the way we want him to open every door in that hallway and quickly look inside each room.
We want to convey the sense that he is looking for something and he thinks it will be in one of those rooms.
So we begin the shot and it takes about two full minutes for him to work his way down the hall checking each room finally arriving at the point where the camera is located.
Two minutes of this is simply way too slow and will bore the average audience to death before the scene actually completes.
To speed it up we could fast motion the footage but the problem there is that using fast motion on people and animals results in the entire thing starting to look like a Buster Keaton silent movie!
The other way we could handle it would be to break the sequence into a series of long shots and medium shots. Long shot him walking, medium shot opening a door, long shot walking, medium shot opening the next door on and on until he arrives at the point of the camera.
This second method is perfectly OK and is generally the way an editor would solve the problem however…
Enter the the jump cut!
All we do is just cut out chunks of him actually walking so that each little clip is only of him taking the last two steps to arrive at a door for every door he checks.
This speeds up time and cuts our two minute shot down to seconds, the audience knows exactly what is going on and we add a totally new almost surreal element to the sequence..
This is only one example of the many uses for jump cuts.
So now you know what it is go out and try it!
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