Different Types of Cuts in Video Editing
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
The process of filmmaking can be broadly divided into 3 parts. Namely pre-production, production and post-production. Pre-production includes elements like scripting, casting, location scouting and a lot more. Production involves the actual filming of the footage or the video. And post-production deals with elements like cutting, coloring and editing the footage obtained in production.
The aspects of both pre-production and production are relatively well-pronounced in mainstream conversations. But a lot of us, aspiring filmmakers and otherwise, aren’t very aware of what goes on in the post-production phase; especially in editing the footage. So, I took it upon myself to read up more about the different kinds of cuts used in editing, and what meaning they add to the film.
These kinds of cuts can be used in any kind of filmmaking, be it narrative, animation, documentary or commercial. Here’s a list of the basic kinds of cuts used in editing:
A standard cut is also known as a hard cut. It involves cutting from one clip to another without any transition. That means that if you’re watching clip A, after it ends- we directly cut to the beginning of clip B. This is a very basic style of cutting, and usually offers less visual meaning.
A jump cut allows you to jump forward in time. It is called a jump cut, when a single continuous sequential shot of a particular subject- is broken into two parts. This gives the audience an illusion of jumping forward in time.
When using multiple cameras, jump cuts allow you to seamlessly edit out unnecessary dialogue or footage, while still maintaining a smooth transition.
L Cut and J Cut
The L cut is a form of editing- where the audio from the preceding shot, overlaps the video of the following shot. This means that even after the video of clip A has ended, and that of clip B has started- we can still hear the audio of clip A. This kind of cut will ensure that there is a natural flow to the scenes, and that the audience is being provided will sufficient special information. This kind of cut is also employed at times to give a conversation a deeper meaning in a scene.
A J cut, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of an L cut. It is also known as audio lead or audio advance. In a J cut, the audio of the following shot overlaps the video from the preceding shot. The audio here acts as a lead-in to the visual cut. This means that the audience is still looking at clip A, but can now hear the audio from clip B. This is extremely popular in interview editing, and allows the audience a better understanding of the environment that the character inhabits.
Cutting on Action
Cutting on action or matching on action refers to cutting one shot and viewing another which matches the first shot’s action. This is a very important component of action films. Cutting on action helps maintain the flow of the film and gives the audience the impression of continuous time. It helps create a visual bridge between shots, and makes it harder to notice any continuity errors. Moreover, the film develops a better flow if scenes are cut mid-action, as opposed to waiting for pauses to cut them.
A cutaway usually refers to an interruption of a continuously filmed shot by inserting a view of something else, followed by a cut back to the original shot. A cutaway usually takes the audience away from the main subject or action. It gives the audience a view into what is happening outside of the environment of the main character. Furthermore, it also serves to highlight specific details and add a deeper meaning to the scene. People often use the word cutaway and insert interchangeably.
Also known as parallel editing, a cross-cut is when you cut between two scenes that are happening at the same time in different spaces. Cross-cutting draws parallels between scenes or characters, and may also add suspense to the scene. When done effectively, you can tell two stories simultaneously and force the audience to compare them. But one must be careful with cross-cutting, because if not done carefully it can completely confuse the audience.
A montage refers to a series of short shots which are sequenced to condense space, time, and information. A montage looks like rapid cuts of imagery, and helps convey the passage of time. It denotes a set of interconnected ideas- which come together to express one overarching central idea.
A match cut refers to the technique of matching the movement or space of two opposite environments together. It is a cut from one shot to another, where the composition of two shots are matched by the action or the subject. The objects in the two shots may not have any connection in
the story, but they do create visual metaphors and a seamless transition in your film.
These are some of the basic types of cuts in editing. Knowing these will not only help you write, shoot, or edit in a better way- but also help you understand the visual meaning of films.
Here’s a quick video which will help you understand these cuts visually in the context of popular movies.
These are the reference sites which helped us write this article:
8 Essential Cuts Every Editor Should Know (https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/8-essential-cuts-every-editor-should-know/)
Cuts & Transitions 101 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAH0MoAv2CI)