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7 Film Editing Cuts You Need to Know

7 Film Editing Cuts You Need to Know

Create a compelling narrative with these 7 easy-to-learn film editing cuts.

When a lot of people think of cinematic cuts, they probably imagine a scenario like ‘clip A switches to clip B without interruption.’ While that’s technically a “cut,” there are actually quite a few nuanced cuts all great editors need to know, and we’re going to discuss seven of those below!

First, check out this great compilation of several different cuts cleverly used in Stranger Things:
When inserting cuts or transitions into your edit, it’s important to ask yourself whether or not the cut you’re adding is simply aiding in a practical assembly of chronological video, where you want it to feel seamless in advancing the scene or story -  or if the cut needs to serve a deeper purpose by tying in to the action on-screen in a meaningful way that enhances the story (as in pretty much every cut from the video above).

A cut’s effectiveness lies within where and how you place it.  Regardless of which cut you’re using, cuts should always be used to drive the narrative forward, and keep the audience engaged with where the script is headed.

#1. The Straight (or Hard) Cut

The Straight Cut is the most common, and can best be described as the aforementioned ‘A to B’ cut. Straight Cuts are typically used in a practical capacity as a natural progression of a scene playing out, such as a conversation between two people with over-the-shoulder shots from each of their perspectives. Just because it may seem rudimentary, don’t be fooled into thinking the Straight Cut is boring! A well-placed Straight Cut can really startle the audience when the unexpected happens.

#2. The Jump Cut 

A Jump Cut is often used to denote the passing of time, as an alternative to a timelapse. Rather than linking footage from multiple camera angles or scenes, a Jump Cut cuts to several moments of significance within a single clip. An example of a scene using Jump Cuts can be seen in the tutorial below.

#3. The Split Cut | L & J Cuts

In a nutshell, an L Cut is when the video of Clip B cuts into Clip A, while Clip A’s audio momentarily continues. Inversely, a J Cut is when the audio from Clip B begins, while the video is still showing Clip A - then the video cuts to Clip B.  

L and J cuts bring an added level of cohesion to joining two separate cuts, making the transition seem a little smoother.

See a quick explanation of L & J Cuts below:

#4. The Action Cut

An Action Cut takes an action from Clip A and shows the continuation of that action in Clip B from a different perspective, such as a character raring back to throw a punch in Clip A, then following through with the punch from a different angle in Clip B.

#5. The Insert Cut

An Insert Cut usually shows a close-up of what a character’s object of interest is, and how they react to it. Clip A would be the character sitting on the couch as they turn on the TV, Clip B (the Insert Cut) would be a shocking news story playing on the TV itself, and you’d go back to Clip A to catch the character’s reaction to the news story.

#6. The Match Cut

A Match Cut is all about connecting visual elements of similarity between scenes. Clip A could be a shot of a character running into an alley, while Clip B could show another character running out an alley. 

#7. The Invisible Cut

The Invisible Cut is an especially cool one, because it utilizes an element within the two clips to make them both appear as one continuous shot. More often than not, an Invisible Cut involves Clip A moving into darkness, and Clip B moving out of darkness. This could be a camera dollying toward a dark corner of a wall, then a few frames of black as the scene darkens...then the camera move continues out of darkness in Clip B, revealing what’s on the other side of the wall.

This gives the illusion the camera went through the wall, by blending both clips together with black frames. The same can also be done with white frames, such as a camera drifting up toward the sky in Clip A, brightening as the frame fills with sunlight, then coming back down to reveal Clip B in a different location, as the camera drifts back away from the sunlight.
There are tons of other cuts you can use to enhance your edit, but these seven will give you some great ideas to make your next edit as well-crafted as possible!

If you’ve got some examples of creative cuts you’ve done, share them in the comments below! 

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