What is a Jump Cut - Featured - StudioBinder

The cinematographer, editor, and director work together to create a seamless experience within watching a film. There are certain cuts that can jar an audience out of this experience and make them aware they are watching a movie. One of these cuts is referred to as a jump cut. While many advise against using jump cuts in film, there are ways you can implement them effectively to tell the best story possible.

Jump Cut Definition

What Is a Jump Cut?

A jump cut transition can be an effective film editing technique to portray a skip in time. When used properly, it can best help you tell the story you want to tell.

THE JUMP CUT DEFINITION

What are jump cuts?

Jump cuts in film occur when two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that only vary in the slightest manner possible. In some cases, the camera position may not move at all. The edit gives the impression the subject has moved forward in time.

A jump cut differs from a match cut in that the latter aims to create a seamless transition between two separate scenes. The usual goal of a match cut is to draw a metaphorical comparison between two different objects, subjects, or settings.

Some filmmakers believe jump cuts are inherently bad because they call attention to the constructed and edited nature of the film. They are seen as a violation to typical continuity editing, which seeks to give a seamless appearance of time and space to the story. However, there have been plenty of films over the years to brilliantly incorporate a jump cut into a scene for maximum impact.

Jump Cut Editing

Where did the jump cut come from?

The jump cut has been around since the early days of cinema. Georges Méliès utilized the technique to create the illusion of magic occurring on-screen. 

The more contemporary use of the jump cut began with Jean-Luc Godard and his seminal 1960 film Breathless.

Jean Seberg in a Convertible - Breathless

Instead of trying to create the appearance of magic, Godard intentionally wanted to portray a passage of time. It creates a jarring effect, which is obviously the intention. 

While you can still see jump cuts in films every so often, the technique has largely been popularized recently by YouTubers.

Casey Neistat - How to Vlog Like Casey Neistat by Casey Neistat

You can find plenty of YouTubers who have entire videos of them just talking into the camera. The camera cuts, indicating either a different train of thought or forward leap in a story, but the vlogger is in the same position as before. 

When it comes down to editing together shots, the ultimate goal should be conveying what is most important and what the audience needs to pay attention to. Therefore, knowing how to jump cut well is a vital skill and one that can help you make the best film possible.

We’re going to dive into a few examples of the best jump cuts in film, so you can get a better sense of what you can do in your own movies.

Jump Cut Examples

Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler’s List is Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece about Oskar Schindler, a businessman who saved over one thousand Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. 

There’s one moment in the film that employs the use of a jump cut, and it’s used in a way you may not expect from such a film.

Choosing a Secretary | Schindler’s List

There are two reasons why jump cuts are the appropriate choice for this scene. First, they convey the passage of time. Schindler meets with numerous women while his office is being painted.

Instead of dragging on and devoting a ton of time to each woman, we just get a quick montage at the same angle to show just how many secretaries he met with. 

Secondly, the use of jump cuts here is meant to be humorous. The women clearly don’t know how to type well, and by showing them in this consecutive manner, it provides a moment of levity in an otherwise dark film — a reprieve while simultaneously moving the plot forward.

How to Edit Jump Cuts

Run Lola Run (1998)

After her boyfriend loses 100,000 marks to give to a criminal boss, Lola needs to find a way to secure the money in just 20 minutes to save her boyfriend’s life.

What follows is three versions of the events that could happen to Lola in her quest. It can be disorienting to first-time viewers, and the jump cuts add to that effect.

Lola Panicking | Run Lola Run

As the synopsis suggests, Run Lola Run is a fast-paced film with no time to waste. The jump cuts emphasize this fact, and they put us in the mind of Lola. She’s just received distressing news. She’s anxious and disoriented. Jump cut editing creates the same effect in the viewer.

Humans aren’t meant to process information in this way. The human eye wants to see smooth, continuous movements, so the jump cut goes against that aesthetic. While many films want to avoid this effect, it works perfectly here. The editing creates a mood in the audience, making it the preferable technique over more standard shots.

JUMP CUT EXAMPLE

Snatch (2000)

Snatch is Guy Ritchie’s 2000 crime thriller that follows a group of criminals trying to find a stolen diamond as well as a boxing promoter who works for a sadistic boss. 

The movie contains many of the techniques Ritchie would take with him throughout his filmography, including a penchant for jump cuts, as exemplified best in the opening title sequence.

Opening Sequence | Snatch

The title sequence contains numerous jump cuts as well as various other stylistic flourishes. The entire sequence lasts less than 90 seconds, and in that span of time, Ritchie needs to convey a lot of information.

He has to introduce us to 12 characters, each of which has a distinct personality and goal. To speed things up, Ritchie employs jump cuts to fast forward through time. 

The clearest example of a jump cut in the sequence is with the introduction of Mickey (Brad Pitt). He receives a wad of cash, and his cohort tries to touch it. Mickey slaps his hand a couple of times with a jump cut in between and the audience receives all of the information they need about this person within the span of a few seconds. 

This jump cut scene serves a dual purpose. The rest of the film will be fast and kinetic. The use of jump cuts in the opening lets the audience know precisely what kind of film they are watching and that they should be prepared to strap in for the ride. 

How to Jump Cut

The Fog of War (2003)

The Fog of War is a 2003 documentary interviewing former United States Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. He discusses his insights into concepts of modern warfare by discussing strategies used in World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Robert McNamara Interview | The Fog of War

Since this is a documentary, there is not a lot of action. The director can cut away from McNamara to archival footage or a photograph of John F. Kennedy, but McNamara himself just sits there the entire time. By including jump cuts, much in the same way vloggers utilize it, it adds a sense of urgency to what McNamara has to say. 

In this instance, the jump cuts also help with organizing the information presented. The movie is a little over 100 minutes in length. Chances are Robert McNamara had a lot more to say on this subject. Not all of it could make it into the film, so the filmmakers cut where important to string together a cohesive narrative. 

With that being said, there are still points in the movie where the filmmakers show McNamara stumbling across his words. It still makes  him feel human while still informing the audience that he knows what he is talking about. It is for this reason jump cuts in film are largely relegated to documentaries. But there is still a place for them anywhere as long as you know how to utilize them properly.

UP NEXT

Match cuts and creative transitions

Most filmmakers will find that using a variety of editing techniques can have a profound impact on their final product. It is vital to understand different types of cuts in film, which is why you should be aware of all your options when it comes to transitions. The match cut is an excellent way to give your shots added depth and meaning — and we'll explain why they work so well with the best examples we've ever seen.

Up Next: Match Cuts and creative transitions →
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