A match on action cut, also referred to as cut on action, is one of the most important editing principles in all of filmmaking. But what is a match on action cut? We’re going to explain matching on action with film examples and more – but first, let’s quickly define the term.

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Match on Action Shots Explained

First, let’s define match on action cut

In cinema, our eyes are naturally drawn to action. It’s the job of the director/cinematographer to find that action on the day of the shoot. And it’s the job of the editor to highlight that action in post-production.

This next video by Framelines TV takes a look at some of the conceptual aspects of matching on action. As you’re watching, think about how matching on action can create a seamless flow.

Match on Action Meaning  •  Cutting on Motion/Match Cutting By Framelines TV

Now that we’ve reviewed some conceptual aspects of match cutting, let’s formally outline a match on action film definition.

MATCH ON ACTION FILM DEFINITION

What is a match on action cut?

A match on action cut (also referred to as cutting on action) is a type of film transition that cuts from one shot to a closer shot in order to emphasize an action. Match on action cuts are used by filmmakers to generate seamless flow in editing. Match on action cuts are also an important part of continuity editing.

Examples in Action

Match on action example breakdown

Match on action cuts are used in every type of film, but perhaps none are as easy to notice as those used in action films. 

Why are these cuts so commonly used in action films? Well, yes, to add emphasis to actions, but oftentimes to hide a lack of choreography too. Watch this next clip from Spectre and tally up all the match on action cuts.

Match on Action Shots  •  Matching on Action in Spectre

Lose count? Don’t worry, I did too. This scene is a perfect example of “over” cutting on action. Ultimately, the emphasis of the action is lost. It’s a shame too because Dave Bautista is so great in the scene.

Now let’s take a look at a scene that uses match on action cuts much more sparingly. This scene from John Wick is proof that mixing tracking shots with match on action cuts can create a visceral feeling like nothing else. 

Match on Action Examples  •  Matching on Action in John Wick

The whole production team on John Wick should be commended for their mastery of filmmaking techniques. Anybody and everybody interested in shooting action films should study their excellent work.

Match on action cuts aren’t exclusive to action movies though. Quite the contrary actually, many famous match on action cuts are from comedies. Don’t believe me? Check out the iconic “tis’ but a scratch” scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail below.

What is a Match on Action Cut in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

This scene utilizes an array of match on action cuts for comedic effect. Perhaps the best example is when Arthur kneels down to pray, but is kicked in the end by the Black Knight. 

These cuts are an essential part of film editing. When in doubt, think about Arthur and the Black Knight: if a hit is ever to be made, cut on action.

Up Next

More Creative Transition Examples

Match on action cuts are just one type of match cuts and creative transition examples. Want to learn more about how to effectively transition between shots. Check out our next article in which we break down match cuts with examples from Psycho, The Graduate, and more. 

Up Next: Editing Transitions →
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  • Chris Heckmann graduated from Emmanuel College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing, Editing, and Publishing. He now lives in Los Angeles where he writes about sports, film, and television.

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