Film Cuts Explained
Film cuts or cinematic cuts are a quintessential part of film editing in the post-production process. They are used in transitioning from one scene to another and is an integral part in the narrative structure of a film. Let’s take a look at the different cuts used in today’s films.
1. The Content Cut
Definition: Cut to a new shot within a scene only to add new information or carry the story forward. One can see it as a progression of the narrative
Shot 1: Wide shot of the character speaking
Shot 2: Over-the-shoulder shot of the character speaking
Shot 3: Close-up shot of the character speaking
- Coverage of conversations
- Simple and straightforward
2. The Action Cut/Continuity Cut/Movement Cut
Definition: Action is started in one shot and finished in the next
Shot 1: Character opening a door
Shot 2: Character emerging from the other side of the door
- Amplifies the movement of the action
- From different point of views
3. The Point of View (POV) Cut/“The Look”
Definition: A shot from a character’s point of view
Shot 1: Character looking upwards towards the sky
Shot 2 (The POV Shot): Shot of a flying bird
- Often preceded by a shot of the character looking at something off-camera
- Sometimes used to put together visuals that cannot be fit into one shot
- Establishing physical relationships between the character and the object
- Allowing the audience to see things from the character’s POV
4. The Hard Cut/The Standard Cut
Definition: Cutting from one scene to another without any effects
Shot 1: A happy couple dancing (and with joyful music)
Shot 2: Black Screen (and muted)
- Ending a film
- Transiting between two scenes and locations
- Sometimes creates an jarring or fearsome effect
- Foreshadows upcoming traumatic events
5. The Jump Cut
Definition: A transitional shot where the camera position doesn’t change, but the subjects/objects within the frame move
Shot 1: Shot of living room with character sitting on the sofa eating snacks
Shot 2: Shot of living room with character sitting on kitchen table
Shot 3: Shot of living room with character watching TV
- Deliberately show the passing of time
- Sometimes adds a level of urgency to the scene if it is done quickly
6. The Match Cut
Definition: A transition where the end of one scene are matched with the beginning of the next scene
- Visual match cuts
Shot 1: Character dancing with glamorous costumes on the streets and audience clapping
Shot 2: Continues dancing movement but with people glaring at the character
- Verbal/Aural match cuts
Shot 1: Character A talking through the phone
Shot 2: Character B responses character A through the phone in another setting/location
- Sometimes used in phone call scenes or when news are being spread around
- Transits from fascination/dream to reality
- Establishes a “back to reality” feeling
7. I hope The Conceptual Cut
Definition: Cutting a scene based on the ideas in two different shots rather than its visual content.
- Connects two different images and shots by a concept, symbol or metaphor.
8. Split Edits — J-Cut
Definition: Audio of the next cut starts before it is shown to the audience
- Creates a smooth transition
- Exhibiting new element within the scene (eg. hears squeaking when a character is walking, and audience finds the character stepping on a rubber duck in the next cut)
- Sometimes used in scenes of characters reminiscing the past to create a nostalgic atmosphere
- Occasionally used in thriller films to engage the imagination of the audience of the next shot
9. Split Edits — L-Cut
Definition: The audio from the previous scene continues to play over the following scene.
Definition: Close-up shot of a subject or object within the main scene.
In the above musical number, the film cuts into a close up of the dirty kitchen and revolting pie in order to draw emphasis on how these are the worst pies in London.
- Emphasise on a detail of a particular part of the scene, usually the primary action.
- Reveals something that may or may not have happened simultaneously with the main action.
- When two actions in a sequence don’t match, cut-ins fill in the missing gap.
- Demonstrates time lapse
- Enhance the mood in a scene
- Stimulates the audience’s interest particularly in an action packed scene
11. The Cutaway
Definition: Inserting a shot taken away from the main action into an existing continuous scene.
- Used to break up a matching action sequence
- Presents an alternative point of view or context by showing the audience what is happening outside the scene.
- Provides a momentary comic relief
- Used to visualise a character’s memories, daydreams like in rom-coms and to express emotions and internal feelings
Definition: A combination of separate short clips and images in one sequence, usually with music playing in the background.
- Exhibits the passage of time or a process of transformation
- Showcase multiple occurring events in short amount of screen time
- Communicate a multitude of information to an audience in a short amount of time.
- Used in Comedies for comedic effect.
- Provide a quick background information on the main characters to better understand them.
- Combine multiple storylines
- By arranging shots that display juxtaposing images or actions, it creates impact and meaning using the Kuleshov Effect.
13. Cross-Cut or Parallel Editing
Definition: Cutting between actions in two different scenes that are occurring simultaneously
The hallway fight scene in Inception features two different action scenes, Arthur asleep in car that is being attacked and Arthur inside his dream fighting in the hallway. The two scenes interject one other to show that these actions are occurring at the same time but in different realms.
- Establish multiple scenes that are occurring at the same time and in different locations.
- Audience may compare and contrast the narrative in the two parallel sequences.
14. Smash Cut
Definition: An abrupt cut from one scene to another.
In the record scene in Shaun of the Dead, features the Gilligan cut where the scene abruptly cuts Shaun an Ed violently smacking zombies with gardening tools to them chilling on the couch watching TV.
- This unexpected cut usually occurs in a pivotal moment in a film which creates a sense of mystery, especially in thrillers, when a dialogue or a revealing scene is suddenly cut to a new scene.
- In comedies, smash cut, also referred to as “Gilligan cut”, heightens irony.
- Used to display contrasting tones when smash cut used to transition between two juxtaposing scenes.
15. The Zero Cut
Definition: A type of match cut that is hidden or invisible, making it seem like the scene is taken in “one-shot” when in fact the two shots take place in two different times and/or locations.
In 1917, whenever the characters enter a dark opening, the screen goes black. Mendes utilises this moment to cut the scene and stitch it with the shot of the characters emerging into the next room, creating a seamless one continuous sequence.
- Combine two different scenes shot in different places to make them look like one continuous shot.
- Creates a smooth and undetectable transition giving it a “one shot” effect.
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