Here, we'll go beyond the fundamental editing skills and look at more advanced techniques employed by professional editors. These techniques will make your scene look extra special, and give it more depth and detail. The techniques include L and J cuts, insert footage, and cutting on action.
Before tackling this module, we suggest having a look at the editing for the advanced page as it introduces some editing techniques that you’ll build upon here.
To create a fine cut of a scene that includes L and J cuts, insert footage, and utilises the technique cutting on action.
What you'll need
- Editing software. Familiarise yourself with the software before starting this task
- A script. It can be hard to put a scene together without one. Use the one provided.
- Footage to edit. You can download the zipped folder of The Deal footage package 3 at the bottom of the page. If you haven't already got the packages from the beginner and advanced editing modules, you'll need to download those also.
Step 1: Make sure you've downloaded all three packages of video clips for The Deal. If you've completed one or both editing for the beginner and editing for the advanced you should already have two of the three packages.
Start on a rough cut of the scene using the footage provided. You'll notice there are a few more shots available to you for use in this scene, read the section below on inserts before you complete your rough cut.
An insert is a piece of footage that shows us another perspective on the action taking place. In The Deal, we have lots of shots such as a long shot, a two-shot, and a variety of close-ups. These shots cover the main action taking place and shows us mostly character expressions and obvious body language. An insert shot is usually a close-up or an extreme close up of something else that's happening as part of that action. It might be a shot of a character fidgeting or tapping their fingers. An insert could also be a shot of an important prop or item in the scene. So inserts can offer us another perspective on the main action taking place, they can tell us more about how a character is feeling, or they can draw our attention to an important item.
Step 2: Work the insert footage of the briefcase, the close-up on Claire's hands, and close-up pan shot of the pad on the desk into your rough cut. Before starting on your fine cut, read the below on cutting on action, and L cut and J cuts.
Cutting on action
Cutting on action is where you cut from one shot to another, right on a point of action. Because you're changing the audience’s viewpoint of the scene, it makes the action more dramatic and impactful. You don’t have to cut on every moment of action, but it’s a good rule to do it where you think it works.
Even in a scene without a great deal of obvious action (like fighting or a car chases) you can create impact by cutting on all types of movement, big or small. Even cutting from one shot to another when a character turns around, sits down or looks up can be effective.
Watch the instructional video below to see this technique in action.
L cuts and J cuts
L cuts and J cuts refer to when the audio (usually dialogue) from one clip or scene plays over the footage of another clip or scene. Say we have filmed a conversation between two characters, and the film footage we have are two separate shots focusing on them individually, so in the edit we cut from one character to the other depending on who is talking.
An L cut is when character A is talking, but before they finish talking we cut to character B so we see their face but still hear character A talking.
A J cut is the opposite, it’s where character A is talking, finishes talking, but before we cut to character B we hear them start talking.
L and J cuts don’t just have to be used for conversations though, you might find other interesting ways to use them, such as using them to transition from one scene to another.
To perform these kinds of cuts, you might have to detach the audio from your video files so you can extend or shorten the audio file separately from your video file. Be careful when moving the audio files once they’re detached from your video file, as you don’t want to put the audio and video out of sync.
If you’re keen to learn more about L cuts and J cuts, go to The Beat’s great rundown here.
Step 3: Start on your fine cut, don't forget about the time condensing techniques from editing for the advanced as you might still like to use these techniques again.
This time though, work on some moments where you cut on action. It might not be obvious but there are many opportunities. Try to use them where you think you can create some impact.
Find an opportunity to perform either an L cut or a J cut (or both) on a line of dialogue.
Step 4: Add music to your scene using the audio file provided. Make sure you trim, adjust the volume, and use a fade in or fade out where necessary. Go through after adding music and if you moments where there's a 'blip' noise as one clip cuts to another. If you do find them, this is because of changes in audio between the clips. Experiment with adding in slight fade ins or fade outs on the clips in question to see if you can get rid of these annoying noises.
What moments did you end up using to cut on action? What was the impact of cutting on action to your scene? Did you try and condense time in any part of the scene? Why, why not? Did you experience any issues when using L cuts or J cuts? What were they, and how did you overcome those issues?