Jump cuts

In a traditional sense, a jump cut is a transition used by filmmakers to show a time jump or a change of location during a film. However, when used creatively within a scene, a jump cut can be used to create an exciting visual effect.

In the following exercises you will find out how jump cuts can be used to create three different magical effects in your films.

What you need:

  • Video recording device, it could be a video camera, a smartphone, tablet or DSLR camera
  • Tripod or something to keep your device still and stable
  • Video editing software. You can find out about a range of editing software we can recommend here

Some things to think about:

  • Composition and lighting. Everything within your camera frame (except the things you want to move or disappear) need to stay consistent throughout the scene
  • Spatial awareness. Depending on your desired outcome, you need to be aware of the actor's position in the scene
  • Signifying event. Having an event to signal where to cut helps get your timing right. A loud sound works well
  • Don’t stop filming. The jump cut will be created using your editing software
  • No one way. The ways in which you can use jump cuts are only limited by your imagination

Activities

Jump Cut 1: The Disappear

This use of the jump cut will create the illusion that your actor or an object has disappeared. You may like to use an event in your scene to signify the moment that your actor disappears (or reappears), such as clapping, clicking your fingers, making a bang or another whacky sound. You can  add a sound in during the editing stage, but making the sound live when you record can make it easier to create the effect when you edit.

Follow the steps below to film stage and then create your very own disappearing act in your film.

FILMING

  1. Compose your shot. Think carefully about what's in the frame.
  2. Position your actor(s), ready to begin recording
  3. Begin recording
  4. Call 'action'
  5. Act
  6. Signifying event
  7. Everybody freeze
  8. Remove or add an actor or object to or from the camera frame. Important: nothing else in the frame should move, if it does, it can ruin the illusion.
  9. Continue acting out the scene
  10. Call 'cut'
  11. Stop recording.

Remember, don't stop recording during the scene, even when the actor/object is appearing or disappearing, all of this will be removed in the post-production stage. 

EDITING

  1. Import your footage to your editing software
  2. Bring your clip to the timeline
  3. Use the appropriate tool for your editing software to cut just after the signifying event, and just before you continue acting.
  4. Remove the footage in between the two cuts
  5. Join the before and after together to create the disappearing illusion
  6. If you're adding a sound effect, add it to your timeline. Position it just where your event happens.

It's a good idea to record the location you're filming in for a ten seconds or so without your actor. That way you can show the location for a little while before your actor appears or after they've disappeared.

Jump Cut 2: Instant Change

You can use jump to create the illusion that something or someone in the frame changes appearance in a split second. For example, let’s say you're heading on a trip to Hawaii, click your fingers and voila, you're wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Again, a signifying event will help you to get your cut exactly right in post-production.

You can also use a jump cut to change the appearance of an object, like an empty transforming an empty pot into a pot with a plan in it.

It's important to be aware of the actor or the object’s position in the frame. It can totally ruin the illusion if the actor or the object changes position. Some strategies to help with this might be to mark your position on the floor with masking tape or chalk, or take a photo of the frame to mark positions within it so you can get back into the same position.

Now, follow the steps below to create your very own instant change.

FILMING

  1. Compose your shot. Think carefully about what's in the frame.
  2. Position your actor or object, ready to begin recording
  3. Begin recording
  4. Call 'action'
  5. Act
  6. Signifying event
  7. Make the change to the actor's clothes, object or whatever you choose.
  8. Actors complete the scene
  9. Call 'cut'
  10. Stop recording.

EDITING

  1. Import your footage to your editing software
  2. Bring your clip to the timeline
  3. Use the appropriate tool for your editing software to cut just after the signifying event, and just before you continue acting.
  4. Remove the footage in between the two cuts
  5. Join the before and after together to create the illusion of change
  6. If you're adding a sound effect, add it to your timeline. Position it just where your event happens.

Jump Cut 3: Location Change/ Teleportation

The visual effect also uses a jump cut. It requires attention to detail and allows us to create the illusion of instantly changing from one location to another with, wait for it… that’s right, the click of a finger.

This use of the jump cut here can be a tricky, and pulling it off well requires your actors to have excellent spatial awareness and for them to be in a similar position within the frame in both the first and second locations. Unlike the change of clothes jump cut, you won't be able to mark your position on the ground, so your film crew will need to be really on the ball regarding everyone's position in the frame and possibly the actor's distance from the camera. 

Slight shifts in position won’t totally ruin this effect, after all, if popular sci-fi has taught us anything, it's that something always goes wrong with teleportation. It could also be fun to mix it up, maybe a purposeful change in position can add drama to your scene, for instance, you might land too close to a dangerous object or on the wrong side of a door. Maybe, if a group of people are teleporting your actors could arrive in a rearranged order, or maybe one won’t arrive at all.

Here are the steps to create your own teleportation! 

FILMING

  1. Compose your shot. Think carefully about what's in the frame.
  2. Position your actor or object, ready to begin recording
  3. Begin recording
  4. Call 'action'
  5. Act
  6. Signifying event
  7. Call 'cut'
  8. Stop Recording
  9. Camera person checks the position of the actor(s) within the frame
  10. Change location
  11. Compose your shot. Carefully match the actor's position in the frame (as discussed, a little shift isn’t the end of the world and a purposeful shift can add drama)
  12. Begin recording
  13. Call 'action'
  14. Continue acting out the scene
  15. Call 'cut'
  16. Stop recording.

EDITING

  1. Import your footage to your video editor
  2. Bring your clip from each location to the timeline
  3. Use the appropriate tool for your editing software to cut just after the 'event' and just before you continue acting
  4. Remove the footage after the cut in the first location
  5. Remove the footage before the cut in the second location
  6. Join the before and after together to create the illusion of the teleportation

Again, sometimes it can be a good idea to add in a few seconds of the location your actors are leaving (or entering) to show they've just left it or have yet to arrive. Just record a little bit of the location without your actors to edit in where you need it.

Jump Cut 4: The Dissolve

To add a little something extra to the teleportation jump cut, you can try the dissolve, or more accurately, a fading teleport.

This can work at either, or both ends of the teleportation and can be really cool. You need to record about five or ten seconds of empty footage of the space you are teleporting from and/or to.

In the editing stage, place this after (for teleporting from) or before (for teleporting to) when you leave or arrive. Next, add a simple cross dissolve effect between the shot of the empty space and the space with actors in it. Make sure you get the order right.

Congratulations, you're on your way to becoming a master of jump cuts. Why not investigate the process of keying next?

Keying

More info