Keeping it Reel

Editing 101: 7 Editing Cuts You NEED to Know

Batman has his utility belt; Iron Man his suit. Thor? His hammer. And you… you have your cuts. To be an editor of superproportion, you must arm yourself with as many different types of editing cuts as possible. You must know how, why, and when to use them. 
But where can you learn these skills? Who can be the Batman to your Robin? Look no further. Your editing sensei is here! The seven cuts listed below will provide you with the basic knowledge you need to start building your skills as an editor! 

Hard Cut

A hard cut is the most basic cut there is. It is simply moving from one shot to the next with no transitional effect. On an editing program, this would mean letting one shot flow immediately into the next, without putting anything inbetween to the two shots. This type of cut is incredibly common and is used to keep viewers in the moment of a scene. When cutting within a scene where almost everything is remaining constant, viewers do not need time to adjust to a new shot, and thus a hard cut is appropriate. However, if you are traveling to a different location or time, a hard cut may not give viewers enough time to process the changes and adjust to the new circumstances of the film. In these cases, it is better to use another type of cut.

Jump Cut

Simply put, a jump cut is a jarring or abrupt transition from one shot to another. Both shots have the same subject and are taken from relatively the same camera positioning. In editing, jump cuts should be avoided unless done for artistic effect. For example, one of the most common uses for the jump cut is showing the passage of time (as can be seen in the clip below). You’ve also probably seen the jump cut used in various YouTube videos. Youtubers use the jump cut as a visual jolt to keep the attention of viewers.

Cutting on Action (matching action)

If you have ever watched an action movie, you are already  familiar with cutting on action. Cutting on action is when an editor cuts in the middle of an action to another shot that matches the first shot’s action. For example, let’s say you are editing a scene where a man is kicking down a door. Cutting on action would be cutting from a shot of him kicking the door to a shot (from another view) of the door bursting open. Cutting on action doesn’t always have to happen on an intense, aggressive action. In fact, it is often used in everyday scenes. Take the video below for example. As the creator points out, the editor cuts from a front shot of Chandler Bing (the man in the scene) turning around, to a shot of Chandler completing his turn from the other side.

Why use this cut? You can see from the clips in the video below that cutting on action provides a seamless transition from one shot to the next while maintaining the flow of the scene. When done properly, cutting on action completely masks shot to shot transitions.

J and L Cuts

Think of J and L cuts as two sides of the same coin. In a J-cut, the audio from the next shot plays during the current shot; the change in sound precedes the change in picture. In an L-cut the picture changes, but the audio from the previous shot continues; the visual change precedes the audio change. I know this sounds confusing, but it isn’t. These types of cuts are incredibly common. In fact, you’ve probably seen them used every time you’ve turned on the TV or logged into Netflix. The video below does an excellent job of pointing out an example of both a J and an L cut.

Are you starting to get it? Here is an example you are probably more familiar with. Let’s say you are editing a scene where two people are having a conversation. If you choose to cut to each person as they talk, you are going to end up with a boring scene that doesn’t quite flow the way it should. Instead of doing this, you might choose to cut to Person B while Person A is still talking (L-cut). In this way, you allow the audience to hear what Person A is saying while seeing Person B’s reaction. You might also choose to have Person B’s audio play while still focusing the shot on Person A (J-cut). This could be useful in the case of an interruption or powerful reaction.

Cross Cut

A cross cut (also known as parallel editing) is when an editor alternates between two or more scenes that are occurring at the same time but in different locations. This type of cut is often used to create excitement and suspense leading up to a major event or action in a film. One of the most famous examples of a cross cut in recent years is from the ever-popular film Inception. 


Match Cut

A match cut is a cut from one object, space, or action, to another almost visually identical object, space, or action. It is used to establish a sense of spatiotemporal (space, time) continuity. In other words, it is used to establish a connection between one or two subjects that may be in entirely different locations at entirely different times.

For example, let’s say you are editing a movie about a football player. You might have a scene where the football player is playing catch in his backyard as a ten-year-old. His best friend yells go long, and the ball soars into the sky. As the ball starts to descend, you cut to a shot that mirrors this one exactly; only seven years has passed. Your football player is no longer playing catch in his backyard, but catching the game-winning touchdown in one of his high school games.

You can see another example of a match cut from the television series Breaking Bad below.


You now have seven types of cuts to add to your editing utility belt! You’re on your way to becoming the editor you want to be! So besides getting practice with these cuts, what’s next? Well, how about seeing what the future holds? Download our Film Career Guide below to see the career options you could have open to you if you keep developing your editing skills!!

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Topics: Academics

CCA Staff

Written by CCA Staff

This blog is a collaborative effort by CCA staff and administration who want to share their knowledge with the film school community and prospective students.