Jump cut: A beginner’s guide

Discover the art of the jump cut transition in video editing. Learn how to use jump cuts to enhance your video’s pacing, style, and storytelling.
November 1, 2023
Mina Son
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Editing is an unsung hero in many of the world’s most beloved films—cutting in the right way, at the right time, can heighten the emotions a filmmaker wants to communicate. For many films, that includes the jump cut.

A jump cut removes footage from a single shot, stitching the ends together. Unlike other film editing techniques like cutaways or match cuts, which make films easier and more comfortable to watch, a jump cut creates a jarring effect.

Interested in learning how to use this editing technique in your own post-production? This article will give you all the tips and tricks to master jump cut editing so you can produce films and videos ready for Hollywood.

What is a jump cut?

A jump cut happens when an editor cuts out a middle section of a piece of footage and splices the two ends together. This makes it seem as though there is a jump in time—hence the name, jump cut. Most other film editing techniques, like fine cuts, are designed to hide edits and preserve continuity, but the jump cut purposely highlights the edit to leave the audience unsettled, startled, or amused.  

Jump cuts usually involve a constant camera position and camera angle. They can also be used to create simple special effects. You can do things like make something on screen appear or disappear, or make people jump from one point to another.

History of jump cuts in film 

According to legend, George Méliès accidentally created the jump cut in 1896. A bus was passing by as he was filming on the street, and his camera jammed. When he cleared the jam and started filming again, a hearse had replaced the bus. 

With that, the first jump cut was born. In 1902, Méliès made his arguably most famous film: La Voyage dans la Lune, which used jump cuts to guide viewers through the passing of time.

Since then, many directors worldwide have adopted the jump cut, from Jean-Luc Godard in Breathless (1960) to more recent filmmakers like Guy Ritchie in the opening of his 2001 movie Snatch.

How and when to use jump cuts

There are a number of reasons to use jump cuts when editing together a film or video. Below are the four most common ways directors use a jump cut.

Intensify dialogue or conversations

If you've ever watched a tutorial video on social media or a vlog, you've seen jump cuts. Since most content creators don't have multiple cameras, most edits they make will be jump cuts. In most cases, this technique used to keep up the pace and energy of the video and maintain the audience's attention.

Cinematographers can use this technique to cut out pauses in dialogue, making conversations more intense. The jump cuts in Leonardo Dicaprio's monologue in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are a great example.

Create energetic montages

Jump cuts are also used to create montages. In a scene that might otherwise be boring, jump cuts add energy. One energetic use of the jump cut is in this montage of Katherine Heigl trying on all the bridesmaid dresses in 27 Dresses. This editing technique lets us see her changing into each dress faster and enjoy this upbeat atmosphere created by the montage.

Portray the passage of time

Jump cuts can also be used to show time passing. A great example of this is the use of jump cuts in Little Shop of Horrors to show how the poor flower shop has no customers. As each person jumps from one part of the screen to another, the audience feels that a lot of time has passed with no customers to be seen. 

Convey psychological state or unsettling atmosphere

In Run Lola Run, jump cuts are used to show Lola's frantic and deteriorating mental state by cutting to close-up shots that push in closer and closer (also known as sequential shots). The film also uses smash cuts interspersed with jump cuts to increase the feeling of disorientation.

4 jump cut examples in films

1. French New Wave Cinema: “Breathless” (1960)

Jean-Luc Godard’s movie Breathless has numerous examples of fast jump cuts in a single shot. 

For this film, Godard used only jump cuts in place of traditional narrative editing styles. The film was part of the French new wave movement and was a big hit. Breathless is widely considered a piece of cinematic history, and you can see its influence in movies today.

2. Edgar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World uses jump cuts to convey Scott's frenetic and impatient feelings. It's used here to show how restless Scott's night has been in a split second.

3. Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001)

Jump cuts show the passage of time in this scene from The Royal Tenenbaums. The editing technique also shows Luke Wilson's character's mental state as he prepares to take his own life.

4. “Boys” by Charli XCX (2017)

Music videos often use jump cuts and montages to tell a song's story. In Boys, this Charli XCX video gives the viewer a diverse tour of the “boys” she finds attractive. Jump cuts help to show each character’s personality in a short amount of time.

3 tips to create effective jump cuts

Now that you’ve seen different ways to use jump cuts and some examples of how they’ve been used, the next question is: how can you use jump cuts for your own video projects? Here are three approaches. 

Maintain continuity in action or dialogue

A jump cut is inherently shocking, so make sure the action, dialogue, and sound are consistent. For example, in Schindler’s List, the scene where Schindler must choose a secretary, the jump cuts go from one secretary to the next. But the music and typewriter sound keep the scene grounded.

Plan shots with jump cuts in mind

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, so it's always best to plan ahead, especially when shooting videos. When planning jump cuts, the same applies. 

Jump cuts involve cutting out portions of footage in order to create that jump from one frame to the next. As you write a script or shoot a video, think about how you want your footage edited and what you want the finished product to look like. You may have to shoot a scene longer than you planned to get enough footage to cut out and splice together.

Choose appropriate timing and rhythm

It takes finesse to create something striking. If you throw in jump cuts willy nilly, you’ll just get a disjointed mess and most likely lose your audience’s interest.

Make sure you time your jump cuts right, like this scene from The Ring. Here, jump cuts are used sparingly to show Samara is supernatural. They disturb the audience and take advantage of that uncomfortable jarring effect.

Master video effects with Descript

The only way to master this video editing technique is to practice jump cuts.

In order to practice, you’ll need a full-featured video editor. Whether it's videos for your YouTube channel, short films for screening, or full fledged cinematic features, Descript can help you create jump cuts in your projects. 

Use the video editing software to:

  • Edit videos by editing the text transcript
  • Make your videos more accessible with automated subtitles and captions
  • Use keyframe animation to zoom in on key elements or layers
  • Edit multiple tracks—including audio, video, images, and GIFs—in a single project
  • Use AI editing tools like Studio Sound and Green Screen to speed up the editing process  

Start editing and mastering jump cuts with Descript’s free video editor today.

Jump cut FAQs

What is a jump cut and why is it bad?

A jump cut happens when a piece of footage is removed from a video and the ends are spliced together. They can be jarring and awkward for viewers, which is sometimes what filmmakers want. You can use them to create interest or emotional reactions in a scene. 

What is a jump cut vs regular cut?

A jump cut stitches together footage from the same scene. A regular cut (also known as a match cut) creates a smooth transition between different scenes. 

What does jump cut mean in a script?

In the context of movie scripts, a jump cut moves the viewer forward in time in the same scene.

Mina Son
Mina is a writer, video game narrative designer, and all-around word nerd. When not writing, she embarks on adventures with her husky, Moro.
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Jump cut: A beginner’s guide

jump-cut

Editing is an unsung hero in many of the world’s most beloved films—cutting in the right way, at the right time, can heighten the emotions a filmmaker wants to communicate. For many films, that includes the jump cut.

A jump cut removes footage from a single shot, stitching the ends together. Unlike other film editing techniques like cutaways or match cuts, which make films easier and more comfortable to watch, a jump cut creates a jarring effect.

Interested in learning how to use this editing technique in your own post-production? This article will give you all the tips and tricks to master jump cut editing so you can produce films and videos ready for Hollywood.

Our full-featured video editing tool is as powerful as it is easy to use.
Look for our all-in-one audio & video production that’s as easy as editing a doc.

What is a jump cut?

A jump cut happens when an editor cuts out a middle section of a piece of footage and splices the two ends together. This makes it seem as though there is a jump in time—hence the name, jump cut. Most other film editing techniques, like fine cuts, are designed to hide edits and preserve continuity, but the jump cut purposely highlights the edit to leave the audience unsettled, startled, or amused.  

Jump cuts usually involve a constant camera position and camera angle. They can also be used to create simple special effects. You can do things like make something on screen appear or disappear, or make people jump from one point to another.

History of jump cuts in film 

According to legend, George Méliès accidentally created the jump cut in 1896. A bus was passing by as he was filming on the street, and his camera jammed. When he cleared the jam and started filming again, a hearse had replaced the bus. 

With that, the first jump cut was born. In 1902, Méliès made his arguably most famous film: La Voyage dans la Lune, which used jump cuts to guide viewers through the passing of time.

Since then, many directors worldwide have adopted the jump cut, from Jean-Luc Godard in Breathless (1960) to more recent filmmakers like Guy Ritchie in the opening of his 2001 movie Snatch.

How and when to use jump cuts

There are a number of reasons to use jump cuts when editing together a film or video. Below are the four most common ways directors use a jump cut.

Intensify dialogue or conversations

If you've ever watched a tutorial video on social media or a vlog, you've seen jump cuts. Since most content creators don't have multiple cameras, most edits they make will be jump cuts. In most cases, this technique used to keep up the pace and energy of the video and maintain the audience's attention.

Cinematographers can use this technique to cut out pauses in dialogue, making conversations more intense. The jump cuts in Leonardo Dicaprio's monologue in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are a great example.

Create energetic montages

Jump cuts are also used to create montages. In a scene that might otherwise be boring, jump cuts add energy. One energetic use of the jump cut is in this montage of Katherine Heigl trying on all the bridesmaid dresses in 27 Dresses. This editing technique lets us see her changing into each dress faster and enjoy this upbeat atmosphere created by the montage.

Portray the passage of time

Jump cuts can also be used to show time passing. A great example of this is the use of jump cuts in Little Shop of Horrors to show how the poor flower shop has no customers. As each person jumps from one part of the screen to another, the audience feels that a lot of time has passed with no customers to be seen. 

Convey psychological state or unsettling atmosphere

In Run Lola Run, jump cuts are used to show Lola's frantic and deteriorating mental state by cutting to close-up shots that push in closer and closer (also known as sequential shots). The film also uses smash cuts interspersed with jump cuts to increase the feeling of disorientation.

4 jump cut examples in films

1. French New Wave Cinema: “Breathless” (1960)

Jean-Luc Godard’s movie Breathless has numerous examples of fast jump cuts in a single shot. 

For this film, Godard used only jump cuts in place of traditional narrative editing styles. The film was part of the French new wave movement and was a big hit. Breathless is widely considered a piece of cinematic history, and you can see its influence in movies today.

2. Edgar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World uses jump cuts to convey Scott's frenetic and impatient feelings. It's used here to show how restless Scott's night has been in a split second.

3. Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001)

Jump cuts show the passage of time in this scene from The Royal Tenenbaums. The editing technique also shows Luke Wilson's character's mental state as he prepares to take his own life.

4. “Boys” by Charli XCX (2017)

Music videos often use jump cuts and montages to tell a song's story. In Boys, this Charli XCX video gives the viewer a diverse tour of the “boys” she finds attractive. Jump cuts help to show each character’s personality in a short amount of time.

3 tips to create effective jump cuts

Now that you’ve seen different ways to use jump cuts and some examples of how they’ve been used, the next question is: how can you use jump cuts for your own video projects? Here are three approaches. 

Maintain continuity in action or dialogue

A jump cut is inherently shocking, so make sure the action, dialogue, and sound are consistent. For example, in Schindler’s List, the scene where Schindler must choose a secretary, the jump cuts go from one secretary to the next. But the music and typewriter sound keep the scene grounded.

Plan shots with jump cuts in mind

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, so it's always best to plan ahead, especially when shooting videos. When planning jump cuts, the same applies. 

Jump cuts involve cutting out portions of footage in order to create that jump from one frame to the next. As you write a script or shoot a video, think about how you want your footage edited and what you want the finished product to look like. You may have to shoot a scene longer than you planned to get enough footage to cut out and splice together.

Choose appropriate timing and rhythm

It takes finesse to create something striking. If you throw in jump cuts willy nilly, you’ll just get a disjointed mess and most likely lose your audience’s interest.

Make sure you time your jump cuts right, like this scene from The Ring. Here, jump cuts are used sparingly to show Samara is supernatural. They disturb the audience and take advantage of that uncomfortable jarring effect.

Master video effects with Descript

The only way to master this video editing technique is to practice jump cuts.

In order to practice, you’ll need a full-featured video editor. Whether it's videos for your YouTube channel, short films for screening, or full fledged cinematic features, Descript can help you create jump cuts in your projects. 

Use the video editing software to:

  • Edit videos by editing the text transcript
  • Make your videos more accessible with automated subtitles and captions
  • Use keyframe animation to zoom in on key elements or layers
  • Edit multiple tracks—including audio, video, images, and GIFs—in a single project
  • Use AI editing tools like Studio Sound and Green Screen to speed up the editing process  

Start editing and mastering jump cuts with Descript’s free video editor today.

Jump cut FAQs

What is a jump cut and why is it bad?

A jump cut happens when a piece of footage is removed from a video and the ends are spliced together. They can be jarring and awkward for viewers, which is sometimes what filmmakers want. You can use them to create interest or emotional reactions in a scene. 

What is a jump cut vs regular cut?

A jump cut stitches together footage from the same scene. A regular cut (also known as a match cut) creates a smooth transition between different scenes. 

What does jump cut mean in a script?

In the context of movie scripts, a jump cut moves the viewer forward in time in the same scene.

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