Jump cut

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A jump cut is a cut in film editing where the middle section of a continuous shot is removed, and the beginning and end of the shot are then joined together. The technique breaks continuity in time and produces a startling effect. Any moving objects in the shot will appear to jump to a new position.

Classical continuity editing does not make obvious use of jump cuts. Most cuts in that editing style occur between dissimilar scenes or significantly different views of the same scene to avoid the appearance of a jump. Every effort is made to make cuts invisible and unobtrusive.

Contemporary use of the jump cut stems from its appearance in the work of Jean-Luc Godard and other filmmakers of the French New Wave of the late 1950s and 1960s. In Godard's ground-breaking Breathless (1960), for example, he cut together shots of Jean Seberg riding in a convertible in such a way that the discontinuity between shots is emphasized. In the screen shots above, the first image comes from the very end of one shot and the second is the very beginning of the next shot — thus emphasizing the gap in action between the two (when Seberg picked up the mirror). 1960s filmmaker Richard Lester (most well known for working with the Beatles) also made innovative use of jump cuts.

The jump cut can be used as an alienating Brechtian technique (the Verfremdungseffekt) that makes the audience aware of the unreality of the film experience. This could be used to focus their attention on the political message of a film rather than the drama or emotion of the narrative — as may be observed in some segments of Sergei Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin.

In informal contexts the term jump cut is sometimes used to describe any abrupt and noticeable edit cut in a film. However, technically this is an incorrect usage of the term. A famous example of this is found at the end of the "Dawn of Man" sequence in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. A primitive ape discovers the use of bones as a weapon and throws the bone into the air. When the bone reaches its highest point, the shot cuts to that of a similarly-shaped space station in orbit above the earth. This edit has been described as a jump cut, including on the box of the DVD release of the film, but it is more correctly a match cut because the viewer is meant to see the similarity between the bone and the space craft and not the discontinuity between the two shots.

The jump cut was an uncommon technique for television until shows like Homicide: Life on the Street popularized it in the 1990s. It was also famously used in a campaign commercial for US President Ronald Reagan's successful 1984 reelection bid.

The jump cut is also sometimes utilized, particularly on children's television shows, as a very cheap special effects device to give the impression that a character or item can suddenly 'appear' in a scene, usually accompanied by an appropriate sound effect to show the audience that the visual discontinuity is part of the story. A truly convincing visual effect of this nature would need to involve some variation of chroma key visual effects or some form of digital or optical compositing, and so the jump-cut is often used as a 'passable' quick-and-easy and moderately effective technique.

Jump cutting is also very common in horror movies (and video games) as a way to frighten the audience into believing that paranormal events are happening (eg. the ghost-girl-walking-down-a-hallway clip). Movies such as The Ring and games like F.E.A.R. use this often.

Other films, such as Cloverfield and the Blair Witch Project, are filmed to look as if they were filmed by an amateur on a hand-held home video camera, and use jump cuts to reinforce this impression.

Reference

  • Bordwell, David; Thompson, Kristin (2006). Film Art: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-331027-1.