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9 Tips to Know When to Cut In Digital Video Editing

Cut The Right Way

When you ask experienced video editors, how they know when to cut a shot, they will answer, that they just feel it. There is some truth in that, but here are some tips that will help you to “feel” the right time to cut a shot.


These are very technical and simple tips, that will make your editing a lot better, and will lessen the amount of what is known as “Jump cut” – when 2 shots are not cutting smoothly.

So here we go:

Know your digital video editing software

Become familiar with your video editing software. Know it’s tricks! The goal is not only to know how to cut the shots together but to do it in an easy and fast way and to be able to solve any problem you encounter with the footage you get. Knowledge of the editing software tools will help you do just that.

Keep Continuity

You can read more about continuity in the article – Continuity editing. but for now, what you need to know is that I’m talking about continuity between the shot and the one after it. For example lets say we connect a shot where the character lit a candle and then on the next shot he is holding the candle when it’s already half melted. This may jump to the eye of the viewer.
Now:
It may look like something that you can’t fix as an editor. They should have paid more attention in the shooting, right? Well…wrong. As a video editor, you will be expected to fix stuff like that and sometimes there are ways to do that. In our example, if you must connect the whole candle shot with the shot where the candle has been melted, try to push as many shots between them as possible, maybe some extreme close-ups on the faces or the hands so that the-the viewer will forget the size of the original candle. Sometimes it will be the small changes that the viewer will not notice right away, but he will feel something is wrong and won’t know why.
take a look at the first clip of this Mistakes In Movies – Pulp Fiction mix uploaded by UnusualVisual.

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Cut in action

A great trick in digital video editing to soften the cuts is cut in action, but it should be planned during shooting. Cut in action means to cut a shot in the middle of an action, and to continue the action in a different angle. If a character gets up from the chair, we can shoot him starts to get up from a long shot angle and then continues on another angle maybe a closer one. For this to work the character has to perform the action at any angle in the same manner and the two angles should be at a difference angle of at least 30 degrees in their direction.

The 30 degrees Law

I’ve talked about it in the article Basic camera angles & movements in film, but I’ll repeat it here quick. do not try to connect two different angles If their positions are less than 30 degrees from one another, it will not work. Even if it’s from Close-Up to Longshot. They just look too much alike.

Let The Character in

another nice trick is to start on an empty frame and let the character enter into the frame. Also, if there is a character in the frame that walks out, you should let her out completely until you move to the next shot

Cutting in the middle of camera movement

If for example the camera Tilts UP or turned in a Pan, let her finish the movement and even wait for half a second after she finishes. Do not cut it in the middle of the movement! The same when entering a shot with camera movement. You should start it about half a second before the start of the camera movement.

Finish the action

Let the actor finish the action before cutting to the next shot. Unless you make what is called “cut in action” (we’ll talk about it soon). When we cut in the middle of an operation, we feel that something is wrong with the connection of the shots.
That is because usually the actor doesn’t do the action exactly the same way in the two takes taken from the two different shots.

Look at the actor’s eyes

The next tip required some emotion in it. It’s not a law you can follow blinly without feeling it yourself. This is a tip I got from a book called In The Blink Of An Eye, a very recommended book by Walter Murch, an academy award winning film editor.  The trick here is simply to look at the actor’s eye to understand when he finished to deliver his emotion. This kinkind of cutting by bits. When you see the actor change his eye direction or maybe even blink, it can be a good time to cut. You’ll be amazed as to how emotions can be expressed by simply blinking.

Now this is the most important rule:

Provide more information

A shot always has to provide more Information. if the next shot will not provide any new information, so why did you cut to it? The video editor should always ask himself, what the audience need to see right now and what will he want to see next?

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You’ll have to remember that these rules are for smooth classic video editing. sometimes that is not what the scene needs, but even when you want to to bring a jumpy atmosphere to the scene, You should know these rules so you can break them:

Please watch what we’ve talked about in this fight scene from Raging Bull: