Monday, January 5, 2009

J & L Cuts

What are J & L Cuts? Here is a quick explanation from Videomaker:

J and L cuts are the workhorses of news reporting. Imagine you have a medium shot of a reporter holding a microphone. He says, "Bob, I'm here at the scene of a nine-alarm fire at the Chico Match Factory. Smoke was seen coming from the building earlier today...." And then he continues to describe what happened. After the establishing shot, nobody wants to look at the reporter anymore - they want to see the fire. So you edit video of firefighters extinguishing the blaze over the top of the rest of the reporter's audio. This is an L or video advance cut, because you're bringing the video in and leaving the audio. On your video editing software screen, the lower track (audio) trails off to the right, not really looking very much like an upper case letter L but enough that someone started calling it that. The opposite transition, a J cut, might show a raging tornado running through a wheat field, while the viewers hear a reporter's voice stating, "Bob, this was the scene earlier today when a tornado ripped across this area." Then the news report usually cuts to the reporter, who finishes his story

Before non-linear editors or NLE for short, nobody called this style of transitioning J and L cuts. They call them J & L cuts because they look like a "J" or "L" on the timeline. Before NLE's they were called "audio advance" or "video advance" cuts - an audio advance cut means that the audio starts before the video; a video advance is the other way around.

J & L cuts help keep our videos from looking like a scene from Dragnet. In that old TV series film cuts were basic and just cut quickly between two people talking. Just the facts, ma'am.

Introducing a cut before the actor speaks or under action makes the whole scene flow better. Adding a slight dissolve can transition the cut better and cause the scene to flow easier on the eye too. You can slow down the scene as well. Plus you can have the audio from one take up and under the visuals from another.

In Movie Edit Pro, select your clip on the timeline then select and hold the CTRL key and then the "M" key. This will separate the audio from the video and allow you to move either independently, or even delete one or the other. With the Video & Audio as separate elements you can now do a J or L cut. Try it out on your next video!

You can use J and L cuts to play B roll over someone talking, or you can use them for unusual transitions between scenes. Either way, they can be powerful additions to your editing tool chest. And look for them in movies and on TV, and watch how the pros are using them.

Take a look at the cuts in these typical news casts:

Have fun and enjoy your new skill!

No comments: