Jump cuts: Now you see ’em – now you don’t.

So you’re watching a taped interview on the evening news. The interview subject starts to answer a question, but after about ten words the position of her head suddenly changes from leaning forward to leaning backward. Then, after a few more words, her head suddenly tilts to the left. The audio sounds fine, so what’s going on with the video?

What’s going on is this: When they got the tape back to the studio, the producer and editor decided to slice and dice the interview a bit. Maybe the subject made a mistake that needed to be eliminated; maybe the producer decided to slap the beginning of one answer onto the end of another; maybe the answer ran too long so the producer had to trim a bit to stay within a defined time. Whatever the reason, the driving factor behind the editing was the audio. And if you closed your eyes and listened to the interview again you probably wouldn’t guess it had been edited. But with your eyes open, the edits are obvious. These kinds of edits are called “jump cuts” – because the video image seems to jump at the point of the edit. Jump cuts can be pretty ugly and distracting. But there are ways to apply a little video “sleight of hand” to either hide the jump cuts or at least minimize them.

Cover ’em up:
The best way of dealing with jump cuts is to hide them under visuals. If you have photos, films or other visuals that apply to the subject being discussed, insert them before the jump cuts occur and continue with them on screen until it makes sense to return to your interview subject. If you don’t have photos, you might be able to construct something – maybe a text screen that has some relevant information. Whatever you use, just make sure it relates to the topic at hand. Throwing in a visual that doesn’t pertain to what’s being covered in the interview distracts your viewers from what’s being said. Choose the right visuals, however, and they’ll reinforce and enhance the interview while hiding those distracting jump cuts. Your viewers will be none the wiser.

Smooth ’em out:
What if you really need to make a cut but you don’t have a visual to use as cover? In this case, your best option is to “soften” the cut. One way to do this is to place a dissolve at the cut point. The duration of the dissolve could be as short as three to four frames (known as a “soft cut”) or as many as ten. You’ll have to experiment and see what looks best to you. While it’ll be obvious to viewers that you’re making a cut, at least it’ll be easier on their eyes.

Another technique you can use is known as a “white flash.” Using your editing software, or graphics software like Photoshop, create a graphic screen that is white. Place the screen at the point of the interview edit, let it sit for a few frames, and then dissolve back to the interview. Experiment to see what looks best to you. You might even want to dissolve to the white screen a few frames before the cut, let it linger for several frames, and then use a longer dissolve as you return to your interview. The white flash will help “dress up” the cut a little and make it less distracting.

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