Posts Tagged ‘style’

To Jump Or Not To Jump

December 29, 2011 2 comments

There’s an old saying in television – “you have to know the rules before you can break the rules”. I don’t think there’s a single traditional edit rule that this applies to more than the Jump Cut. Considered to be a serious no-no in some video venues, it can be an effective effect if done right, and in the right context. But where is it right and where is it wrong, and is there a level of right and wrong in those contexts?

For newer editors currently scratching their heads and aren’t familiar with the concept, a jump cut is a cut from one shot to another in which the location, framing and positioning of the shot is very similar bordering on identical, but the subject in the shot has moved, causing it to appear as if the subject has instantly jumped from one position to the next. Now that I’ve described, you’re probably saying top yourself, “Oh, like in…”. That’s where the dilemna/debate comes in. How can something considered to be a “do not” have so many obvious examples where it works?

First, let’s take a look at where it is a no-no, and for that, you need look no further than your TV at 6pm every night. News editing is one of the last bastions of a genre of editing that strictly abides by all of the fundamental rules of editing. Never crossing the axis, b-rolling over jump cuts, low BG sound under broll to fill out the audio spectrum, letting action in the shot begin and end…all of these rules are adhered to religiously by news editors. The reason is because, while I consider editing to be 10% technical and 90% artistic, the end goal of editing in news is to inform and tell a story, and as with most stories, being too artistic detracts from the end message. The viewer shouldn’t have to deduce intent from artistic style. That’s why you can hear clear audio edits in interview clips under broll…because we don’t want you to see edit, as it results in a jump cut.

Now, before we go any further, let’s take a look at examples of things that aren’t jump cuts, and why…

1) Dissolves – this is probably the easiest way of getting around the jump cut, as it smoothes the transition between the two shots, takes away the instantaneousness of the cut and creates the illusion of time change. You see this sometimes in sports highlight cutting. If Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees were to strike out the side in the 9th, you wouldn’t want to just cut between the three strike outs because, more often than not, you only have one camera shot to edit from…the main game camera. Putting a dissolve between each strikeout helps us see the transition of time while smoothing the harshness. For a non-sports analogy, think about how many times you see a shot of a clock, and then time passes. How do they do it…by dissolving t0 a later time. Technically speaking, if they were to just cut between the two shots, it would be a jump cut, as the framing and composition would be the same.

2) Stop-motion animation – If you’re really stingy on the definition and follow it to the letter, then all stop-motion animation is a jump cut. The framing stays the same, the compostion is usually the same, only the subject changes position. However, since the frequency of the usage of jump cuts is what creates this animation style, it can’t be considered the breaking of an edit rule. The same goes for…

3) Time Lapse – While this example really doesn’t carry into the world of non-linear editing, simply based on the fact that our ability to pull off a time lapse now is done through a couple of keystrokes, let’s go back to the days of tape. Back then, time lapse meant shooting sometimes as little as one frame per second. Then, you would take all those frames and put them together at normal speed, creating a clip that ran at 30 times normal speed. The key here is that to perform time lapse photography, you must in essence commit a jump cut. However, as the old saying goes…once is a mistake, twice is an oversight, three times is an effect. Time lapse photography requires a lot of jump cuts, therefore it’s an effect.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s deflate the elephant in the edit suite and admit that jump cuts are also considered an artistic style. Some of the earliest examples of jump cut as style can be seen in the works of Jean-Luc Godard. But you don’t have to go back that far for an example. Any show that has a handheld, documentary-style look to it uses jump cuts to add to the “grittiness” of the mood. Fans of Homicide: Life In The Street will now start to recognize what I’m talking about.

I think where you see a lot of it, though, is in comedy shows. Not scripted sitcoms, but in Guerilla-style comedy shows. For Canadian readers, think back to early Tom Green Show episodes. While perhaps not done intentionally, the use of jump cuts created a style for the show that was unlike anything on Canadian TV at the time. It was raw, fresh…and made rules by breaking them. It said “it’s okay to do this”, and people since have followed suit.

So, when deciding whether or not you want to use jump cuts or adhere to the “rules”, ask yourself this…does it suit what I’m cutting. In the end, that’s the only question that matters, and should be the only deciding factor in any edit that you do.


Effective Effects

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment


One night, I sat down to watch what could possibly go down as one of the greatest modern B-movies today…Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus.

Admittedly, it’s not Oscar-calibre filmmaking, but I do enjoy a good “bad” movie. But as I was watching this monstrosity of Mega-badness, I noticed something about the editing. It seemed to me that the editor had one trick up their sleeve for this film. It was a speed burst with a chroma drop and luminance flare at the peak speed, which also acted as the “change shot” spot. It’s a great effect…subtle, simple and makes for a great transition (and as anyone who has had the “pleasure” of seeing this movie will attest to, it needed all the help it could get). The one problem was that the editor in question started to use it in places that didn’t need it. There was one shot where the editor actually did the speed burst but just used it speed up a slow move in. After seeing the effect used to change shots/scenes, it threw me off, and was a perfect example of when an effect can go from effective to distracting.


Now I don’t mean to pick on this editor in particular. There’s a charm to this film that fans of the genre no doubt appreciate. However, if watching TV provides lesson material for future editors, then that one scene makes a great object lesson. It shows the need to draw the line between when something is served better with an effect, and when it’s just overkill. Another perfect example is Jersey Shore. I forced myself to watch this one day, and had I suffered from epilepsy, I might possibly have had a seizure. This show is so effects heavy, that at times it’s hard to make out what’s going on. There was one scene where the shots were taken from an overhead camera. They tossed in a film shutter effect and scratch effect that was so quick, that I had to squint to see who was on-screen. Now, I understand that, being on MTV, the show’s audience demands that “music video” style of edit. Maybe it’s to divide those who watch the show and those who probably shouldn’t. However, I remember the early days of Real World and Road Rules, and while those shows did have their occasional effects, they were way more restrained than their Jersey channel-mates.


Now that I’m done being a TV grouch, I can get to the point of it all…determining when an effect is needed and when it’s too much. Some of the things that might make an effect necessary could be…


1) Different-looking viz: If you have a bunch of shots filmed in different locations/lighting conditions, an effect is a good way of visually tying things together. Photo colour filters, texture blends and the like are great ways of unifying your look.


2) Style: JJ Abrams’ Star Trek had one of the most subtle effects tossed in, but it added to the filming style. The little light flare that you saw in many of the interior shots. It was just something simple, but added just enough to keep our attention firmly on the screen.


3) Theme: You see in this a lot of event broadcasts…a graphical theme that is carried throughout the show. Much as the first point creates visual uniformity on a smaller scale, this creates it for the entire broadcast.


4) Audience: This is where I come to the defense of Jersey Shore. I completely understand that the producers of the show are catering to a certain market. If you watch MTV, you want flashiness, quick cuts and heavy effects. If you’re watching PBS, don’t expect to see too much splash. You can turn a viewer away if your effects aren’t designed for your audience. Imagine watching one of today’s music videos in the middle of The Lawrence Welk Show.


To the new editor, though, effects can be just too much to resist. It’s like a new toy…the minute you know how to play with it, you can’t stop. It’s the visual Lays potato chip. So how can you avoid this trap? Well, there’s always the tried and true “trial and error” approach, but this could lead to multiple revisions and if you’re on a deadline, this isn’t timely idea. One thing you can do is to go on an effects bender. If you have the time and opportunity, take a simple montage or scene and layer as many effects as you can on it. Do about 5 effects per run through. Make it the most visually hideous thing you could think of. Make it completely unwatchable! It’s the same theory as when kids would get locked in the closet and told to smoke an entire pack because they got busted by their parents. It’s designed to get it out of your system. Oddly enough, along the way, you’ll also get to see what effects work and which ones are better left in the filing cabinet labelled “Star Wipes”. Call it “effect aversion therapy”, but in a fun way. Go ahead…make it look horrible. Along the way, you’ll discover that if you can make it look really bad, you can also make it look really good.