It may be considered the most basic part of editing, but there’s nothing basic about a cut.
Cuts can be powerful tools in the hands of anyone who knows how to wield them. They don’t just make videos look way cooler, they bring an extra dash of clarity, brevity, and seamlessness to the table.
In this episode of The Visual Lounge, Matt Pierce takes us through some handy cutting techniques as well as how to use them on Camtasia or any other video editing tool.
This is a great episode to sink your teeth into if you’re looking to grasp the ABCs of video editing.
You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…
Leveraging the power of the “basic” cut
No doubt, video editing involves a lot of elements and techniques, but one of the most vital things to master is cutting. It’s hard to overlook that sudden move from one shot to another when you’re so used to seeing videos play seamlessly on a screen.
But imagine a world without the ability to cut, dissect, splice, and fit together different elements of a video. Let’s just say, it would completely alter the way compelling stories are told on both big and small screens everywhere.
In Matt’s words, “cutting allows you to focus your message.” In fact, simply adding or removing elements gives clarity, provides context, and compels certain emotions from the viewers. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more that cutting allows you to do.
In that vein, besides discussing a few simple but handy cutting techniques, Matt shares a few things to look out for when cutting your videos.
1. Context is important
This is an important one, especially when it concerns screen recordings. Cuts tend to get a bit difficult in this case because changing things often robs the viewer of context.
The thing about videos is that it’s never just about telling a generic story. Those little details that could potentially throw off the viewer matter. That makes it vital to consider things like the placement of elements of your screen and the kind of information you’ll be potentially losing once you implement any cuts.
2. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to using cuts
While there’s a methodical and technical way to use cuts, there’s a certain artistry to it that’s both liberating and confusing. You’ll end up wondering whether there are special occasions where jump cuts are more suited or if a cut-in-action would do the trick better.
Sure, there are instances where it’s clear which cut to go for, but the rest of the time, it’s all about the message you’re trying to convey and the feelings you hope to invoke. The best time to use a particular cut is when it makes sense and when it feels right.
So, when in doubt, listen to the artist within.
3. Jump cuts are tricky. Period.
Remember what we said about context? Well, jump cuts are the number one culprit when it comes to warping context in videos. There’s just something about instantaneously jumping from one shot to another that can be unnerving, especially when there’s a lot of movement.
In other words, jump cuts tend to rob videos of that seamless, polished look most people tend to go for.
However, there’s good news. In some cases, that disorientation is not such a horrible effect.
Once again, this pulls us back to the issue of artistry. Having that little element of disorder could be just the thing that gives your video an edge. Call it a creative choice, if you will.
Bottom line: if you’re looking to achieve something clean and seamless, pay closer attention to the details as you use your jump cuts.
4. Your audience is key
Editing your videos isn’t just about pushing the boundaries to create a seamless piece of work. It’s about creating a narrative that your audience can follow and appreciate. So, while you’re thinking about what looks good to you, it’s a good idea to think about who exactly your audience is and what they’d like to see.
With that in mind, it’ll make it a lot easier to use the right cuts in the right places.
5. Cutting is just the foundation
Yes, cutting is a crucial part of the video editing process, but if there’s one thing to remember it’s that it doesn’t just end with cutting. Always think of the video editing process in terms of “what’s next?”
Sure, the video can look a bit choppy when you’ve only just applied a basic cut, but will it get that much-needed facelift if you add some sound or switch around the placement of the media elements?
There’s a broader picture to look at and thinking things through on a larger scale helps you build a road map to which techniques will work (and the ones that won’t).
The key video cuts to learn
Once you’ve gathered all your raw and unedited footage, what’s next? It’s time to snip away at the excesses, clear away some of the clutter, and put the pieces together in a more visually compelling way.
If you’re looking to do all this, here are a few fundamental cuts to master before you bring out the big guns.
A jump cut does exactly what it says, which is to jump abruptly forward in time. This cut can be a bit tricky, but the great thing is that it plays nice with other kinds of cuts, for example, montages. For the most part, jump cuts are more natural when the subject is static and are often done in the same frame.
Perhaps the most iconic examples of this type of cut are the training montages in all the Rocky movies. In a way, this is basically a jump cut, but in this case, it takes place in more than one frame. Montages also work well in the form of PowerPoint-style slides.
J and L cuts
Now, this is where things get a bit more artistic because with J and L cuts, you have to think about how you’re going to combine different media to push your narrative. However, the cuts get their name from how they look on video editing timelines.
Another one that simply does what it says. It’s a simple cut right in the middle of an action, to the corresponding reaction. It’s quite a natural cut too since it leverages actions that are pretty much expected.
Cutaways are basic cuts that give more context to what’s going on. You can show one thing, then cut away to another action to give the viewers a broader sense of what’s going on.
For more insights into how to cut your videos and other techniques to up your video editing game, it’s worth watching or listening to the full episode. You can also visit the TechSmith Academy for more material and pointers to help you upgrade your skills.