Jump Cut

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"I think my neck got broken in that last jump cut!"
Crow, Mystery Science Theater 3000


An abrupt edit, cutting from one shot to another almost exactly like it. Very jarring to the viewer. (Sometimes, this jarring quality is a deliberate choice on the part of the filmmaker; see the examples below.) To avoid this, the editor will usually cut away, then cut back to the second shot, with a Reaction Shot or other coverage in between.

Can happen in live studio settings, when two cameras are focused on the same person or object. Switching directly from one to the other creates a jump cut.

In an interview, a single lengthy response must often be time compressed. Since the interview subject is often held in a single long shot, the cut must be covered. This can be done by cutting in illustrative footage (called B-Roll), cutting to a Reaction Shot of the interviewer, or by using a fast dissolve or wipe instead of a hard cut.

Note the scarcity of examples. Jump cuts are considered distracting by most directors and avoided by most Hollywood editors. Inadvertent examples can often be found in the atrocious B movies picked-apart by Mystery Science Theater 3000, as indicated above.

Examples of Jump Cut include:
  • Jump cuts were used on purpose in the film Capote during the hanging scene.
  • Jump cuts are also used to disorient viewers, often representing paranoia. Films that use them in this way include Goodfellas and Bug.
  • The film most widely credited with popularizing jump cuts is Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (French title: A bout de souffle). The jump cuts weren't used to any specific artistic purpose, however; they were done mainly to get rid of scenes that made the film too long.
    • Although one of the points of the film is to do everything in pretty much the opposite way it would be done in Hollywood continuity, which includes this.
      • It also woke up Hollywood to take new paths. Without this little movie, our cinemas would still run on cuts used in the 50s.
  • This is, in fact, sadly common with older movies which were never digitalized, and have several bad (cut/torn/dirty/burned) pieces of film which have to be cut out in order to make the film watchable again. In order not to cut around even more the publishers often decide in favour of the jump-cutty result in material.
    • Frank Cappa's classic It's a Wonderful Life contained a scene of these: when Uncle Billy taunts Potter in the bank, and accidentally leaves him his newspaper.
    • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode The Girl in Gold Boots has such a jump cut, getting rid of a bit where a character enters a scene. Mike and the bots immediately decided that he had teleported in. (Several other episodes had jump cuts, but this was a particularly notable instance.)
  • Jump cuts are occasionally the intersection of a Stop Trick or Match Cut and Special Effect Failure—in Star Wars (A New Hope), Luke Skywalker deactivates his lightsaber on-screen aboard the Millennium Falcon and appears to teleport a little bit. These effects are only convincing (though still often jarring) when everything except what needs to change stays in exactly the same position.
  • Frequent, fast, deliberate jump cuts are one of the defining characteristics of the Lonelygirl15 series, adding to the series' quirky, slightly surreal nature. Nevertheless, many viewers still found it irritating.
    • As a result, hundreds if not thousands of vlogs use it today. Astoundingly irritating to professionals and wannabe professionals.
      • Although Ze Frank's "The Show" actually popularized the use of jump cuts, airing six months before Lonelygirl15.
  • Will Navidson uses jump cuts extensively and intentionally in certain scenes of The Navidson Record to express the jarring and isolating nature of the house.
  • Utilized in the Firefly episode "Objects in Space", during the opening sequence of River reading the crew's mind; jump cuts are used to offset the crew's "thoughts" with the actual scene, as well as show River's disjointed mindset as she moves throughout the ship.
    • Also used in one scene in the pilot, for a similar purpose.
    • Joss Whedon sometimes portrays insanity by having an actor speak a monologue in several different styles and editing them together with many rapid jump cuts, intensifying the sensation of a character's mind breaking from reality. Used in Buffy, Firefly, and Dollhouse.
    • Another example in "Objects in Space": when River is deconstructing Early's life and motives, there are several jump cuts between Early's serene face and shots of him gnashing his teeth and shaking his head in frustration, which is implied to be how he's really feeling at the moment.
    • Again with River in Serenity when she wakes up...and then wakes up.
  • Perfect Blue: Occurs at a faster pace as Mima loses her grip on reality.
  • The Lost episode "The Constant" involves such complicated editing that the editor takes part in the DVD commentary to discuss his choices. In two scenes, jump cuts are used as Desmond is banging on doors, suffering from time disorientation. The editor calls attention to the fact that jump cuts are usually considered horrible, but are used specifically to help the audience feel Desmond's disorientation.
  • The film adaption of Trainspotting uses jump cuts in one scene as a metaphor for the POV of a character under the influence of speed.
  • MythBusters makes a lot of use of this technique, typically when something is being built. It's even lampshaded by the narrator in the Moon Landing Myths episode.
  • Used Abused Perfected in Marble Hornets where the cuts are created by either J creating them, Slender Man causing disturbances, or someone (totheark?) messing with the video. The latter two types are noticeably effective.
  • Used repeatedly during Janet's breakdown monologue in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, prompting the callback:

Janet: What's happening?
Audience: It's called a jump cut, bitch!

  • Studio Shaft loves these.
  • Mononoke uses these frequently, coupled with intentionally Deranged Animation and Mind Screw to cement its status as a surreal Psychological Horror series. For instance, in the first arc, there's a scene where the "camera" stays on the floor with a doll in the foreground, as a character walking down a corridor slowly jumps into the distance. At some point along the way, the doll turns to look after her during a cut.
    • Trapeze, by the same director, uses jump cuts a lot as part of general extreme weirdness.
  • Dr. Ashen is a one-man, one-camera operation who films stuff on his couch or kitchen floor. Every time the doorbell rings or he sneezes on the camera he has to jump cut over it. He never fails to tell you why there's a cut, though, and it's always reasonable.
    • Note that unplanned jump cuts come out of nowhere and in mid sentence ("ARGH! Jump cut!") and planned ones are called in advance ("Get ready for a jump cut...PING!").
  • Some shows (like The Benny Hill Show) used a jump cut for intentional "jump cut to a dummy falling from a great height into jump cut to character getting up after falling" gag.
  • Wheel of Fortune used to use these when the show still had its mechanical puzzle board. Every time the host said "Our category for this next round is...", there would be a jump cut from him to the puzzle board. What home viewers didn't see was the puzzle board getting pushed back into the studio with that round's puzzle freshly loaded in. Thanks to the electronic puzzle board first implemented in February 1997, such jump cuts are no longer needed.
  • Parks and Recreation likes using jump cuts, which fits with it being a Mockumentary. The "real" reason for this is often to glue together a series of Throw It In bits, such as with this scene. Another episode has a Confession Cam scene with a drunken Ann. As filmed, Rashida Jones paused between two lines, but when the episode was edited, the editor decided to turn the pause into a jump cut in order to give the impression Ann had been ranting for a long time. This is pointed out on the DVD Commentary for that episode.
  • Raocow sometimes uses jump cuts in his Let's Play videos. Most often, this happens if he accidentally dies; he will let the character die and then jump-cut back to the same spot that he was at before dying. Sometimes, he will also jump-cut mid-sentence, making his already surreal voiceovers even more so.
  • Transformers Armada used this, but not intentionally—the animation was simply rushed, so often they used the same background, even if the "camera" switched focus to another character. And there was also one bizarre scene, when they showed Thrust, suddenly jump cut to a totally random and pointless shot of the same background (but no Thrust), then back to the same image as before, with Thrust magically reappearing and continuing his thing. Nothing happened during that strange stray shot of the scenery.