What is… a Jump Cut?

A jump cut is an edit whereby the camera position of a shot varies only slightly or not at all from the preceding shot.

In continuity editing, filmmakers should adhere to the ’30 degree rule’, a principle whereby the camera in consecutive shots should move position by at least 30 degrees. This makes it clear to the audience that a cut has been made and that they are now looking at a totally different shot. If the camera moves less than 30 degrees between shots, then the cut will be abrupt and jarring for the audience, thus creating a jump cut. They can be created either by editing together two separately-filmed shots (spatial jump cut) or by editing out the middle part of a single shot (temporal jump cut).

A jump cut may be used to show the passage of time in a scene and also to add a sense of speed. A jump cut may also be used as a Brectian-esque device to draw your attention to the fact you’re watching a constructed medium made of up separate shots. George Méliès, of Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) fame, is widely thought of to be one of the first to use jump cuts, having discovered them accidentally. He would use them to create on-screen illusions, although he would try and disguise the cut to make the illusion seem more authentic.

One film that has become famous for its use of jump cuts is Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 French New Wave classic À Bout de Souffle (Breathless). The film’s producer apparently asked Godard to reduce the length of the film, and one way he did so was during some of the conversations. Godard explained: “Instead of slightly shortening one and then slightly shortening the other, and winding up with short little shots of both of them, we’re going to cut out four minutes by eliminating one or the other altogether, and then we will simply join the [remaining] shots, like that, as though it were a single shot.”

Here’s a video showing jump cuts in À Bout de Souffle

For more entries in the ‘What is…?’ series, click here and (hopefully) learn a little bit about deep focus, chiaroscuro, German Expressionism, and more.

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44 thoughts on “What is… a Jump Cut?

  1. Nice piece my friend 🙂

  2. mettelray says:

    Oh how you educate me.. 😀

  3. Frame Rates says:

    The Fourth Wall! We had to learn all about this in production 101 at uni. Next up; The Dutch Angle?

  4. theipc says:

    I love these – thanks again!!

  5. Interesting post! It affords a unique perspective into a character. While listening to one and watching the other, you are forced to focus on details otherwise not noticed. Cool.

  6. jackdeth72 says:

    Hi, Terry:

    Terrific post and critique.

    I enjoy articles and discussions about cinematic tricks and staples. With jump cuts high amongst them. A great little French discovery that many many of their “New Wave” film more interesting, while saving time and film. Often allowing more time for exposition of characters and plot for what were Gallic perspectives of many earlier, lesser American “B-Movies”.

    A wonderful, artful gig if pulled off correctly, And Goddard and Trouffant have proven to be masters. With Gillo Pontecorvo’ high in the stratosphere with his very documentary looking ‘The Battle of Algiers’. Which heightened claustrophobia, suspense and a bit of paranoia.

    • Thanks Jack 🙂

      Thanks for the input, there’s some really interesting stuff in there and that’s what I like with these posts, that I can always learn a lot myself. I wasn’t aware of Pontecorvo’s work, I will have to read up on that. I do find it interesting that it seems as if it was literally a time saving method to begin with but it’s been used as a proper dramatic technique.

  7. Garrett says:

    Didn’t know Melies was the first to use these. Breathless is so popular for it’s use of jump cuts that I guess I assumed that Godard came up with them. Interesting…

  8. Mark Walker says:

    Fabulous stuff, once again Chris. I learn loads from these posts, man.

    Sorry, I haven’t been around lately, been really busy and decided to cut out blogging all together. I’ll be around a bit more now.

    • Thanks very much Mark and good to see you’re back! Hope you had a good break, did you do something constructive with your time or just took a break?

      • Mark Walker says:

        No I was very constructive. I was building an extention on my cabin in the hills. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very constructive on a blogging capacity. I hope to get back into the swing again soon though.

      • Sounds brilliant! That sounds as good a reason as any to take a break. Your absence has most definitely been noticed in the blogging community! 🙂

      • Mark Walker says:

        It’s good to be missed, man. I did have a few people getting in touch to see where I was. I’ll have to take a break again at some point but hopefully not as long next time.

  9. ruth says:

    Another excellent ‘What Is’ post, Chris, thank you!! Always fun to learn something new and nice to have a clip for examples, too. Well done.

  10. Zoë says:

    I love this! I learn something every time, and I love learning new things!

  11. Wow, so great. I love this!

  12. Great post as always! Love these; very informative 🙂

  13. keith7198 says:

    Nice post man. I love that you mention Godard. He was my first exposure to it. It became a familiar technique throughout the French New Wave.

  14. Tyson Carter says:

    Not often I learn anything from you, but always love these posts 🙂

    Good work my friend.

  15. armanddc says:

    Great post, man! I’m inclined to mention that when someone says jump cuts, I immediately think of “Black Swan,” but seeing the example you used (Godard), I’m now in shame. Loving your blog post by post.

    • Thanks very much, appreciate it! Black Swan is an excellent example! I only used Godard because I know he’s famous for the technique and the clip was easy to find.

      I wasn’t previously aware of your blog, but I’ve just popped over and it looks great, I’ll definitely be stopping by!

  16. vinnieh says:

    Great post, thanks for the link.

  17. Alex Withrow says:

    Great post. My favorite jump cut of all time is the bone-to-spaceship in 2001. What a moment in history right there.

  18. I feel slightly less stupid since I now know more about jump cuts. But in hindsight more stupid because I did not know and should have known those specific things about jump cuts (like the difference between temporal and spatial). Thank you!

    • Well I’m glad you learnt a little something Teddy! No need to film stupid in any way though; I don’t recall all of this stuff from memory, I have to do some reading on the subject first and so I’m always learning things too.

  19. Thomas Priday says:

    Good stuff. Glad you noted Breathless. 🙂

    It was the first Godard film I saw and I was sure it was always going to be my favourite of his. 21 Godard films in, I think it’s my least favourite now. 😛

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