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Jump cut

An abrupt transition without continuity.

A jump cut is a cut in film editing in which two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that vary only slightly if at all. This type of edit gives the effect of jumping forwards in time. It is a manipulation of temporal space using the duration of a single shot, and fracturing the duration to move the audience ahead. This kind of cut abruptly communicates the passing of time as opposed to the more seamless dissolve heavily used in films predating Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, when jump cuts were first used extensively. For this reason, jump cuts, while not seen as inherently bad, are considered a violation of classical continuity editing, which aims to give the appearance of continuous time and space in the story-world by de-emphasizing editing. Jump cuts, in contrast, draw attention to the constructed nature of the film.

Continuity editing uses a guideline called the "30 degree rule" to avoid jump cuts. The 30 degree rule advises that for consecutive shots to appear seamless, the camera position must vary at least 30 degrees from its previous position. Some schools would call for a change in framing as well (e.g., from a medium shot to a close up). Generally, if the camera position changes less than 30 degrees, the difference between the two shots will not be substantial enough, and the viewer will experience the edit as a jump in the position of the subject that is jarring, and draws attention to itself. Although jump cuts can be created through the editing together of two shots filmed non-continuously (spatial jump cuts), they can also be created by removing a middle section of one continuously filmed shot (temporal jump cuts).

Jump cuts can add a sense of speed to the sequence of events.

Vernacular use of the term jump cut can describe any abrupt or noticeable edit in a film. However, technically, many such over-broad usages are incorrect. In particular, a cut between two different subjects is not a true jump cut, no matter how jarring. A jump cut usually involves a jump through narrative time (as with the famous holiday greeting in Citizen Kane) or an "elliptical" edit, wherein a shot of continuous action is broken up with a sudden cut.

A match cut (a.k.a. graphic match) may also be abrupt, but the viewer is meant to see the similarity between two scenes with disparate subjects rather than experience the discontinuity between the two shots.

Jump cuts are also distinguishable from an impossible match on action (a.k.a. impossible continuous action), where the action of the subject seems continuous and fluid but the background suddenly changes in an impossible way. Several of the cuts, sometimes mislabeled jump cuts, in the "Patricia in the car" sequence from Godard's Breathless are actually examples of impossible match on action. ( Contradicts example illustrated above ? ) Other infamous examples include Resnais' Last Year in Marienbad, the "air mattress to Mrs. Robinson" cut in The Graduate, and the very last cut in Pal Joey where Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak instantly walk from a street in San Francisco to a location with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Key Terms

breathless
degree rule
degrees
duration
film
jump cut
jump cuts
shots
subject
viewer

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Jump cut
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Last modified on May 28 2019
Content adapted from Wikipedia
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