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Need help with J cuts

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Jon Fidler
Need help with J cuts
on Mar 15, 2009 at 5:28:57 pm

I have been searching everywhere, books and the net for an answer to this question with no luck, so If someone could help me it would be greatly appreciated

I understand the purpose of L and J cuts during dialogue, action, and documentary, but there is one use for a J cut I cannot understand.

I underatand that a J cut is used to introduced offscreen elements, and for fast paced over lapping conversations, but Sometimes on a show or film the first few words of the person who is speaking sentence are heard before they cut to the speaker. To me it looks like bridging two takes of audio but im not sure

Why is this?



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Stephen Smith
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:25:06 pm

[Jon] Sometimes on a show or film the first few words of the person who is speaking sentence are heard before they cut to the speaker. To me it looks like bridging two takes of audio but im not sure

I have found that If you watch a lot of old movies you can see that a dissolve is used a lot to transition from one scene to the next (first few words of the person). A dissolve helps tell the audience that there is a change in time. Fast forward to today, you will see very little dissolve transitions in a recently made movie. Dissolve can be distracting and upset pacing amongst other things. straight cuts, on the other hand do wonders, but sometimes can be distracting. The J cut can help ease into the new scene by letting the audio linger a little bit. I personally find that this can be achieved easier with SFXs. But these overlaps help make the straight cut into a new scene less jarring. At least thats how I see it. Hope this helps.





Stephen Smith
Salt Lake Video

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2


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Jon Fidler
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 16, 2009 at 2:09:24 pm

Hi

Thanks for this, but its not excactly what I was getting at, I literally mean during the flow of a conversation.

E.G

Bob: Hi Jon how are you today?

Jon: Im fine thanks, how about yourself?

Sometimes, the camera will still be on Bob, when he says Im fine thanks, and then cut to him, instead of cutting to this reaction and then the line.







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Stephen Smith
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 16, 2009 at 2:22:28 pm

The conversation between Bob and Jon will probably last 5 minutes or so. If you always cut at the end of the persons line to cut to the other person speaking it would be "ping-pong" cutting. And it would just feel like that. The J or L cut helps soften that. Here is an article that I think you would enjoy.

http://www.videomaker.com/article/13532/

Hope this is the answer you where looking for.





Stephen Smith
Salt Lake Video

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2


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Jon Fidler
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 16, 2009 at 2:34:40 pm

Thanks for the response

That was very helpful but I just need clarification on one more small point, in most films I see the reaction to the listener happens just as the speaker is finishing talking.

In the cases of the reaction happening at the start of a sentence, like in the example I wrote above. Is it usually the case of the listener has a good reaction at the start of the sentence or are they covering up a technical error.

I know this is a very broad question, I only ask as L cuts seem to happen about 10 times more often than J cuts in most film or tv dialogue scenes and I was wondering why?



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Stephen Smith
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 16, 2009 at 4:22:23 pm

I just finished cutting a feature film and never used a J cut to cover up some technical problem. I used it when it felt right and when I had footage that help the story along better. All of the audio technical problems where fixed with lay backs. I'm sure the technique is used to cover up technical problem ever know and then.





Stephen Smith
Salt Lake Video

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2


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Richard Herd
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 16, 2009 at 7:11:42 pm

There's a couple of issues there. Are you talking about cutting Matching Singles or cutting a "mise en scene"?

With matching singles, the footage was shot (as Camera A), Actor 1 delivered all of his lines and reactions in one take while Actor 2 stood nearby off camera "feeding" the lines. Then the camera was swung around (as Camera B) for Actor 2 and the scene was repeated, so Actor 2 could deliver all of her lines and reactions while Actor 1 was nearby off camera "feeding" the lines.

In editing, this means you have sync of Camera A (take 1 - 5) and sync of Camera B (take 1 - 5). You might want to use dialogue from take 1 but reaction from take 4. This gets tedious.

You are correct, though, it is (at least) two tracks of audio. It's an easy way to:
-- CAMERA A Take 1,
-- Reaction CAMERA B take 5 (maybe say a line?)
-- CAMERA A Take 3.

Sometimes this can make the narrative feel a bit fragmented, so the director may choose to cover the scene with a wholly separate technique: mise en scene, it's sometimes called--where the operator pans/dollies/steadicams/swishes--basically moving the camera, "setting the scene" between Actor A and Actor B. In that instance, there would be a single track of audio. Problem here is that while the camera is on Actor A, there is no coverage of actor B.

So...

It's important to note that this is not an either/or scenario. I mean, you can cover a scene in matching singles AND in MES and then really use the editing to ramp the pacing as the scene reaches its denouement. "24" does a very good job of this, by the way.



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Bill Davis
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 16, 2009 at 10:41:01 pm


Cutting is about a lot of things. Simultaneously. Sometimes it's about seeing the person speaking. Sometimes it's about seeing the reaction of another person to the person speaking. Sometimes, you get a Great line delivery, but there's a glitch. "No, she didn't sleep with Tim, ev... ever! And you realize that if you leave the glitch, the audience will get distracted. So you use a J cut or an L cut as necessary to cover the damn glitch and smooth out the scene.

Sometimes, it's simply about either the visual or the auditory rhythm of the scene.

I remember cutting a scene once where the actor kept looking at a secondary character in order to involve her in the scene, not realizing that we had tight crossing two shots. The eye movement made him look shifty. So I covered the eye glances with a series of J and L cuts as needed.

Any form of edit is simply a tool. You're trying to focus the flow of images and auditory information so that the audience can easily extract the needed ideas and keep your story flowing.

IMO, editing should never be a "when this happens, use this kind of edit." But rather an exercise where you understand the nature and effect of all the types of edits at your disposal and deploy them when they best serve the needs of the scene you're cutting.

FWIW.



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Jon Fidler
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 17, 2009 at 1:25:05 pm

Thanks very much, everyones responses have been extremely helpful



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Dan Archer
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 17, 2009 at 4:21:39 pm

I have never heard of a "J" cut. What you talkin bout willis???????

A cut is a cut & a dissolve is a disolve, and not just anybody with a system is a pro.


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Stephen Smith
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:38:33 pm

[Dan] 'I have never heard of a "J" cut. What you talkin bout willis???????



I thought you would find this funny.


You should also check out this old TV ad:











Stephen Smith
Salt Lake Video

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2


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Tim Kolb
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 23, 2009 at 1:34:00 pm

[Dan Archer] "A cut is a cut & a dissolve is a disolve, and not just anybody with a system is a pro."

Um...ok.

As Stephen illustrates, a J cut is when audio leads picture at the edit, we hear the audio of actor B starting to respond to actor A before we cut to him visually. An L cut is when audio trails video...actor B says something inflammatory and we want to see actor A's face respond even before actor B is finished talking.

In theory, if you picture the video track above the audio track, the visualization of the two edits look a little like a "J" when audio leads picture and an "L" when audio trails...



TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,


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Jason Diebler
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 24, 2009 at 4:31:05 pm

I had a professor in film school who won an Academy Award for sound design who once said that there is a psychology to the J cut...

Typically, when someone speaks, you first hear, then you look and pay attention. Its the natural way our senses lead us. Hear first, then look.









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Dan Archer
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 26, 2009 at 9:39:40 pm

I have used it many time but never heard it called a J cut. I always though of it as an L cut but bass ackwards. A rose by any other name...........


And Stephen that was hilarious.

A cut is a cut & a dissolve is a disolve, and not just anybody with a system is a pro.


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Stephen Smith
Re: Need help with J cuts
on Mar 26, 2009 at 9:48:11 pm

[Dan] I have used it many time but never heard it called a J cut

Believe it or not, but Wikipedia has never heard of one either. They only cover an L cut:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L_cut





Stephen Smith
Salt Lake Video

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2


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