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…
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