I love a good jump cut. I love slipping them in to narrative work to give you a glimpse in to the splintered psyche of damaged character.
What is a jump cut you say?
It’s a cut where you keep the same frame, with the same subject and you chop some time out without cutting away to anything. It’s kinda jarring because our brains work in a linear way, they even edit our visual stream, either to reduce the torrents of info reaching our brain, or to keep us safe. You can test this yourself; if you whip your eyes from one side of the room to the other you’ll notice that you don’t see the motion blur in between the movement the way you do see it with a camera whip pan. Your brain cuts that moment out to stop you from getting motion sickness.
We’re neurologically wired to take in scenes chronologically, so jump cuts leap out at us. In drama, they’re often used to enhance a heightened emotional state in a character, or to draw the viewer’s attention to the fact that they’re watching a constructed story. Documentaries on the other hand try to avoid them at all costs, they want their pieces to be immersive reality and not a construct. The last thing documentaries want is to remind the audience that they’re watching a film.
That is, until now.
YouTubers are turning this idea on its head, intentionally using jump cuts in an effort to make themselves seem less professional. This rough round the edges approach makes them look more real and believable, just the average person, videoing themselves with no professional training. This ‘truthful’ style can be particularly useful if you’re trying to push a product without seeming like an advert.
The technique can be over used, I’ve even seen it referenced by some vlogers making use of it, which shatters the illusion that it’s a happy mistake, by an amature broadcastying from their bedroom. But when the jump cut is done well, it can really sell the image of reality.
Here’s one of my favorite vlogs laying down some true jump cuted facts:
What does this mean for the oldfassion TV docs and dramas? The jump cut has now been introduced into the the visual dictionary of YouTube viewers and soon the language will become commonplace. The effectiveness of the jump cut as a jarring technique could diminish and no longer will documentaries need cutaways to get round a tricky edit; in fact using cutaways could be seen as a lie.
Could the Jump Cut become the new documentary standard for truth?