Shooting your film is a significant portion of the filmmaking process, but everyone knows that the cutting room is where the endgame is at. While it is obviously essential to have all the raw material to work with, it is the editing what can make or break a film. Cutting in the wrong place or using an inadequate transition can significantly affect how the audience perceives the messages you are trying to convey. The best way to avoid any misunderstandings is learning the language of editing, and knowing some basic narrative cuts is the best place to start.
5 Narrative Video Edits You Must Know
You will become fairly familiar with the match cut since it is one of the most popular types of cut used in editing. The idea behind this cut is to preserve the illusion of continuity of an action between two shots. For instance, a shot of a person walking through a door must match the following shot in which they are now finishing said action.
Mixed match cut
Since the essence of a match cut is to preserve continuity or tie common elements together, you can use this to your advantage not just by following a certain action. You can use visual aspects of a shot to tie into the next shot, for example showing running water in the sink and next up a waterfall. You can match cut different shots using sound as well, like the sound of a boiling teapot followed by the horn of an oncoming train.
The contrast cut, on the other hand, seeks to juxtapose seemingly different elements in an effort to convey a message that alludes to their underlying similarities. Contrast cuts can be very simple or very elaborate depending on the context and the content of the film as well. Some of the most famous contrast cuts are subtle enough to not be perceived at first as attempts at communicating a deeper message, whereas other iconic examples rely heavily on the symbolism of the elements they join together.
Cross cutting is one of the most widely used techniques to let the audience know two or more things are happening at the same time. Much like its name implies, a cross cut takes us from one sequence of events to another, in most cases a parallel one that relates to the first. Action movies use this type of editing a lot, showing, for instance, a bank robbery being carried out in one shot and then in the next one showing the the police rushing to catch the thieves. This back and forth between sequences is cross cutting.
Bonus: the insert
Inserts are essentially auxiliary shots that serve to tell the audience something that is not inherently present in the sequence on screen. An insert can be pretty much anything and used in different ways. One example from horror movies is when the main character is being chased or cornered by a monster and suddenly, the action cuts to a shot of a weapon that the character could use to defend himself. In documentaries, for instance, inserts are used frequently to illustrate the ideas or themes that the narrator is talking about, such as footage of melting ice when talking about climate change or reenactments of epic battles when talking about Ancient Rome.