Discontinuity: Jump Cut

What is a Jump Cut?

Misha Tenenbaum avatar
Written by Misha Tenenbaum
Updated over a week ago

Discontinuity happens when the audience visually notices a cut, because something about the cut calls attention to itself and it does not feel natural and seamless. Most of the time, filmmakers try to avoid discontinuity, but occasionally filmmakers might use discontinuity purposely to enhance a story and evoke an emotion in the audience.

Jump Cuts

The most typical type of discontinuity in filmmaking is called the Jump Cut. A jump cut is when an edit occurs in the middle of a continuous shot. This happens when the camera position doesn’t change very much, but the character or an object moves within the frame. When the cut happens, the movement of the character or object in the following shot makes it seem as if it “jumps” forward in time.

Jump Cut

In the image above, the two characters are arguing when suddenly the female character wearing blue pants magically takes the cake from the other character.

Jump cuts can happen by accident, so it is important for an editor to keep an eye out for them if they did not intentionally plan to include jump cuts in their edit. This is typical for new filmmakers. But at times, filmmakers might decide to use the jump cut deliberately for the purpose of the story.

Jump cut on purpose

In the Gif above the male character jump from the middle of the screen all the way to the right of the screen.

Filmmakers can use jump cuts on purpose, but only if it serves the story. If you decide to use jump cuts deliberately in your film, you should follow a few guidelines:

  • The camera should not move much, if at all.

  • The subject should move around the frame and look different enough that it is noticeable when the cut happens. You don’t want a jump cut to be too small that the audience thinks it is a mistake.

  • Incorporate more than one jump cut into a story, which establishes a style of telling your story. Having just one random jump cut within a film that is continuous can feel jarring.

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