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Improve your Editing | What is a J cut and L cut?

 

Today we quickly explain what the terms J cut and L cut refer to in music-to-video editing and discuss how you can use these two techniques to improve your films.

Let’s start with the J cut. Put simply, this is when you use a piece of music in your video and you begin the piece slightly ahead of a new scene’s beginning.

So for example, in a Vlog where you have somebody talking to camera in their studio, and the next scene is where that same person is on location at an extreme sports event for example, then you could start the music that might underline the location shoot early - while we’re still in the studio. This helps the audience transition into the next scene more fluidly, builds the right kind of expectation due to your music choice, and is a great way of further enhancing the more generic ‘talking head’ section.


What’s important to point out is that this is different from music simply starting after a scene’s beginning. The distinction is that the music that starts is specifically intended to underline the next scene.

 

J CUT AND L CUT


In movies we often have a hybrid of a J cut combined with a standard ‘synched’ score that underlines the current scene. So, for example, the hero in an action film has just learnt an important piece of information that leads him to make a decision that means he will be leaving that location (in the next scene).


So, in our current scene we can now cue up a piece of music that helps support the sense of urgency and helps tell the story of the hero’s internal decision; the hero has probably seen something that tells the audience what his decision is, but the music plays a really important role here too. This same music now continues to play out and becomes even more resolute and intense in the forthcoming scene in which our hero now actions that decision he made in the previous scene.


Clear so far? We hope so! That leaves only the L cut to explain. It makes sense to have explained the J cut first, as the L cut is the opposite of a J cut in many ways.


So, if you’re using a L cut, then you leave the music from the current scene playing until some way into the next scene - even though it’s not intended to underline the next scene. This is just a gentler way of fading out the current scene’s music without it ending abruptly.


To be clear though, if your next scene also needs music from the get go, then you may need to rethink this approach as it works best when the next scene has no music immediately.

 

So, go and play with these two easy, but powerful, techniques to refine your music editing in your films!