SFC4 | Defining the J & L Cut


How exactly does a J cut or an L cut work?

Below I have an images of each cut as they appear on a timeline within a video editor program: 

L – CUTL-Cut-865x85.jpg

J – CUTJ-Cut-865x85.jpg(Images provided by premiumbeat.com)

As you can see, these cuts get their names from how they appear on the timeline, with the L cut cutting on the video layer first and then the audio layer to create an ‘L’ shape in the timeline, and the J cut cutting on the audio layer first and then the video layer to form a ‘J’ shape in timeline.

What is the point of this cut?

Using either a J or an L cut is a much more subtle way of editing (generally). It allows an edit to flow together much more seamlessly and cleanly together, and a cut like this is much more difficult to spot than a regular old straight cut. A good editor is often one whose work is unnoticeable, so these two cuts are a crucial tool in an editor’s arsenal. When used properly the audience will never notice it taking place.

Wider definitions:

The nature of sound in film is often multi-layered, with the 3 main sound layers being:

  1. Dialogue
  2. Sound Effects
  3. Music

These layers can interact with the visual layers in an edit in very similar ways that can resemble the ‘J’ and ‘L’ cut shapes in the timeline. Professional editors who may have used these techniques numerous times in their work might not even know it as a “J-cut” or an “L-cut” as ultimately, most edits consist of many layers, all of which will overlap and intersect in many ways and form many different shapes, some of which may even resemble letters. I find it interesting that we have only named these two. Are these the two fundamental shapes of editing?


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