Today, if you want to see the very definition of a jump cut in action, look no further than YouTube. On that specific platform, it’s common for makers of talking head videos to use jump cuts to skip awkward pauses or mistakes. Modern audiences are used to the technique, so you can make edits in post-production instead of trying to get one perfect take.
“People have little conversational fillers, or they’ll pause to think for a second, and no one wants to watch that, so you can cut those parts out and speed up the video,” says videographer Nick Cann.
But jump cuts aren’t just for YouTube. In marketing videos, jump cuts can add energy to the message. “A jump cut can fast-forward the vibe of a video and get the viewer’s heart rate up so they get excited and get a bit more involved. There’s no wasted time, no quiet points,” Cann says.
Jump cuts can be a great tool for showing the passage of time, with people abruptly coming and going while the camera stays still. They can also enhance mood, whether for comedy or horror, by having things suddenly appear or disappear on screen.
If you’re looking to surprise your viewers, take a lesson from Van Halen — you might as well jump. Just don’t overdo it. Footage that is too choppy becomes jarring and hard to watch. Like the match cut and the smash cut, the jump cut is a cinematic tool you should use only when there’s a good reason for it.