How J cut and L cut video transitions take shape.
J cuts and L cuts get their respective names from the shapes they create on your post-production timeline. When the audio comes in before the following scene’s imagery, it forms a J shape. Conversely, when the visuals change but the audio clip remains the same, it looks like an L.
J cuts and L cuts are used to some degree in most filmmaking types, though they may not be obvious. A good example of a J cut in recent cinema is in The Wolf of Wall Street. The audience witnesses Leonardo DiCaprio’s admiration for his first sale on the stock market floor. Simultaneously, the background music is an audio advance of the “Money Chant” that Matthew McConaughey does in the following scene.
L cuts are more commonly used in dialogue scenes, as it allows editors to create a more natural flow between the characters and the opportunity for reaction shots.
When to use J cuts and L cuts.
Like many aspects of filmmaking, when to use a J cut or an L cut comes down to stylistic choice. But there are some situations where one may be more powerful than the other.
As an intro, a J cut is a perfect method to create intrigue for your viewer before the first shot. Bring in the sound early to pique your audience’s interest. J cuts can generate a sense of urgency too. They can give the viewer the feeling that a scene is being cut short.
Drag it out.
To give the feeling that the story doesn’t end after the credits roll or to make one scene affect your view of the next, L cuts work well.
L cuts can be useful in dialogue scenes too. They can establish the setting and visual information that comprises the overarching story during a scene transition. Use L cuts as opportunities to showcase the actions, expressions, and reactions of your characters to the dialogue. If your video clip has a dream or flashback sequence, an L cut is a great way to signify the start.
Pass the time.
If you need to find a way to show the passage of time, try a montage. A montage is a continuous series of short shots, used to condense information for the audience. They intertwine multiple narratives in a nonlinear fashion, and juxtapose different types of shots without the use of a hard cut. While both J and L cuts can work well for this editing technique, use L cuts to turn narration into a montage to powerfully pair images with words.
Risk and reward.
Mix and match cuts to finesse and focus your story. Both types of cut can create a new layer of symbolism that was missing before. Experiment with both types and see what works best for your project. Depending on what your video clip is, take risks: You can try both within the same scene to break up the transition styles. “It’s a learning process. So if you try and fail, it’s better than not trying at all. Just do as much as you can because that’s how you learn,” Liesinger adds.
How to do J cut and L cut transitions.
Once in post-production, whether you’re a beginner or a professional video editor, Adobe Premiere Pro has the tools you need to make all your video cuts. To make a J cut or an L cut, you need primary video footage, primary audio footage, B-roll, or another video clip with its own accompanying audio.