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BY KRIS MILLGATE
Credibility is instantly lost when I see a jump cut in someone’s video production. When two action shots are edited back-to-back, the action should match. If it doesn’t, it’s a jump cut.
A jump cut has many looks. Most of them are wrong. Telling me it’s done for artistic reasons is not convincing. Covering a jump cut with a dissolve effect isn’t even considered a Band-Aid in my book.
A jump cut is a sign of poor editing skills. If there are no matching shots to use while editing, that’s a sign of poor shooting skills. In the edit bay, you can only use what was shot in the field. In other words, editing a solid action sequence starts in the field.
I’ll use fishing footage as our example. Point your browser to http://www.tightlinemedia.com/production-services/video-samples.html and watch the clip, “OWAA fishing sequence.” It should be at the top of the playlist.
In the first medium shot, the fly-fisherman starts casting. In the next medium shot, he’s suddenly reeling in a fish. There’s a jump in the action; a jump cut. It’s uncomfortable to watch.
Instead, build a sequence.
A series of actions takes place between the first cast and setting the hook. Shoot that sequence during a few castings and hookings, then edit them all together as one casting-and-hooking event.
It may take an hour to shoot even though the finished product takes just a few seconds to watch. But it will look so much better.
IN THE FIELD
Think through the steps involved with the action you are shooting. Consider each step a shot and create a mental shot list of those steps. Change the angle of your shot every time you get to another step. Steps don’t have to be shot in order. They just have to be edited in order.
Here’s a list of shots used in the example fly-fishing sequence:
1. Wide establishing shot of casting.
2. Medium shot of casting and stripping line.
3. Close-up shot of stripping line.
4. Wide shot of stripping line and laying line.
5. Close-up of angler’s head while casting and setting hook.
6. Medium to wide shot of setting the hook.
Your prepared mental list of shots will probably not be shot in order. Get the shots when you can. Put them in order later. If you wait for the shots to happen in order, you will either miss them or it will take two hours, instead of one, to get the footage you need.
IN THE EDIT BAY
Put the shots in order, like this:
Take a look again at the final product. The action in the flyfishing sequence is edited in perfect order from frame to frame. No jump cuts.
Really watch the fisherman’s arm movements, along with the fly rod. The action is an exact match from shot to shot. If he is casting back when the first shot ends, he should still be casting back when the second shot starts.
Casting is an easy one-camera sequence to build with several different shots because the action is repetitive. Repetitive action gives you plenty of chances to change angles while you are shooting without interrupting the flow of action when it comes time to edit.
Now all you have to do is hold a camera steady in waist-high rushing water, concentrating on the fisherman rather than the fishing.
By the way, the fisherman in this sample footage is Todd Lanning, South Fork Outfitters manager. He is an excellent guide on the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho. He puts me in fish consistently. The rule is no rod for me until the story is shot. Sometimes that rule makes me work really fast. ♦
—Kris Millgate is a freelance multimedia journalist based in southeast Idaho. She has been a member of OWAA since 2009. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.