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Arts & Entertainment

How to Use J-Cuts and L-Cuts in Video Editing

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 14, 2020 • 2 min read

Professional video editors use J-cuts and L-cuts to provide a smooth transition from one clip to another.

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What Is a J-Cut?

A J-cut is a type of split edit where the audio of an upcoming scene plays over the end of the preceding scene. If you're editing two clips—a primary clip and B-roll, for instance—you can create a J-cut by starting the B-roll audio before the first clip has ended. Shortly thereafter, you'll cut to the B-roll, and the next scene will be fully underway.

A J-cut is named for the shape made by the letter J, which juts out downward and to the left. In video editing software, a video track appears above its accompanying audio track, so if the audio track cuts to something new before the video track cuts, the audio track will appear to the left of the cut below the video track.

How to Use J-Cuts

Use J-Cuts when a director or screenwriter calls for an audio advance of a second scene to creep into the preceding scene. The most common scenario that calls for this is a pair of back-to-back dialogue scenes. A script may indicate near the end of a scene that a character speaks in pre-lap, which means their dialogue is audible before the cut to the next scene. J-style video cuts also work well when previewing the ambient soundscape of an upcoming scene in a new location.

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What Is an L-Cut?

An L-cut is a type of split edit where video cuts to the next scene but the audio track of the initial scene plays on. If you're working with two video clips, you can create an L-cut by cutting to the video of the second clip before you switch the audio track. You can cut to the second clip’s audio shortly thereafter, or you can ping-pong back and forth between video clips while maintaining the same audio track.

An L-cut is named for the shape made by the letter L, which juts out downward on its lower right side. In video editing software, a video track appears above its accompanying audio track, so if the audio track continues after the video cuts to a new clip, the audio track will resemble the shape of the letter L.

How to Use L-Cuts

Film editors use L-cuts to cycle through various images while a single audio track plays. This works well for video montages that are accompanied either by underscore, a song soundtrack, or natural sound. L-cuts also work well as partial cutaways, where characters recall a different episode but maintain continuity in the present scene. The continuous audio keeps us grounded in the scene, but the video cutaways can provide a flashback to another event. In narrative films, L-cuts are useful after establishing shots, where the video shifts but ambient sounds of the establishing shot continue on for a few moments.

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