While the depth and breadth of content that can be found on YouTube has grown immensely since the early days of wall to wall vloggers, it seems as though the jump cut will forever be considered synonymous with YouTube.
YouTubers use jump cuts to speed up the pace of the video, to hide mistakes and/or to keep you engaged for longer than just simple talking head videos. If you are moving around the screen it helps the video flow better and gives the viewer something new to focus on, preventing viewer fatigue.
That being said, even today there are plenty of channels that make use of the technique, with perennial favourites like Philip DeFranco—who arguably helped push jump cutting to the forefront of YouTube consciousness—still doing their thing all these years later. But why do they do it? Or, for that matter, what is it?
We’re going to answer both of those questions and more, so settle in, and let’s get started.
What is a Jump Cut?
The proper definition of a jump cut is a sudden transition from one scene to another. That is, no fading in and out, no special effects, just one frame you are looking at one scene, and the next frame you are looking at a different one.
This is the definition of a jump cut as it applies to things like television and cinema, but the YouTube variant is a little different.
In the context of YouTube, a jump cut does not need to cut to a different scene, and often doesn’t. Jump cuts on YouTube are far more often used to cut from one part of a scene to a later part of a scene, essentially snipping out the intervening footage. This is possible because the idea of YouTube jump cuts is established. What would once have been considered messy, unprofessional editing is now a style, and viewers have become used to it and don’t wonder what’s gone wrong with the video when jump cuts happen and the YouTuber snaps from one position to another.
Of course, it is still a jump if it does cut from one scene to another—the established definition still applies when relevant—it is just that, on YouTube, it is more often used in this manner.
Why do YouTubers Jump Cut?
So, now that you know what a jump cut is, why do YouTubers use them? There are a few reasons why this technique is so popular, so we’ve broken them up into the big ones.
Give the Video More “Punch”
You don’t need to be an expert in psychology to understand that the average attention span of a human being, shall we say, not what it used to be. Sure, the subject matter of a video can be enough to draw people in if they are interested enough, but on an online platform like YouTube, dry, slow content will not bring in the new viewers.
Jump cuts allow a YouTube to speed up the flow of their video so that the beats of the content hit closer together, leaving the viewer less time to become disinterested and click away to something else.
Reduce “Dead Air”
On a very similar note to the last one, jump cuts provide a handy method for cutting out some of the more awkward pauses, sniffles, sneezes, and mistakes that might otherwise have required a reshoot of a particular part of the video.
As we mentioned above, the fact that jump cuts are now something viewers are used to makes it possible to use jump cuts to edit out mistakes without having to worry about continuity between the remaining footage. If the YouTuber suddenly cuts from one position to another, that’s just the style of the video.
Keep the View Time Down
If you have a lot to get through, jump cuts can be a great way to keep the overall time of the video down, since excessively long runtimes can be off-putting in certain niches.
Keep the Editing Time Down
Jump cuts are quite possibly the lowest-effort method of cutting a video together, short of paying someone else to do it for you. Almost all YouTubers start out doing everything for themselves, including editing. And, when they are trying to upload multiple videos a week—often around a job or education—anything that saves time on the overall process of making the video will be welcomed. It is said that, on average, you will spend five hours editing for every one hour of footage you recorded, so this is certainly an area to focus on when trying to save time.
Fast Talking is More Persuasive
One way or another, you are trying to persuade your viewers of something. You might have a point you are trying to get across or the persuasion might just be that you want them to keep watching. Well, it turns out fast talkers are more persuasive and, while a jump cutting YouTube might not be a particularly fast talker in day to day life, jump cuts allow them to create the impression of fast speech by cutting out the gaps between sentences.
A well-timed jump cut can be pretty funny. That’s all there is to this one.
Monologuing is Hard
Granted, scripting makes things a lot easier, but sitting in front of a camera and talking for three to ten minutes solid is no easy task. And, unless you are planning on hosting a late night show, it’s not a skill that has a great deal of use in mastering. With jump cuts you can dive into your monologues without worrying about getting through the whole thing in one take.
When Not to Use Jump Cuts
As long as that list of reasons why YouTubers use jump cuts is, they are not perfect in all situations, as most things aren’t. Here are a few reasons to steer clear of using jump cuts in your YouTube videos.
You Want the Viewer to Digest What You’re Saying
Jump cuts are fine for getting relatively light information across. The aforementioned Philip DeFranco makes good use of them, but DeFranco covers daily news and entertainment stories. He occasionally dives into big topics, but there’s rarely anything you need to fully engage your brain on.
For something like a VSauce or a PBS Spacetime, a jump cut format would be wholly inappropriate, because the presenters want the information to get across in a methodical, thorough way, and bombarding you with key points on something like the physics of a black hole will likely overwhelm you (unless you happen to be an astrophysicist of course).
You’re a Slow Talker
All the notes about how fast talkers are persuasive and how “dead air” can be a turn off for the viewer aside, some people are just slow talkers, and it’s not always something you can do anything about. This isn’t a death knell in your YouTube dream’s coffin, of course, but you need to play to your strengths. If you can string fast sentences together, jump cutting works. But if you speak slowly, jump cuts will look awkward and stilted.
It Reduces Your Watch Time
Now, let’s be clear, we are not suggesting you stuff your videos with awkward silences and drawn out sentences just to increase the watch time, but if your content sits well without the jump cuts, this could be a reason not to add them.
As most of you probably know, watch time is one of the most important metrics to improve when you are looking at boosting your visibility in the YouTube algorithm, not to mention increasing the revenue you get from the YouTube Partner Programme. The more time people spend watching your content, the more ads YouTube can show and the more likely they are to promote your videos in the future.
Just remember, this only works if people watch your videos. Having a thirty-minute video will do you no good if viewers click away after two minutes because the content is boring.
The Non Sequitur Jump Cut
All the talk so far has assumed the jump cuts being used are done so in a linear fashion, such as would be the case if someone recorded a five-minute monologue and then used jump cuts to edit out all the “uhm”’s and “ah”’s.
A well established convention on YouTube is the non sequitur jump cut, which is almost like a regular jump cut, only instead of cutting from scene to scene, it is cutting from one train of thought to another. This is often used to interject small asides, almost like footnotes in a book, and allows the YouTuber to add more context to a topic, or interject their personal take on something they are talking about in otherwise neutral tones.
The jump cut, like many techniques and tools at a YouTubers disposal, is a powerfully useful thing when used correctly. And, like most useful things, it can be overdone. If you cut too often, you can very easily give your video a white noise feel, where the information is coming at the viewer so fast that it is hard to absorb.
Used correctly, however, it can make a video punchier, more entertaining, and better-flowing. And, like all things on YouTube and in life, you can learn how best to utilise jump cuts with practice… but looking at other YouTubers who do it well won’t hurt, either.
Top 5 Tools To Get You Started on YouTube
Very quickly before you go here are 5 amazing tools I have used every day to grow my YouTube channel from 0 to 30K subscribers in the last 12 months that I could not live without.
1. VidIQ helps boost my views and get found in search
I almost exclusively switched to VidIQ from a rival in 2020.
2. Adobe Creative Suite helps me craft amazing looking thumbnails and eye-catching videos
I have been making youtube videos on and off since 2013.
When I first started I threw things together in Window Movie Maker, cringed at how it looked but thought “that’s the best I can do so it’ll have to do”.
I soon realized the move time you put into your editing and the more engaging your thumbnails are the more views you will get and the more people will trust you enough to subscribe.
That is why I took the plunge and invested in my editing and design process with Adobe Creative Suite. They offer a WIDE range of tools to help make amazing videos, simple to use tools for overlays, graphics, one click tools to fix your audio and the very powerful Photoshop graphics program to make eye-catching thumbnails.
Best of all you can get a free trial for 30 days on their website, a discount if you are a student and if you are a regular human being it starts from as little as £9 per month if you want to commit to a plan.
3. Rev.com helps people read my videos
You can’t always listen to a video.
Maybe you’re on a bus, a train or sat in a living room with a 5 year old singing baby shark on loop… for HOURS. Or, you are trying to make as little noise as possible while your new born is FINALLY sleeping.
This is where Rev can help you or your audience consume your content on the go, in silence or in a language not native to the video.
Rev.com can help you translate your videos, transcribe your videos, add subtitles and even convert those subtitles into other languages – all from just $1.50 per minute.
A GREAT way to find an audience and keep them hooked no matter where they are watching your content.
4. PlaceIT can help you STAND OUT on YouTube
I SUCK at making anything flashy or arty.
I have every intention in the world to make something that looks cool but im about as artistic as a dropped ice-cream cone on the web windy day.
That is why I could not live on YouTube without someone like PlaceIT. They offer custom YouTube Banners, Avatars, YouTube Video Intros and YouTube End Screen Templates that are easy to edit with simple click, upload wizard to help you make amazing professional graphics in minutes.
Best of all, some of their templates are FREE! or you can pay a small fee if you want to go for their slightly more premium designs (pst – I always used the free ones).
5. StoryBlocks helps me add amazing video b-roll cutaways
I mainly make tutorials and talking head videos.
And in this modern world this can be a little boring if you don’t see something funky every once in a while.
I try with overlays, jump cuts and being funny but my secret weapon is b-roll overlay content.
I can talk about skydiving, food, money, kids, cats – ANYTHING I WANT – with a quick search on the StoryBlocks website I can find a great looking clip to overlay on my videos, keeping them entertained and watching for longer.
They have a wide library of videos, graphics, images and even a video maker tool and it wont break the bank with plans starting from as little as £8.25 ($9) per month.