In this post I’m going to share a simple and powerful film editing technique that when combined with shot planning will help you navigate time travel, fantasy as well as allow your characters to smoothly transition from real life into a dream world.
It’s called a transition match cut, and it will help you make your audience active story participants.
One way to look at editing is too see it as a way to arrange information into question and answer patterns.
[bctt tweet=”Good storytelling is making people care about what will happen next.”]
And one way to do this is to get them to speculate. This happens on a subconscious level and should be leveraged throughout your film.
Audience engagement can happen within a single shot.
Our new scene starts with a medium-shot of a man sitting on a park bench eating a sandwich. The man looks up and becomes so startled that he drops his sandwich.
This a simple shot and it sets up the question – “What did he see?”
This is a set one in a “question / answer pattern”. The next shot in the sequence could be the answer.
So what should our next shot be?
- Should we cut to a single close shot of a woman approaching him at the bench?
- Should we cut to a full two shot and show a woman approach and stand in front of him?
- Should we cut to a close shot of the man and have the woman move into the frame so the shot becomes and over the shoulder two shot?
- Do you want to reveal who the woman is?
If you want to reveal the woman’s identity, a medium wide-profile, two-shot would work.
If you want to keep her identity hidden, then maybe an over-the-shoulder two-shot could be done in a way that hides the visitor’s specific identity.
As you can see, it’s all about engaging the audience by implanting a question and deciding if, when and how you want to answer it.
This kind of planning happens in the pre-visualization stage, and is fundamental to using cinema to keep the audience engaged.
Now let’s further empower this technique with a match cut.
The definition I’m using for “match cut” is,
“the shot that comes after the “question-shot” and cuts as if it was the “answer-shot” but ultimately leads to a new scene.”
In the example above, if the director wanted to use a “match-cut”, she would cut to a shot that would match the dynamic of the “answer-shot” but instead of it providing an answer, it would transition the viewer into a new scene.
The audience would accept the new shot because it’s dynamics would be correct. They would only learn 0f the “new scene” after an additional shot revealed the new information and confirming the story had moved on.
As you can see, this takes the passive viewing experience and makes it more active.
[bctt tweet=”Using cinema to stimulate viewer speculation is the power of cinematic grammar.”]
For the match cut to “sell” it needs to compliment the cinematic dynamics of the answer-shot. The selling is done on a subconscious level and when it succeeds the transition is invisible!
To further help you understand this concept, imagine this sequence of shots.
1. wide shot of people at a football party
2. medium-shot of someone pouring a bag of potato chips into a bowl
3. close-shot of a hand puling a chip from the bowl
4. medium shot off a small group playing a board game
The hand pulling the potato chip out is the “match cut” and it transitions the viewer into an entirely new scene. This is one way to keep the story moving and the audience engaged.
All narrative editing strategies are designed to establish a framework of expectations within a series of shots.
The result is narrative motion and it fuels your story journey.
The best way to appreciate the power of this technique is to see it in use. So here’s a fantastic video essay by Tony Zhou. This video focuses on the work of Satoshi Kon, considered by some the master of the “match cut.” See the video at the bottom of the page.
In this video you’ll also learn about edit techniques including:
- Film Editing Technique – Transition Match Cut
- Graphic Matching
- Parallel Cutting
- Foreground Camera Wipe Cutting
- Jump Cutting Time
Here are some time code markers of my favorite highlights.
2:07 – Match cuts is one of the ways Satoshi Kon moves from dream or fantasy worlds into present reality.
3:17 – “Sometimes he would stack transitions back to back which meant you would just be getting used to one scene and you’d be shoved into the next. All of this made him very surprising to watch. You could blink and miss that you were in a different scene.”
4:50 – “Kon also had a habit of starting a scene in close up and you’d have to figure out where you were as things went on”
3:40 – “Even when he wasn’t dealing with dreams Kon was an unusual editor, he loved ellipses and would often just jump past parts of a scene.”
3:48 – “Every once and a while Kon would start with an establishing shot and then he would reveal it was a point of view. So, without you noticing he brought you into the characters world”
4:45 – “You’re experience of space and time became subjective.”
5:30 – “Kon thought that as an animator he could draw less information in a shot so your eye could read it faster.” We see Wes Anderson do this in live action.
5:50 – “Kon felt that we each experienced space, time, reality and fantasy at the same time as individuals and collectively as a society. His style was an attempt to depict this in images and sound.”