The camera slowly zooms out from a bench in a park where a girl and a guy are sitting. They are talking but we can’t hear them. The camera still is slowly zooming out as they laugh and we realize it’s a beautiful summer day. The camera suddenly cuts to the same bench with the same zooming, but it’s just the girl on the bench in the middle of winter now.
This exaggerated sequence is an example of the power of how scenes are cut in movies. There is emotion built into the change of scene that unfolds. Where did the guy go? How long has it been? Are they no longer together? We the audience are snapped to a different point in the story and the physical movement along the story line was done with purpose in a cut.
There are many ways to cut a scene. The fade in, the star wars swipe across, or just a jump cut straight to the next image. If you have seen any of Casey Neistat’s YouTube movies (if you haven’t I highly recommend it: here), you will see a master at work in the editing room. He uploads a daily video with so much jam packed into each one; there are perfectly timed cuts and time lapsed speed ups all in sync with the background music which make all his movies seem so natural.
As we see these cuts done by Casey and other film makers, it looks normal to us most of the time. If a cut is done well we won’t really even notice it. But that is because we have become so accustomed to seeing these breaks in the action. Videos are a huge part of our lives now. Whether that’s TV, or movies, or YouTube or anything else that moves images to create a sense of a different world.
But before movies were created, we didn’t know what a cut was. In real life there aren’t any cuts. We have dialogue with someone and then have to walk the excruciating length to the next scene on our own with out an intervention of an editor. In life, we can’t jump forward to the next action like we do in movies.
Our lives are still full of stories and dialogue, the things that drive a movie. But we aren’t transported to those specific moments like in videos. It is in these in between times that we get to experience life. A cut in a movie is done to help reduce time and to give more information to the viewer. But it also takes away the little nuances of life that we get to experience everyday.
The beauty of a cut is that it packs so much into each swipe or fade or zoom and it usually does an amazing job at accomplishing that. But in life, those transitions from one scene to the next, or from one season to the next aren’t a sudden cut. Those transitions are phases of life that we live through and grow from.
So the next time you watch a movie and see a scene that switches to the next in a meaningful way, or you watch any of Casey’s videos, you can appreciate the effort that was put into packing information into just that one cut. But you can also appreciate life, because you get to live in between those cuts.
Again, huge shout out to Casey here. If you haven’t seen any of his stuff I’ll offer you some of his best, but you really can’t go wrong with any of his videos.