J & L Cuts Described
Because of a discussion in the PrE forum, I decided to do a short article on using J and/or L Cuts in editing.
I guess that I come from the David Lynch school of imagery. I like giving the audience something that they cannot define at first, and then revealing it to them for a brief moment, before taking it away from them, about the time that they recognize it, and get comfortable with it. I find that J & L cuts do a bit of that - let the audience hear something that they cannot see yet, before revealing it, or let them see something that they cannot hear yet, and then bring in the Audio to reenforce what they are seeing.
For this example, we will assume that we have two Clips with Audio recorded during the shot. For the J Cut (so called for the shape of the Audio & Video, where the cut is made. Our Clips are Clip 1 & Clip 2. Clip 1 is of a young lady talking on the telephone and we hear her conversation. Clip 2 is of a factory. Both Clips 1 & 2 are on the Timeline and butted up to each other. The Video of the Clips is on our Video Track 1 and our Audio is below on the Audio Track 1. Right now, the Audio and Video of the two Clips is the exact same length. Here, we want the audience to "hear" the audio from Clip 2 (the sounds of the factory), before they see the visuals in that Clip. To accomplish this, we want Video portion of Clip 1 to continue, while the Audio from Clip 2 is coming in.
First, we’ll Alt-click on the Audio from Clip 1 to select just that Audio. [Note: in PrPro, one could Lock the Video Tracks, so that all editing would only be in the Audio portions.] We then Click-drag on the Tail of the Audio in Clip 1, shortening it. Now, we Alt-click on the Video of Clip 2 and then Click-drag on its Head to shorten it the same number of frames, as we shortened the Audio in Clip 1. Last, we will Select both Audio & Video in Clip 2 and drag to the left, until they butt up to the altered Clip 1. If you look at the two Clips now, you can see an abstract letter J. We can then add any appropriate Transitions to both the Audio & Video to match the theme of our movie. I would explore the Dip-to-Black Video Transition, especially if we want a hint of drama. When played, the audience will see the young lady on the phone, but the Audio from the factory will fade in and the audience will hear it, while the young lady is still on the phone, even through the Dip-to-Black - then, they will see the factory, that they have been listening to.
From both an aesthetic and a psychological standpoint, the audience has begun to hear something that is not yet visually revealed. They know that something different is coming, but cannot yet see it. They are being transported to a new place, and possibly at a different time, but not necessarily so - they two events, the telephone conversation and the factory, might be taking place simultaneously. That is the implication, but with the Dip-to-Black the times might well different - time might have passed.
Now, we use those same two Clips, but instead of bringing in the factory sounds over the visual of the telephone conversation, we alter the Video of Clip 1 to shorten it, using the same techniques. The Audio of the telephone conversation continues longer than the Video. We also shorten the Audio of the factory by the same amount and butt these altered Clips together, adding Transitions to suit. When played, the telephone conversation continues, even though the visual of the factory have come onto the screen. Regardless of the Transitions, the audience will now be convinced that these two events are happening at the same time, just in different locations. When viewed on the Timeline, one can see an abstract L in the pattern of the two Clips.
Both Audio and Video are very powerful, and an audience is accustomed to being able to both hear and see something on the screen. We have altered that to create an artistic effect. In our first case, the J-cut, the audience has heard something that they could not yet see, while in the second case, the L-cut, they saw something that they could not yet hear.