In this edition of the Reel Rebel Stephen helps to add another dimension to your video by explaining what a basic L-cut (also known as a split edit transition) is and how to apply it.  In some cases, like interview footage, simple cuts or jump cuts can make a scene feel stiff and unnatural whereas L-cuts can help to soften scene transitions and provide viewers with more seamless context for the next clip.

What is an L-Cut, or Split End Transition?

The “L” cut is a basic editing technique whereby the picture is cut separately from the audio which allows the sound from the various takes to flow more smoothly.  Its named is derived from the fact that you make an “L” shape when you cut the audio track before you cut your video or vice versa.

An example would be if you were transitioning from inside a home to outside on a busy street.  You can “L” cut the audio so you hear the sound before you actually see it.  This helps to soften a transition that may have been harsh and prepares them for the fact that the footage they’re about to watch is in a different environment.

How to do L-Cuts

Creating an L-cut requires a little more thought than just slapping two clips in a timeline back to back, but not necessarily a lot of time. For beginners, the easiest way is to keep the two clips on separate tracks.  Make sure the audios are on separate tracks as well.  Then you simply drag the handle on your first clip out so it extends over your second clip.

With this technique, it’s easy to make a mistake.  Before you do the cut make sure the audio from your previous clip cuts when it’s supposed to, and your follow-up audio comes in when it’s supposed to.  If you drag your first clip out too far, you may not see the problem but your audience may hear things they weren’t meant to hear, like “Action” or “Cut.”  This is simple to fix.  Just cut your audio sooner, listen to it, and when you get it right you’ll have a smooth transition.

The “L” cut process is one that takes some finesse, but separating the cut into two stages will really soften the cut and make it a more pleasant viewing experience.  With a little practice and patience, you can take your video to the next level.  It’s professional and very versatile.  It’s a tool you need to keep in your tool box.

*Note: L-Cuts vs. J-Cuts

It’s probably worth mentioning that technically there are L-cuts and J-cuts, both of which are often referred to as simply an L-cut.  However, in the true sense, an L-cut is where the audio Out point of a clip is extended beyond the video Out point so that the audio cuts after the video and continues to play over top the beginning of the next video clip.  A J-cut is just the opposite, where the audio portion starts playing prior to it’s corresponding video clicp so as to lead-in to the visual.