This week on Reel Rebel, we discuss another important film editing technique that’s important to understand when shooting for the edit, called a match cut.  When we talk about shooting for the edit, we’re talking about the need to plan your shots in advance, keeping in mind how the footage is to be edited so as to make certain you get the shots you need, and help make the editor’s job easier. Essentially a match cut refers to when a director cuts from one scene to a completely different scene, but keeps objects from the two scenes graphically matched so as to establish continuity and flow.

What is a Match Cut?

Match cuts are any cuts that emphasizes spatio-temporal continuity and it is the basis for continuity editing. When we refer to continuity editing, we are referring to editing techniques that are used to help establish a logical flow between disparate shots so as to present a smoother narrative transition that does not end up jarring or confusing the viewer.

If you have not already read our post and watched our video from last week on eyeline matching, please do so as it gives a good overview of another common technique for continuity editing. –

A match cut is one method that directors use in editing to suggest a relationship between two different objects and to create a visual metaphor. It is a cut within a scene that makes sense spatially.  This can be between two different objects, two different spaces, or two different compositions in which an object in two shots graphically match.

Even within continuity editing, however, the match cut is a contrast both with cross-cutting between actions in two different locations that are occurring simultaneously, and with parallel editing, which draws parallels or contrasts between two different time-space locations.  A match cut contrasts with the evident and abrupt discontinuity of a jump cut (read more on jump cuts here).

So, for example, let’s say you’ve got a transition between a scene of your subject driving, to a long scene set inside a local pub.  Before you throw your audience into the bar scene, you may want to capture and cut in some shots of the interior or exterior of the bar so that they’re not left wondering where they are.

Examples of the Match Cut:

Match cuts aren’t new to editing and there are plenty of great examples to better illustrate this concept.  Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey contains a famous example of a match cut.

After an ape discovers that bones can be used as a tools and weapons, he throws one victoriously into the air.  As the bone spins in the air, there is a match cut to a much more advanced weapon, which is an orbiting nuclear weapons satellite.  The match cut helps draw a connection between the two objects as examples of primitive and advanced tools, and serves as a neat summary of humanity’s technological advancement up to that point.

Here’s another good example

Shooting for the Match Cut

There are two important steps to remember when using a match cut.

  • Create the world around your characters
  • Film it in such a way that isn’t jarring to your viewers every time you change shots.

You need to plan your shots accordingly so that they make sense within your scene, and more importantly they make sense to your audience.  Shooting for the edit doesn’t start on set.  If you prepare yourself in pre-production you’ll know exactly what shots you need to make your match cuts work.  It’s as simple as that.  If you prepare properly, when you get into your editing software, all you have to do is find the right takes, stick them in the sequence in the proper order, and your shots do all the work for you.

Understanding match cuts and other editing tricks and techniques are critical to an efficient production and can make your editor (which could be yourself) happy by getting the right shots so everything fits together like a glove in the edit.