5 Lesser-Known Video Editing Techniques for Stunning Visuals

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In the content economy, videos have to feature more than recorded narrative or action. They have been visual masterpieces for which using non-cliche editing techniques is crucial.

The lesser-known video editing techniques include multi-match cuts, duration squeeze, and reverse parallel editing. These tactics help you draw contrasts, reel the viewer into your narrative, and make a point.

In this article, you will learn more about 5 lesser-known video editing techniques, including their definition, impact, and use context. By the end of this post, you will also discover the bonus engagement maximizer which can improve your social media reach. So let's get started with a quick glance at the 5 tactics.

  • L And J Cuts

  • Multi-Match Cuts

  • Element Contrast

  • Duration Squeeze

  • Reverse Parallel

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L And J Cuts

While L and J cuts have gained prominence in recent years, they remain among the relatively lesser-known shot transitions. In the L cut, the video shot changes while the audio track continues. In the J cut, the audio track shifts before the next shot appears.

If you split the audio track before the video track, you’ll see the letter J form on the project timeline. And if you cut the video first, the L will appear. The visual below explains why these cuts are called what they are called. Look at the green outline of the cuts.


The L cut is illustrated.


The J cut is illustrated.

The Effect Of L And J Cuts

One of the best things about the L cut and the J cut is that they are subtle and go unnoticed by the uninitiated. The average viewer can feel the smooth effect of the overlap between the next shot's video and the previous one's audio or the cohesiveness of the next shot's audio bleeding into the previous one's video. But he is unlikely to notice why your edit feels so smooth.

The best kind of editing is one that can’t be noticed and mimicked but can be felt and admired. To ensure that your editing is appreciated, though, you have to know when to use specific techniques like the L and J cuts.

When to use the L and J cuts:

  • In conversational shots – Conversations can be boring, no matter how entertaining the script is. To make long dialogue visually interesting, you can change shots while the dialogue continues. Standard L-cuts are very common in exposition and monologues.

  • For surprise appearances – Sometimes, a cameo or a character entry can make the audience gasp in disbelief or scream in excitement. Blockbuster movie editors have mastered the art of using J cuts to further accentuate such surprises. You'll often hear a character before he appears. This is paired with shots of other characters turning around to see who has spoken.

  • In scenic takes – Nature, city, or any other environment has a specific type of sound. The audio ambiance can prove to be a solid bedrock for shot-swapping. You can cut in birds chirping before you shift to an exterior shot of a cottage. It makes sense that this sound would be heard inside the cottage as well as outside. Similarly, you can use sounds associated with heavy traffic before cutting from an interior city-side setting to an exterior shot.

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Multi-Match Cuts

Match cuts are the industry standard in film and digital video editing. They refer to matching individual elements between shots. Two shots of an individual running, for instance, would be called an action-match shot. The multi-match shot is a lesser-known variation of the standard match shot where two or more elements between shots are matched.

Match cuts can usually take the following forms:

  • Action match cut – This is one of the three primary forms of match cuts. Here, the action of one or more characters remains consistent across different shots. E.g., two shots of someone running through the woods.

  • Audio match cut – Audio match (a.k.a. sound bridge) is a technique where the audio (or at least the audio ambiance) across two shots remains the same. E.g., a passionate speech with multiple reaction shots of people internalizing it.

  • Graphic match cut – The third and the most common match cut is the visual match cut. In this type of cut, the graphic (visual) elements of the two shots remain the same, making the overall video appear smooth as the shots shift. E.g., two shots of a scenic lake.

  • BPM match cut – This is a low-profile match that is used to create a subtle sense of smoothness. The BPM or the key of the music being used in the video remains the same while the shots (and the audio clips) shift. This requires mastery of sound engineering.

  • Motion match cut – This is like the action match but has more to do with the motion of the camera. If the camera is moving in the same direction in two shots, the resulting transition has a motion match. Two zooming shots are motion-matched if the zoom has the same speed.

  • Light match cut – A somewhat low-profile aspect that is crucial to match between shots is the lighting. Sudden transitions between day and night can be jarring.

The effect of multi-match cuts

Multi-match cuts make your video more engaging than standard match cuts. Where a mere action match will ensure that the audience isn't pulled out of their investment in the film, an action and camera motion match can ensure that the viewers are actively invested. Usually, one primary element (graphic, audio, or action) and one secondary element (light, bpm/key, or camera motion) are matched in pairs.

When and How to use multi-match:

  • Create thrilling sequences - Action and camera motion match – The action of characters is best paired with the motion of the camera. If a character is running away from goons, you can surely match multiple shots of the same action (running). But you can also match shaky camera movements to create a sense of urgency.

  • Excite your audience - Audio and bpm – Music can have an incredible effect on our emotions. By matching the bpm across to soundtracks and keeping the score consistent, you can definitely create and hold the mood you want to inspire.

  • Pull viewers into your world - Light and graphic match – Different shots of the same jungle, castle, beach house, or ocean can anchor the viewer into the location of your narrative. Make sure to match the lighting across different shots to create a cohesive sense of time.

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Element Contrast

So far, the techniques mentioned have upheld the traditional video editing wisdom of cohesiveness and smoothness. Element contrast goes against the grain, which is why it is lesser known than its opposite: graphic match cuts.

Element contrast doesn't intend to hold the audience in a state they're already in. It is used to grab and jolt the audience with the help of a noticeable contrast. The contrast can be thematic or overtly visual. It can also be in the music or the soundtrack. Horror movies use contrasts to create steep escalations that are scary to witness.

Comedy skits and movies often rely on contrasts for humor. Despite contrasts being used in some of the biggest blockbusters, it is far from a commonly used technique in modern content creation.

The Effect Of Using Element Contrasts

Element contrast is best used whenever you want to make a statement, surprise the audience, scare them, or make them laugh. Contrast can also be used for storytelling purposes if you know when and how to use it.

When to use element contrast:

  • Accentuate a surprise – If there’s a surprise twist, you can change multiple aspects of the upcoming shots to completely contrast the previous ones. Christopher Nolan’s movies have plenty of visual contrasts. Most Notably, the movie Tenent contrasts the direction of action between standard and inverted items.

  • Create a scary moment – Use sound volume contrast to freak your audience out! Audio element contrasts are perfect for jumpscares and surprises.

  • Get a laugh out of your audience – The expectation and reality contrast (narrative contrast) is something you can definitely use to earn a chuckle. The contrast works best when you set up an expectation and really sell it. For this, you have to work the contrast not just in the edit but also in the script.

  • Maximize audience retention – Sameness is boring. And almost every content creator knows that every thirty-second shot without a cut or a shift guarantees a drop in engagement. By contrasting the speaking volume, background music, and other elements in your video, you can make it more engaging and less monotonous. More importantly, you will not need to make the video a cocktail of cuts.

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Duration Squeeze

Speaking of engagement-improving techniques, the duration squeeze is a lesser-known video editing tactic that can turn your video into an intense thriller. By simply contracting the project timeline to one quarter or the initially set duration, you can remove the filler effortlessly.

The duration squeeze is prominent in MrBeast's content on Youtube. It is also the cornerstone of short-form clips that go viral on TikTok, Youtube Shorts, and IG Reels.

The effect of the duration squeeze

Duration squeeze does only one thing: it cuts out fluff without mercy. As a result, your content becomes more entertaining and snappy. You might apply the duration squeeze to the main edit of your primary content or when repurposing your existing content. It will have the same impact every time.

When to use the duration squeeze:

  • When your content’s average view rate is under 50% - If the average viewer isn’t watching more than 50% of your videos, then your videos need to be more snappy.

  • When the content platform is restrictive – Sometimes, the platform sets an expectation of short view duration, and you have to meet it. Otherwise, you might get skipped over for something more bite-sized.

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Reverse Parallel

The final editing technique that goes under the radar is the reverse parallel, which is an inversion of the parallel edit. To understand how to edit and splice together shots in reverse parallel order, you must understand how parallel cuts work.

If you've watched a movie where the shots of two lovers running towards one another are cut in succession, you've witnessed parallel cuts. By cutting together clips of things that are happening simultaneously, you can give a contextually omniscient view of the narrative.

The Effect Of Reverse Parallel Cuts

While standard parallel cuts can help your audience get a bird's eye view of the narrative, reverse parallel cuts can help them see narrative contrasts. Clips of a father hugging his son spliced with another kid being shouted at can make a powerful point about what it means to parent responsibly.

Shots of excessive waste of food spliced together with those of starving kids are yet another contrast that can have a visceral effect. These examples hint at the most probable contexts where you should use reverse parallel cuts.

Where to use reverse parallel cuts:

  • Showing trait differences between characters – You can cut between shows of strength and weakness, anger and patience, and love and hate. These parallel shots highlight how the two characters are on opposite ends.

  • Driving home a point about inequality – Almost every piece of social commentary content can benefit from highly illustrative footage paired with the reverse parallel technique. Greed and poverty, indecision and action, discrimination and acceptance. It can all be shown through reverse parallel cutting.

  • Creating a psychedelic or hypnotic effect – When this type of editing is paired with a duration squeeze, the overall effect can be breathtaking.

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Bonus: Engagement Maximizer

Now that you’ve understood the editing techniques used to improve your video content's visual appeal, it is time to go over a lesser-known engagement maximizer: emoji thumbnails.

Shortform video editing is in-demand, and ContentFries, the auto-captioning and content-multiplying platform, is at the heart of it. We regularly study what's working in the social content economy, and our recent qualitative analysis shows that using emojis in prominent video captions can drive up the engagement of your videos.

If the speaker in your video says, "You're driving me insane," you can add the angry emoji next to the word insane. The easily distractible brain takes emoji decoding as a challenge and gets invested in the content.

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Final Thoughts

From reverse parallel cuts to multi-matching your shots, you can use a variety of editing techniques to create contrasts and cohesive transitions in your videos. The article above covers lesser-known video editing techniques that you can use for novelty, intrigue, and emotional impact. Be strategic in how you use these tactics, though. They are best peppered lightly across your standard editing roster. Using too many avante-garde editing techniques can give your content an arthouse vibe.