Post Production: How To Do a Motivated Edit

Any type of edit in post-production literally breaks continuity, but a motivated edit is the most discreet and least jarring type of cut. A motivated edit or motivated cut is often cued by necessity - a reaction, a dialogue or a music cue. It is when you cut to a scene or object not included in the previous frame. It's almost impossible for a film or television program not to have any motivated cuts in them. For instance, if an actor is talking about a certain object and turns to look one way, the next cut could be a shot of that certain object. This type of cutting is called the motivated edit.

There are many ways to do this type of cut. A successful motivated edit does not break continuity and is not at all abrupt and out of place. Here are some ways you can successfully execute a motivated edit.

1. As a Reverse Shot

Especially if you're shooting a scene that involves two people conversing, a motivated edit is often called for. You may have a shot of one person talking and then cut to the shot of the other's reaction. This edit is propelled by the previous scene and is necessary in the sequence.

2. As Allusion

This is a very handy trick in visual communication. For instance, you may have a scene of a happy couple. If you want to allude that it will not end well, you might cut to a shot of an old couple fighting in the same setting. Make sure that the previous shot will cue it visually or verbally, so as not to make it seem like a jump cut.

3. To Build Suspense

It's possible to use motivated edits to build up suspense. This is very common in the horror genre, wherein we see the hero suddenly turn to one direction, cued by foreboding music we next see a shot of a ghost or monster. You can use this technique to build suspense further. Try cutting to an empty setting where the monster is supposed to appear and use appropriate scoring to create tension.

4. To Flashback

Flashbacks are often motivated edits, if the prior clip is set up properly. Remember, in order to consider it a motivated cut, it should be properly cued by the previous scene. If a person is talking about a past occurrence and the scene cuts to it, then that is a good use of motivated edit as flashback.

5. As a Comic Tool

The motivated cut can also be used as a tool for comedy. For instance, you can have a pair conversing about a great party. As the narration goes along, you can cut to scenes in the party showing just the opposite. The edit, propelled by the conversation, shows the viewers just what exactly happened. The disparity in the dialogue and the scenes, if portrayed well, can appear somewhat comic.