School of Motion

Seamless Storytelling: The Power of Match Cuts in Animation

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Prepare to see the power of match cuts in animation. Let's take a basic look at this essential motion design technique.

Trying become an 'After Effects expert' can sometimes distract aspiring motion designers from learning essential animation techniques. As artists we can often focus on technical skills or tools while overlooking simple solutions that can easily add a professional touch to a project.
Today we're going to take a look at the power of match cuts in animation. If you aren't already using them in your animation work, match cuts are going to be a complete game-changer for your projects. You may even end up slapping your forehead and asking yourself "Why didn't I know this sooner?"
Match cuts are more popularly taught in cinematography. However, even though commonly overlooked by animators, this technique is highly transferable to motion design. We were disappointed to see the lack of match cuts tutorials out there, so we asked our friend and alumni Jacob Richardson to create an incredible tutorial displaying match cuts in-action.
So, let's bring you up to speed and equip you to start adding match cuts in your animations.

Video Tutorial: Match Cuts in Animation

We reached out to our friend and SoM alumni Jacob Richardson to show just how powerful match cuts are, and how they can dynamically transform your animations. The result is a fascinating manifesto showcasing multiple types of animation driven match cuts and transitions.
Are you stoked about match cuts now? I know I am... If you want to learn more about match cuts keep reading below.

Download the Match Cuts Project File

Want a sweet surprise? Jacob packaged up a portion of the tutorial for you to download and tinker with. Digging through a project file from another animator can give you great ideas on how they created their mograph sequence. Check out how Jacob keyframed and animated match cuts for this tutorial by taking a peek under the hood.
Collection

Download the Match Cuts Project File

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What are Match Cuts?

Match cutting is a method of transitioning between two scenes using similar action, and or having consistent framing that match one another. This can help establish symbolism, help to not jar the audience, show a passing of time, and many other creative uses.
In animation this can save you time by allowing you to skip creating complicated animations and control your viewers eyes. This can be very useful when you need to change one object into another by using momentum, or using it for some sweet transitions. Match cuts can be used on all sorts of design elements including characters, shape, color, or movement in-between the two shots.
What are the different types of match cuts?
Match Cuts with Movement
A match cut with movement can happen with fast or slow objects. There are varying approaches when creating the needed movement. You can use spins, position changes, or work with scaling up and down your subject.
Typically the main subject of the shot will be in just about the same position as the previous shot. You'll want to continue the momentum of the previous subjects movement by having the new shot continue the next frame.
Match Cuts Example.gif
For example, if you have a twelve frame move and decide to cut on frame six, pick-up the next shot on frame seven. This will keep your animation from breaking the momentum of the established trajectory.
Yellow, a CNN animation about colors in our world, shows some very professionally done match cuts using movement.
Match Cuts with Framing
Match cuts are really useful when you're looking to pull emotion out of your scene and take the audience on a journey through time. For this type of match cut you'll want to be aware of the composition above all else. The cut between similarly shaped objects typically is the key to pulling this off well.
There should be something for the audience to focus on that is constant through out the progression of time. For example, in Solus by IV, notice how this slow moving animation uses match cuts to show a progression of time while remaining focused on the spaceship.
As mentioned before, this technique is widely used in cinematography. Match cuts have been used in some of the most iconic movies ever created, and sometimes are heralded as the most memorable moments within the film. See how many historical movies have utilized match cuts to tell stories, and try to figure out what the symbolism might be.
Match cuts and their use within cinema!

How do Match Cuts Draw the Users Eyes?

Viewers don't know to expect a match cut, but when it happens the transition makes total sense in their mind. The subconscious auto-completes the story, that subject A and B are equal to one another. They may not have even realized you just hard switched between one scene, object, person or movement to another.
The Blend Manifesto below is full of match cuts. You may not even notice all of them because of how naturally they continue the story you're being told. See if you can notice how many match cuts are in this amazing collaborative piece.
The Blend Manifesto shows off the many uses of the match cut!
The match cut henges its efficiency on what humans believe to be a natural continuation of the movement, framing, and sound being given.
Keep these three things in mind when you're going over those fresh art boards your client just handed over, or when you're thinking of adding sound effects to your animation. Adding match cuts may take time, but soon enough you'll start seeing the possibilities everywhere.

Want to Learn More about Match Cuts?

If you're looking to learn more practical animation skills I would highly suggest checking out Animation Bootcamp. In the course you'll learn principles that can help you make your animations smooth as butter.
In fact, we teach a variation of the match cut called "eye tracing" in Animation Bootcamp. Eye tracing is very similar to match cuts with it's goal to lead the viewers eye. Check out how Sigrún Hreins uses geometry to guide you back and forth across the screen.
Best of luck incorporating match cuts into your animation workflows. Be sure to share your match cuts artwork with the community on Twitter or Instagram!