Cutaways Versus Insert Shots

Cutaways and insert shots are two film editing techniques that are used to connect scenes, provide context, and/or to add visual interest to a video. For example, an interview featuring a person talking for several minutes can be pretty boring. One or more cutaways, however, can be used to show what the interviewee is talking about, adding visual interest to the film. A cutaway might feature a plant, animal, landscape, map, animation, instrument or some other object or process being described during the interview.

Insert shots are also used to provide context in a video, often showing some additional detail in a scene. For example, a medium shot might show a scientist working in the laboratory and pipetting a liquid into vials. An insert shot showing a closeup of the scientist’s hands or the pipette tip would be filmed separately and inserted into the main footage. Such edits can enhance a video by providing a new perspective or additional detail not apparent in the main footage.

The scientist videographer must plan ahead for cutaways and insert shots by filming “b-roll” footage along with the main footage. Such preparation may take a bit more time during filming and some effort during editing but is well worth it in the end.

In the following tutorial, I describe these two techniques and show how to use them in iMovie to edit video footage.

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