How Time Lapse, Slow Motion, Jump Cut and Fades Change the Sense of Time and Space

Time-lapse, aperture and jump cuts as a means of manipulating time and space
Time-lapse and aperture as a means of manipulating time and space [© Photo: FreePik

Part of the language of film is the change of space and time in the montage. Time lapse, slow motion, aperture and jump cut are among the most important tools.

Slow motion Time-lapse and aperture have an impact on our perception of the timeline in a film: they change our sense of time and spatial perception with optical manipulations, detached from the storyline. Elements shot in different locations or set at different times in a storyline can be stitched together with an aperture and changes in the tempos of film frames to create a new reality.

You need to know

  • The sense of time and the perception of space can be changed not only with montage. Fades, time lapse and slow motion, and jump cuts can also achieve this effect.
  • There are four types of fades: Dissolves, Fades In, Fades Out, and Flashbacks. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
  • Time lapse and slow motion can objectify objects and people or breathe life into them.
  • An extreme form of temporal compression is the jump cut.

1Changing the sense of time and space: 3 ways of using blinds

Every film and video can produce effects with shots that are not possible in photography with a single image. Three types of fades (fade-in/fade-out, fade-in, fade-back), fast motion and slow motion, together with the jump cut, complete the possibilities of film editing.

Aperture here does not mean the camera aperture. It’s the stylistic device. An aperture can be defined as a technical method of altering the perception of time in a shot. A distinction can be made between fade-in, fade-out and fade-in.

As a stylistic device, the flashback is closer to montage than to an effect. It is also a stylistic device. But it draws its strength from content, not form.

AFade in and Fade out

The aperture is a highly subjective design tool. In the context of montage, it gives the film image and videos a subjective code. This is understood immediately.

If a film image fades in smoothly from the blackout to the first film image, the fade-in opens our field of vision to something that was already there before and in which the action will now participate.

Conversely, the slowly darkening image as a fade symbolizes the passage of time in a shot.


The cross-fade merges two shots: The previous shot fades away – and the following shot appears almost simultaneously.

The cross-fading connects different processes and at the same time always indicates the change of time.

The use of dissolve instead of cut is frowned upon if it is intended to simulate a cut. Only where a cut is not possible due to faulty design of the film image (for example, because the focus of the image or the axes of vision are not correct) is the cross-fade justifiable as a last resort. But in the montage, the director and editor must be aware in this case that with such an attempt at rescue they always also symbolize (dramaturgically unintentionally) a passage of time.

Dissolves work easiest in close-ups. However, they are not limited to these.

The more sparingly fades are used in the montage, the stronger the effect of the fade. The more often dissolves are used, the more the viewer perceives them as meaningless, playful formalism.


The flashback is the insertion of scenes into a storyline. It shows previous events. Flashbacks

  • can be memories, but also
  • Explanations for the viewer.

With a flashback, the viewer gets a head start in knowledge compared to the characters appearing in the film.

Film time is reversible with the flashback!
Walter Dadek

Flashbacks create the dramaturgically important possibility of confronting the present with the past. Or with the future. Although the appearance of the flashback is tied to the plot, it is by definition detached from real time.

The flashback allows the viewer to see and understand events that remain closed to him in real life.

In the montage, the flashback grows beyond the linear, real sense of time and space. This kind of aperture manipulates the perception of time.

The technique of the aperture is about to experience a revival:

While scene transitions with fades have been considered outdated for the past few years, directors have recently started using them more often in montage again. The aperture’s newfound popularity is also due to the fact that it can perform a paradox like no other means in editing: The diaphragm is both a “separator” and a “connector”.

Unlike match cut or jump cut, the fade as the only device in the montage signals a reconciliatory connection between two separate sequences.

2Change the sense of time and space: Time lapse and slow motion

Film time and real time can be manipulated not only by different types of apertures. Time-lapse and its opposite, slow motion, are also popular for this purpose. Both means always have the strongest effect when they are deliberately chosen and used in a video.

DSlow Motion

The slow motion (English: Timelapse) shows through the deceleration processes that are not visible to the naked eye. This is made possible by high-speed recording.

Slow motion, by stretching time, gives the viewer the opportunity to see and understand things. It is the answer to our curiosity. It shows what happens when you could look closer. Slow motion turns seconds into minutes.

This is why slow motion is often and correctly used in product films to explain technical processes.

People in slow motion become the object of pure observation, in contrast to real footage, which triggers psychological reactions of the highest complexity in the viewer.

Images in slow motion trigger a strong fascination in the viewer if the right motif is chosen. Slow motion recordings are demanding from a technical point of view because they can only be produced in high quality with special cameras.

Zeitraffer, Blende und Zeitlupe im Film: Zeit- und Raummanipulation

ETime lapse

Time-lapse, on the other hand, opens up a view of processes that only become recognizable through their acceleration. A melting glacier only becomes a memorial through timelapse.

Time-lapse photography can bring even seemingly dead objects to life: The infinitely slow decay of a boulder, shot with frames over months and years, suddenly breathes life into it.

Zeitraffer, Blende und Zeitlupe im Film: Zeit- und Raummanipulation
Zeitraffer, Blende und Zeitlupe im Film: Zeit- und Raummanipulation

A very special kind of slow motion is Bullet Time.

3Jump Cut

A special way to compress time in a film or video is the jump cut.

The Jump Cut is an unusual alternative to the compression of time. In a way, it is the antithesis of the classic invisible cut (the découpage classique, also called continuity editing in English-speaking countries).

According to his own statements, director Jean-Luc Godard only invented the jump cut because he couldn’t find another way to shorten his 1960 masterpiece “A Bout de Souffle” with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg to cinema length.

Godard found salvation in shortening the settings. Not by cutting the beginning or end of the shot. But because within the setting cut out a part – so the jump cut was invented.

The Jump Cut is not to be confused with the Match Cut. This was made immortal a few years later by another master of montage and direction, Stanley Kubrick, in “2001 – A Space Odyssey” (1968).

Summary of Time Lapse, Slow Motion, Fades and Jump Cuts

With the use of fades, time lapse and slow motion, the director and editor can create a new, own cinematic time period beyond the possibilities of the camera in the context of montage.

With the rediscovery of apertures, time-lapse and slow motion, cinematic design has possibilities that are only available to photography in a limited and different form. Software also has a part to play here that should not be underestimated: keyframing makes the digital creation of such effects easier than ever.

However, there are also genres in communication with moving images in which these forms of design have little or no place: these include CEO videos in particular.

Literature tip on the subject of time-lapse, slow motion and aperture

Dadek, Walter: Das Filmmedium: Zur Begründung einer Allgemeinen Filmtheorie . Ernst Reinhardt Publishers, 1968

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

Redaktion Filmpuls
About Redaktion Filmpuls 265 Articles
Unter der Bezeichnung »Redaktion Filmpuls« erscheinen Beiträge, die von mehreren Redaktionsmitgliedern gemeinsam erstellt oder bearbeitet wurden.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.