Transitions are very important – and mastering them is critical to being able to put together a brilliant piece of video content. If you’re new and looking for some useful information on what they are, why they matter and what you can do with them, you’re in the right place.
In this short guide we’ll introduce you to the very basics of video transitions so you can get started with fixing together multiple shots in the most effective way.
Video Transitions Explained
You may not realize it, but you encounter video transitions all the time – in films and documentaries, TV shows and music videos, and YouTube videos and video ads. You just don’t notice them. And that’s a good thing. It’s a sign of a successful transition.
Simply put, a video transition is a technique that acts as a bridge between two different shots, which help the viewer to move from one scene to another. Of course, you can do this with a simple cut. It’s really about making a judgment call, and this comes with experience. Ultimately your goal when using a transition is to piece together your shots in a way that does your final video justice. It’s all about finding balance.
Types of Transitions
There are a lot of video transitions to choose from – probably too many. And if you’re new to video editing, that can feel overwhelming. The secret is to ignore most of them (at least for now). And, if you do, know this – you’ll be following in the footsteps of many accomplished video editors who tend to stick to a small number of reliable transitions.
Here are some popular ones.
As the name suggests, this type of video transition is added in post-production. The ones you should have on your radar include:
- Dissolve: This is where one scene dissolves, and in doing so, reveals the next scene ‘beneath it’. It’s one of the more evocative transitions
- Fade In/Fade Out: Similar to a dissolve, a fade is when one scene slowly fades away, typically into a black background – hence the expression fade to black, which is also the name of one of our documentaries. You can also fade in and out to white
- Wipe: You could look at wipes as being one of the more ‘unruly’ transitions, as it’s not as discreet as the others. Again, the name says it all – it’s where the next scene wipes away the previous scene
Pro tip: Planning a marketing video? Read our full guide to brand video production.
Not all transitions need or have to happen in post-production. You can actually create transition effects with your camera during a shoot. Here three popular in-camera transition techniques to familiarize yourself with:
- 360-Degree Spin: As you come to the end of your scene, turn your camera 180-degrees (left or right). When you start the next scene, turn your camera back 180-degrees
- Lens Cover: Simply cover the lens of your camera with your hand, lens cap or suitable object and then, when you move onto the next shot, remove whatever it is you used to cover the screen
- Whip Pan: You can think of a whip pan as a fast version of a pan. This transition is created when the camera swiftly pans from one shot to the next causing the scene to become a kind of streaky blur
When and Why Should You Use Transitions
Are transitions necessary in every video? No. Can you overuse transitions? Absolutely. Quite often a simple cut – or a variation of it like a jump cut, l-cut or match cut – will be enough.
Again, it all comes down to what it is you’re trying to achieve and understanding how a transition can help make that happen. So, when deciding whether or not you need a video transition to join two shots together – and what type of transition it should be – consider the following questions:
1. What Is The Pace Of This Scene?
Video transitions can contribute to the emotional impact of a particular scene. For example, if you want to communicate a fast-paced and action-packed environment, then a whip pan is a great alternative to a simple cut. It works because it mimics the same level of energy as the shot.
2. Is There A Change In Time?
One key question to ask is whether there has been a change in time between two shots? If so, a transition, as opposed to a cut, can better demonstrate this. A fade or a dissolve are both good options for indicating a passage of time from one shot to the next.
3. Is There A Change Of Location?
If you’re moving between spaces and locations, from, for instance, the inside of a building to being outside, or from one country to another, then it’s well worth using a transition to help make that switch all the clearer. A lens cover is a creative way doing this.
4. Is There A Change Of Storyline?
Are you a masterful storyteller juggling two simultaneous storylines? You’re probably going to be changing location and time as you jump between them. A transition can help. A wipe is a great way of doing this, as all the Star Wars movies have demonstrated. This is one transition to be careful with because it can look naff.
So there you have it – a beginner’s guide to the basics of video transitions. You’re now in a position to start experimenting and getting to know how each transition can and should be used. You won’t get it right first time – but that’s okay. Practice makes perfect. Just refer back to this guide if you feel stuck. All we’ll say is use them sparingly and use them wisely. Follow that simple rule and your video content will be all the better for it.