Whether you are new to the art of editing or a seasoned professional, one thing about it that at times can be oversaturated are transitions. Transitions come in all sizes in shapes. From a simple cut to more stylized transitions, we have been exposed to them in one form or another. The core of editing any video or film should be the story. Transitions and effects are meant to enhance the story, not define it. However, if a transition is used in the right context ant the right time then you can make it work with your project. I’m going to go over some simple practices for commonly used transitions.
The most used and effective transition there is. The cut works best in situations such as cutaways, scene/location changes and dialogue. For example, if you are cutting an interview segment and you hear a soundbite about a place or thing, it would be best to cut to a shot of said place or thing to keep the viewer interested and informed. The best part about the cut is that it can trim scenes down or manipulate the interpretation of a scene.
Also, the cut can be utilized in stylized way. It is one of the preferred transitions in montages and rap videos when you want to cut to the beat or flicker between multiple images.
The Cross Dissolve
The second most used transition in editing. The cross dissolve works best when you need a change in place and/or time. For example, if I were showing someone losing weight after beginning a diet and exercise routine, I would want to cut that down to show the weight loss progression. The best way to show those points would be to show them at their worst weight to their healthy weight by using cross dissolves between each significant moment. The cross dissolves would help to give the feeling of time passing.
Fade to White/Black
These transitions tend to serve three purposes: jump ahead in time, build suspense or start/end a video. Fade to White can typically be seen as a way to cover something up like a mistake or serve as visual cue that things have jumped ahead. It works similar in the way that cross dissolve works but hides progression by fading the screen to white for a determined duration. Fade to white has a few variants such as the flashframe transition, exposure flash and more. I typically use the fade to white when I need to jump ahead in interview segments in a stylized manner.
Fade to black can also be used in the same manner as fade to white but typically it’s used to build suspense or end a video. If you’ve ever watched promos or movie trailers, you will notice that fade to black has been used to build suspense with properly placed sound effects. Quick fades to black give the viewer the feeling that something unpredictable is on the horizon and help showcase prominent moments. This transition also signals a cue that a video is over or cutting to a different segment. Used incorrectly it can have a negative impact on your video.
“Bell & Whistle” Transitions
You’ve probably seen them or have been asked to use them. Everything from swish pans, lens flares, light leaks, mattes and more are what I would classify as bell and whistle transitions. They are nice to look at, but if used too often or incorrectly, they start to make your edit look tacky and show that your video lacks substance. In certain situations, your client may request you use a lot of these so be prepared. There is a place and time to use these types of transitions. In my experiences, I’ve used them in event highlights, music videos, sizzle reels, motion graphic toolkits, promos and entertainment interviews. Now, I can do fine using the 4 transitions mentioned previously. However, if I need to pump some life into an edit or add some energetic production value and those transitions are not enough, I will use a bell and whistle transition.
It’s best to use these transitions with a purpose as opposed to throwing it in because it looks cool. For example, sports game broadcasts, talk shows and reality competitions tend to have bell and whistle transitions when showing replays or cutting to commercials, segments and more. They have established these transitions work best when they need to cut to these parts of the show.
Another example of good use of these transitions are on shows from HGTV, Investigation Discovery and DIY TV. With the pacing and theme of shows from those networks, they find a way to use bell and whistle transitions to keep the viewer interested and not overdo it.
There’s an appropriate time and place for all transitions. Using them to enhance your story demonstrates your ability to edit wisely. I’m the NLE Ninja with Audio Micro asking you stay creative.