Transitions - Video Basics

by Allen Kingsbury & Jarret Brown

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Once all of the scenes are shot, the video is edited. Each scene is placed on a time line and tied to the next by a transition. There are a few basic transitions common to most video productions. The most common is the cut.

In this transition, one scene is simply placed next to another. For example an establishing shot of a conversation between two people may be followed by a medium shot of one person, a close up of the other, a close up of the first, a medium shot of the other and then back to a wider shot. A well-placed and well-timed cut will be virtually invisible to your audience. A cut suggests that you are staying in the same time and in the same place as you watch the scene unfold.

Another common transition is the dissolve. Here, the first scene fades out as the second scene fades in. If you plan to use dissolves it is crucial that when you shoot the scenes you have enough good action at the beginning and end of each scene to allow time for the fades to take place. A dissolve is often used in music or artistic videos to soften transitions, but in other contexts it does imply that something is missing, signaling a change of time and perhaps place.

Fade in and fade out
A variant of the dissolve is a fade. Here the image fades to a background color, and then the next image fades back up. This transition indicates a change of time or place and if often used to indicate a new scene or topic in the video.

Jump Cut
We often record an interview that has to be cut down for time or content. At each cut transition the subject can be seen to move. This is called a jump cut. Jump cuts are generally not a good thing and are jarring for your audience to watch.

Using B-roll to cover a jump cut
The best way to use this type of narrative recording is with B roll. B roll is material you shoot that directly relates to the content of the narrative. The dialogue is edited together and then your narrator’s image and the jump cuts, are covered up by the B roll video. The end result is clean and functional.

Transition timing (cut on the beat)
The key to successful editing is timing. Transitions should be made on movement of subjects in the frame, on the logical back and forth of dialog, or if music is used, on the beat. Syncopation may work for dance music, but not for video.

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