What are video transitions?
Briefly, a transition is a change between frames. Every video has dozens and thousands of them, depending on the project's length. The only exception is a raw film if you shoot it "in one piece" without pauses and breaks.
Video editing with transitions involves cutting the initial footage into the pieces you need and assembling them as you like. Whenever the frame changes, you have a transition.
Types of transitions in film
Generally speaking, there are only three main types of transitions; all the others are just their subtypes.
They make up to 90% of all video transition effects, especially in narrations. Simple cut is an essential part of every visual, and it's a real workhorse of every film director. The very term comes from the physical process of cutting a film to merge two different parts. There are several types of cuts:
- Hard cut
- L-cut (this cut and the previous one are music video transitions)
- Jump cut
Some filmmakers equate fades with dissolves. However, they are a little bit different. Fades usually make the shot fade out to the black (or, sometimes, white) screen. Dissolve means that the previous frame dissolves out while the next one dissolves in simultaneously, so at some point, they are both present, sifting through each other.
This type of transition is rarely used in films, documentaries, or other narrative visuals, although it may be quite appropriate in advertisements, musical clips, or creative projects.
"Swipe" is transiting from one frame to another with a visible slide effect. There are also different types of swipes: slides, barn doors, pushes, splits, page rolls, etc.
Why do we use video transitions?
Every transition type adds some nuances to the video perception, creating a specific atmosphere.
Cuts illustrate a change. It may be a physical change of location, an angle, or a change of the point of view. Also, cuts are used to skip irrelevant time periods, mark progress, and create tension or suspense (close-up cuts). Overall, they make up to 90% of all transitions, so they are "responsible" for the lion's share of emotions and subtexts.
Dissolve transitions and fades most often indicate significant time passage, flashbacks, memories, and dreams. Fade-ins and fade-outs can mark the beginning and the end of something, for example, a moment when the character wakes up or falls asleep.
Swipes or slides are rarely used in narratives, but they may be present in YouTube vlogs (especially if a specific transition becomes a hallmark of a vlogger). This type of transaction is an artistic technique, but it may look kitsch and cheap if applied inappropriately.
How to do transitions: tips and hints
- Don't overuse them. One of the most frequent pieces of advice from professionals is that less is more. Make sure you prioritize cuts over any other transitions. More radical film editors even insist on a 1:500 dissolve-cut ratio. The most radical ones declare that swipes are acceptable only as exceptions.
- If you do use swipes and dissolves, make them tell a story. They should be used for a good reason.
- Be consistent. Choose the best transitions for your project and stick to them.
- Keep transitions short. The "classical school" teaches that they shouldn't exceed half a second or 12-15 frames.
- Make them technically impeccable, but make sure post-shooting editing is not the most expensive part of your project. Some online video editing tools allow cutting the films and stitching the frames in a video in one canvas.
- Learn from experience, but not necessarily your own. Keep an eye on artistic videos and blogs, note what other directors do, and use the best patterns.
What is a video transition?
A video editing technique of connecting frames and shots.
What is the best video transition effect?
Without a doubt, cuts. They take 80-90 percent of all the transitions.
How many transitions should I use?
As many as you need. There is almost no way of creating a project without any transitions at all (if you do, it will be highly artistic and non-conventional). But too abundant, kitschy, and flashy transitions will do you a disservice too.
Video transitions are the glue that keeps all the visual parts together. They can be blatant and kitschy or seamless and discrete. As they say, the best transition is when there is no transition. But it's up to you: you can turn them into powerful artistic instruments and turn them to your advantage.