Common Video Transitions: Cut, Fade, and Dissolve

This week Brandon discusses the most commonly used transitions in television and film: the Cut, the fade and the dissolve. He will cover the basic definition of each of the three transitions, how they are most commonly used in the film and television industries, and how anyone can improve their own videos with the proper understanding of how these transitions are used to visually enhance a movie or video.

Video Transcript

I'm Brandon from Videomaker magazine and I'm here today to talk to you about transitions. Transitions are some of the most important and powerful tools available for use today. While there are many types of transitions available today we're going to discuss the three most commonly used transitions in film and television; those are the cut, the fade and the dissolve. It is my hope to give you a better understanding today of what these three transitions are and how they are used in the art of visual storytelling.

Let's begin with the fade. There are two main types of fades, the fade-in, which marks the start or the beginning of a sequence or film, and the fade-out or fade to black, which marks the end of a film or the end of a sequence of film. By fading into or out of black, the audience becomes aware that the focus is being moved from one scene to another. Alternatively, by fading out to black and then back in from black, one becomes aware of an apparent passage of time in the sequence.

Let's move on to our next transition which is a dissolve. A dissolve is another type of transition commonly used throughout film and television today. There are a number of types of dissolves, from a ripple dissolve to a cross dissolve, but the basic definition of a dissolve is a visually smooth transition between one or more shots or scenes that dissolves from one shot to the next. An important note for filmmakers and editors, alike, when working with a dissolve shooting and in editing, it is important to allow for handles. Handles are short sequences that will lead up to and follow the transition of a dissolve. If there is a 30-frame dissolve, you need a 15-frame handle at the beginning and at the end of the dissolve in order to make sure you have enough video to perform the dissolve correctly.

Finally today we come to the third and most popular transition, the cut. The cut is used in probably 98 to 99 percent of the video transitions you will see on television or film, and because it is so subtle and so quick, the cut can frequently be placed within a single scene to determine the scene's pace or simply what different shots the director wants to be seen on screen.

Cutting with a specific purpose in mind is important to know and learn, such as cutting on the action. Cutting on the action is where the editor cuts from one shot to another different shot that matches the intensity and the action of the previous shot. The two shots can be completely different but by cutting on the action, the two shots can show a continuity from one to another simply by the correct placement of the cut.

Another type of cutting technique is rapid cutting which is exactly what the name suggests, a sequence of rapid cuts using either a suspenseful action-packed or high impact montage type of film sequence.

Okay, I hope that you've gained some valuable information today about fades, dissolves and cuts, what they are and how they're used in video and film today, but as a final thought, I would like to say that it is important to know what these transitions are and how they're used, but perhaps the most important thing is knowing why you're using them in the first place.

You see, the design of these transitions is to aid in the visual storytelling process without detracting from it. So if you're asking yourself should I place a cut, a fade or a dissolve in a certain part of your film or video, perhaps you should stop and ask yourself these questions. First ask yourself whether or not you need a transition. From there it's good to ask yourself what transition could help convey the message you're trying to convey or possibly add visually to what you're trying to tell in your story. Third of all, what transition would not add to you, what would detract from your story?

And then from there, you're probably better off in making the correct determination about what the proper transition is to use. If you can ask yourself these questions while editing your video it may help you to better understand the language of film and how you would like to use it.

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