Using Transitions with Restraint

Watch some TV news stories. If you see any transitions other than simple straight cut edits, I'd be surprised.

Why? Time is a factor. But more and more stations these days have ready access to nonlinear editors such as Premiere, and it takes almost no time to add a transition using an NLE.

The principal reason for the dearth of transitions is that they can be distracting. If a TV news editor uses one, it's for a purpose. Typically they take what would have been a jarring edit?such as a major jump cut?and make it more palatable.

An oft-heard newsroom phrase applies: "If you can't solve it, dissolve it."

On the other hand, consider the Star Wars movies. Remember all the highly stylized transitions? Obvious, slow wipes for example. George Lucas knows what he's doing. Each of those transitions has a purpose. In general they are reminiscent of old serialized movie and TV shows. Specifically they send a clear message to the audience: Pay attention. We're going to a new setting.

Transitions can add whimsy. Here are a few examples:

  • Start on a tight hand shot of someone cutting a deck of cards and make a Swap Slide transition?one image slides to one side and another slides over it?to another card-related shot.

  • Take a medium shot of a garage door and use a Wipe Up?one image moves off the top while another replaces it from below?to transition to the next shot of the garage interior.

  • Start with a tight shot of a clock (analog, not digital) and use the aptly named Clock Wipe?a line centered on the screen sweeps around to reveal another image?to move to another setting and time.

  • With some planning and experimentation, you can videotape someone pushing against a wall while walking in place and use a Push transition to have that person "slide" the old scene out off screen.

  • Get that James Bond, through-the-bloody-eye effect using a QuickTime Explode transition.

Transitions can work with your video to add visual interest:

  • Take a shot of a car driving through the frame and use a wipe, synced with the speed of the car, to move to the next scene.

  • Transition from a shot of driving rain or a waterfall using the Slash Slide transition, in which streaks, like driving rain, slice through an image revealing another image below.

  • Use the aptly named Venetian Blinds transition as a great way to move from an interior to an exterior.

  • A Page Roll Away transition works well with a piece of parchment.

The possibilities are truly endless. During this hour I'll encourage you to experiment with all that Premiere has to offer.

    Part II: Enhancing Your Video