A transition is the process of change or a transformation from one state to another state.
In terms of film, transitions refer to visual or audio techniques an editor may use to connect from one scene to the next scene.
There are many video effects within Premiere or any editing program that can be applied to the clips to create transitions. There are also clever visual transitions that can be planned in advance, scripted, and filmed. There are also many ways filmmakers can create transitions using audio.
In most cases transitions are used to represent a change in time or location. Transitions are quite useful when cutting between scenes. They are often used when cutting from reality to a flashback or a daydream. Sometimes a transition may be needed at the beginning or end of a film as well.
Although transitions can be effective, be sure to avoid the overuse of transitions. It is not always necessary to use a video transition. Sometimes a regular cut can work well. As a general rule, do not add a transition in the middle of a scene unless there is a specific reason to do so.
It is easier for the editor when the director and cinematographer have taken transitioning between scenes into consideration when shooting. If you an editor who is invited into the filmmaking process early before the film has been shot, transitions are an element you can mention to the filmmaking team to be sure that these are being visualized in advance.
Let’s discuss some different types of transitions.
Match Cut – A match cut is a transition that is created by juxtaposing two shots that have something in common such as a similar shape or perhaps a person or object framed in a similar way. Often the two images may be quite different, but the match cut causes the audience to relate the two, exposing a thematic point.
One of the most famous match cuts is from Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
The first section of the film is called “The Dawn of Man.” It follows the evolution of ape-like creatures from a time when they are vulnerable to a time when they have learned to defend themselves through violence. They begin to use bones as tools and then as weapons. Kubrick follows a shot of one creature throwing a bone up in the air after successfully killing another creature. As the bone flies in the air, there is a match cut to a spaceship flying in space.
This match cut serves to connect millions of years in a matter of seconds. It connects the very beginning discoveries of mankind with the vast technologies that humans have achieved. Take a look at the match cut from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The match cut occurs at :46. Play media comment.
That is known as a visual match cut or a graphic match cut. It is created based on similarities between the visuals in two separate shots.
You can also create match cuts based on a theme. Instead of cutting between two similar shapes, this type of match cut can transition from one shot to another shot that relate thematically in color or subject.
A great example of this is a scene from Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962). When the film transitions from one scene to the next, the character of Lawrence blows out a burning match. When he blows out the match, the film cuts to a sunset in the desert. The fire from the match thematically brings the audience to the heat of the desert. The match cut occurs at 1:18 in the clip below.
The two examples you have watched did not require any video transitions to be added in the edit. They simply required the editor to place the two clips back to back. However there are some transitions that can be generated by the editing software. Let’s look at some examples of these types of edits.
Dissolves – A dissolve is an effect put between two clips that slightly overlaps the clips as they transition from one to the next. The dissolve can be relatively quick or very slow depending on the editor’s preference.
A dissolve, often called a crossfade, can be easily added in Premiere. Later in the class this will be discussed.
Here are a couple of examples of dissolves used in film.
In Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981), the Paramount logo in the beginning cleverly dissolves into the first shot of the film, which is a shot of a mountain peak.
Please Click on link below to view opening credits from Raiders of the Lost Ark
Watch this short excerpt from Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941). There is a slow dissolve transitioning the film from one scene to the next.
A more self aware play on the dissolve can be found in Wayne’s World (Spheeris, 1992). Sometimes before a scene change in the film, the characters of Wayne and Garth suggest a transition by looking at the camera, motioning and making sound effects before the dissolve happens. Of course in this case the dissolve is combined with a wavy distortion effect which adds to the comedy. Take a look:
A Wipe is another type of video transition that you can create in Premiere. A wipe is a type of transition where one shot replaces another by traveling (wiping) from one side of the frame to the other, or using a special moving shape. These are not used all the time, but you will see them used occasionally. Normally they are used to indicate a change in time or location. Here are two examples of a simple wipes used in His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940). Note how the second wipe is a very close match to the movement of the taxi, making it go by almost un-noticed. Play media comment.
Star Wars (Lucas, 1977) is filled with wipes and many other fun transitions. Here is a compilation cut of some of those:
You may see wipes used in films today in a way that often goes unnoticed if you don’t know to look for them. These are referred to as invisible wipes.
Here is an example of invisible wipes used in Citizen Kane (1941). This plays as though it is one long shot. However, it is three shots put together using wipes. If you pay very close attention you may notice some slight discrepancies between the pacing of the shots. Some are slightly faster. You can assume that the wipes occur when the horizontal bars come into frame. See if you can identify the wipes used in the clip below.