Video Transitions – How to use them in Video Editing

Video Transitions – How to use them in Video Editing

Video Transitions – How to use them in Video Editing ? 

Video Transitions refers to  the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another, in context of Video Editing it is the change of one shot to another, the most basic transition being cut. In this article we shall learn about various types of Video Transitions – How to use them in Video Editing.

Here we shall discuss on various types of transitions, and how to use them in Video Editing to offer the viewer an uninterrupted seamless visual experience, also known as continuity based Editing technique.

When we refer to Invisible Cuts in editing, it purely refers to an visual experience based on Continuity based editing. In this post we shall looks into aspects of Continuity based editing with use of various transitions.

Continuity – The Uninterrupted Visual Experience

Content Separation Colour Bar

Continuity based Editing has always being popular with commercial film production process as it is visually pleasing. Mastered by US film editors during first two decades of the last century, its aim was to maintain temporal consistency and spatial consistency while editing different view points, connecting through time and space. Preservation of mental coherence, than targeting pure visual continuity was the prime objective.


Continuity  and  film making ?

A perfect continuity may be described as a continuous visual experience with or without using any video transitions in the process of Video Editing.

In a scene a perfect visual continuity refers to a seamless visual experience to the audience without any cuts i.e. a single shot / single take. Birdman, La La Land, The Revenant are few of the recent movies one can find use of these shots.

Its is quite a challenge to shoot a single take shot where lot of action is taking place. One of the best single take scene I found on this film named 10 Minutes – where the young boy sets out from their apartment to fetch daily supply of water, I have posted the link below. 

Watch The Short Film : 10 Minutes 


Continuity between separate scenes – If you have noticed in the film the clock by the photo store and the clock in the apartment works as a visual transition.

Following is another example of Visual Continuity 

Visual Continuity — ‘Watchtower of Turkey’ (Dalessandri, 2014)

Use of Transition in building Relationship

Transitions can be best described as methods connecting two shots one after another. 

Cut – is the most basic  of all transitions, just playing two shots one after another. Although we call it most basic it is the most powerful and probably the most used transition. Cuts are essential for the effects of juxtaposition. Lets see what Master of Suspense has to tell about it. Click on the quoted link below to watch : 

Hitchcock speaks about how Juxtaposition of images can provoke a powerful emotion on the viewer.

As it connect two shots, Transitions are used to build relationship between two shots.

Fade to Black : Separate parts of story. Often used while switching from one story line to another.

Dissolve :   Interprets the passage of time, A long time Before or A long time After kind of feelings. 


dissolve transition in the opening scene — ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)

Wipe : When one shot pushes out another out of the screen it can side wise, angular, top, bottom or rotating.  The clock wipe which was used by  George Lucas in Star Wars is a rotating wipe.

clock wipe transition — ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’ (1977)


Transitions with a Message | Meaningful Transitions

Rather than just connecting two shots transitions create connections, human mind retains the visual in even if it has changed or disappeared, then comes the next shot and a mental connection is build up.

Our mind trends to match up  in size, shape, colour, texture, so if these are altered with – in consecutive shots a powerful visual communication can be created. Visual Match creates impact, that is why Match Cuts are popular in film making. 

In the Stanley Kubrick film –  ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’  he metaphorically condensed time line of history of Mankind till the progress he has made – in one single Match Cut Transition. 


match cut — ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)

Modern series, Pixar movies, directors Edgar Wright or Wes Anderson, just to name a few, make an extensive use of visual match cuts. The objective is to create a thematic connection, or contrarily to reinforce contrasts between opposed situations (by ironically associating them).

match cut that highlights similar situations —’Stranger Things’ (2016)

Visual match cuts

As meaningful and elegant cuts with matches certain action with another, resulting in strong impression on audience.

match cut (food vs. urine) that reflects the disgust felt by the protagonist — ‘Game of Thrones’ (2017)

The power of invisibility

Transitions can push continuity even further, to the point where they disappear.

Matching the two shots perfectly makes an invisible cut, it was originally created to hide the cuts from the audience.

Hitchcock made the first noteworthy attempt in his first color film, ‘Rope’. The film roll he had could not capture more than 10 minutes of video at once, so he had to trick to hide cuts during long scenes.

invisible cut, or not — Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’ (1948)


Alejandro Iñárritu uses that method to make his entire movie ‘Birdman’ look as if it had been captured in a single take.

invisible cut, did you see it? — ‘Birdman’ (2014)

In the above example, the invisible cut occurs when the camera is pointed on the floor, and is hidden by a whip pan, a movement of the camera which is so fast that it blurs the picture into indistinct streaks. The camera has also the exact same movement for the two shots, making the resulting motion smooth and uninterrupted.


invisible cut using moving car — ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004). The uninterrupted camera pan from left to right reinforces the transition

Sometimes Invisible cuts are used to unsettle the viewers on purpose, they may realize that something has changed in quick frame of time with completely unrelated shots. 


invisible cut using a whip pan (fast camera move), the spatial incoherence contributes to the visual comedy — ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004)

Visual Continuity – A well layout plan 

Creating an invisible cut or match cuts cannot be a thought while performing editing, it has to plan its way through the production and filming process, use of CGI may not create the kind of organic look and feel.   

Visual continuity as a system

Innovative directors and editors try to extend visual continuity beyond a few meaningful transitions and generalize the approach.

Match Dissolve : First, similar patterns and visual associations naturally draws our attention. Second, a smooth transition puts content first: the eyes are not being distracted by a visible change and can focus on what is in the shots.

match dissolve, elegantly smoothened by camera focus — Stranger Things (2016)

Then, visual continuity is strongly correlated with impact. Reaching maximum continuity becomes an element of the art direction and drives the filmmaking process.

To achieve that, directors and editors would look for all the possible elements they can match between the shots: subjects, actions, scene elements, lighting, colors, etc.

They also make use of all the techniques introduced by the most innovative filmmakers to further blend the shots: obstruction of objects, camera moves (whip pans), passing through very dark and very light environments, adding lighting, etc.

Post-processing methods (correcting colors, masking one shot with the other, or warping time to align speeds) can amplify those similarities and help reach visual matching.

invisible cut using dark foreground elements — ‘NORWAY Let the journey be your goal’ (Baseotto, 2016)

Motion and Axis Transitions

Whether it comes from the motion of the shots themselves (subjects or camera moving) or some extra motion added in post-production, or a combination of both. The continuity of movement from one shot to the next is extremely effective on the eye.

It is crucial for the effect to work that the movement stays continuous — keeping the same direction, pivot, speed, and state in motion (accelerating, steady, or decelerating).

unbroken motion is definitely what ties those shots together and enables that very fast pace — ‘Watchtower of Turkey’ (Dalessandri, 2014)

Some radical approaches even base transitions on the similarity of motion rather than on the content.

Video Transitions - How to use them in Video Editing
transition made through the addition of motion (180° rotation + compensatory zoom in/out)— ‘NORWAY Let the journey be your goal’ (Baseotto, 2016)


As the craft of film making evolves there would be more intertwined  visual content which can have more visual impact.

Designing Transition –  Planning the shots explained :

If you are overwhelmed by the craft of designing a transitions, here is a video to help you out


Video Transitions – How to use them in Video Editing ? 

If you want to know more about Video Editing and Film making you can visit

Thanks to Jean Patry for support.