Guides

The 9 essential video transition effects

James Chambers
James Chambers, Co-founder
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7 min read
7 min read

Video transitions are a staple of video editing and motion graphics. Also known as transition effects, they are used to move from one shot to the next. Transitions can be a simple ‘cut’, or much more complex.

Adding knowledge of transitions to your video editing vocabulary will make you a better filmmaker. We’ve assembled examples of the most common transitions - ably demonstrated by Pencil the dog - to show you the basics.

Table of Contents

  1. Fade In
  2. Fade Out
  3. Wash Out
  4. Cross Dissolve
  5. Ripple Dissolve
  6. Jump Cut
  7. Cutaway
  8. Iris In
  9. Iris Out
  10. Editing Software

Fades

Fades are the building blocks of many other transitions. Subtle to the point of almost being invisible, effective use of Fades is a key skill in your video editing toolkit.

Fade In

FadeIn A Fade-In Transition

During a Fade In transition the shot gradually becomes visible. Helpful in giving the viewer time to take in an image, Fade In transitions are often used to start a film or set the scene.

Fade Out

FadeOut A Fade Out Transition

During a Fade Out transition, the shot starts at full brightness and gradually becomes invisible. Using the Fade In and Fade Out together is an effective way of conveying the passage of time.

Wash Out

Wash Out An example Wash Out Transition. a.k.a Flash Fade / Fade to White

Similar to the Fade Out transition, but fading to white rather than black.


Dissolves

Building on Fades, Dissolve transitions gradually replace one image with another, but often with more artistic flair. With this power comes responsibility, and complex Dissolve transitions should only be used to aid in story-telling.

Cross Dissolve

CrossDissolve An example Cross Dissolve Transition

Effectively a combination of Fade In and Fade Out, a Cross Dissolve gradually replaces one shot with another. This transition is often used to imply a passage of time or a change of location.

Ripple Dissolve

video-transition-ripple-dissolve An example Ripple Dissolve Transition

Perfect for a dream sequence. Ripple Dissolve is similar to a Cross Dissolve in that one shot is gradually replaced by another but it makes use of a ‘Ripple’ filter which gives a dream-like quality to the transition. Use sparingly.


Cuts

The most abrupt of transitions. Cuts are characterised by the content of the two shots rather than the style of the transition itself. A Cut transition replaces one shot with another. In this way, they could be considered more of a direction technique, rather than a transition. Nonetheless, let’s investigate.

Jump Cut

JumpCut An example Jump Cut Transition

In a Jump Cut transition, the subject appears to ‘jump’ from one location to another. It’s often used create the impression of time passing.

Cutaway

video-transition-cutaway An example Cutaway Transition

A Cutaway transition involves cutting to a secondary (but related) shot which is separate from the main action. It can be used to show action in two different locations, or in a conversation to show both the speaker and listener.


Wipes

Wipe transitions replace one shot with another through animation. A Clock Wipe, for example, uses a circular motion like the hands of a clock to show the second shot. As with Dissolves, Wipe transitions grab attention and should only be used with good reason.

Iris In

video-transition-effect-iris-in An example Iris In Transition

Used at the beginning of a scene, the Iris In shows a small, circular area of the shot before expanding out to reveal the entire frame. Used everywhere from Tom & Jerry to The Departed.

Iris Out

video-transition-effect-iris-wipe-out An example Iris Out (a.k.a. Iris Wipe) Transition

More theatrical than a Fade Out transition, an Iris Out transition is used to conclude a scene by animating a contracting circle inward from the edge of the frame. It’s like a spotlight focussing on one area of the shot.


A note on editing software

The video editing software landscape is dominated by two players; Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple's Final Cut Pro. Both are incredibly comprehensive video editors which will enable you to create video transitions and much more besides. If you work in motion graphics, Adobe After Effects is the industry standard.


Using transitions in your work

Transitions are a powerful video editing and direction tool. Keep an eye out for transitions while watching moving image; how is the director using them? What feeling are they conveying? Become a student of transitions and you'll soon be a dab-hand.

James Chambers
About the Author

James Chambers is the co-founder of Boords, and one of the founding directors of Animade