6 Rules of Video Transitions

Every video editor comes packed with transitions. But how do you know how to use them?

Video transitions are a powerful tool to keep your viewers active and engaged. But like any powerful tool, they can be misused and abused. A transition can be used from one cut to another, or from one scene to another. They can be used to further advance a story, liven up dull moments, or to help bring up the pacing. They can also be overused, with hundreds of flashy transitions per minute, numbing out any special look that they might have and dumbing down the viewer’s senses.

The transition as a brand

As a YouTuber, you need to know how to use these tools. So here are our top tips to help you on your editing journey.

Just like colors and music, transitions are just as much a part of your brand. If you use too many transitions, you’ll be at danger of muddling your overall image and looking sloppy. Choose a couple of styles that you like and are easy for you to implement, and stick with them. Some brands have managed doing transitions to such a degree that you can point and say: That’s the ___ transition. I have in mind here the Star Wars wipe, but there are plenty more examples.

You can utilize branding with colors as well. A wipe can have different shapes and palettes that all match your brand, check out our previous blog for some suggestions on that front. Also when considering which transitions you want to hone in on, think about the story you’re trying to tell and how that transition will fit the story. Do over the top transitions fit a downtempo history channel about blacksmithing or a lone wolf eating MREs in a quiet forest? Be sure that the transitions match your brand and the story it tells.

1. Consistency

Within the video, and from video to video, keep to your style. Transitions are part of what define your brand, so you want to stay as on brand as possible. This doesn’t mean you don’t have the freedom to experiment, but the top vloggers have already done their experimentation previously and now do what they do best. But if you look at some of the top travel vloggers like JR Alli and Sam Kolder, you’ll also notice the repetitive use of specific transitions. Check out this video by Sam Kolder for instance. Most of his transitions are just simple cuts. He doesn’t use a special transition every single time. And when he does, he does it with intention and with a style.

Get your winning style and stick to it.

2. Subtlety

But at the same time don’t go overboard. As I mentioned with that Sam Kolder video, most transitions are simple cuts. You don’t need to be flashy for every single transition. Make sure that you use transitions with intention and that they help promote the story of the video. If there is no silent narration with the transition, then consider just doing a simple cut instead.

3. Distraction

This pairs well with subtlety. The popular trend these days is the “seamless transition”, which makes it seem as if there was no transition at all, or at least that you can’t really tell where the cut was made. There are a lot of cool ways to do this, some ways involve using the masking function in your video editor, and others require very little editing skills – but at least the planning skills of a magician. The idea though is to make the eye focus on one thing, and with some sleight of hand (editing/planning), transport the viewer to another place. Throw a jacket over the camera in one scene, take it off in another; hold your hand up to the lens, swap the background while eyes are on the hand, and so on. Making clever transitions are little different than children’s parlor tricks.

4. 15 frames

A transition should typically last about no more than half a second (15 frames at 30 fps), maybe a full second for the longer ones. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, depending on the story you’re trying to tell. The quicker the transition though, the smoother it looks and the easier it is to edit.

5. Directionality

Make sure any seamless transitions you implement follow the camera direction. If the camera is moving to the right before the transition, make sure it is moving to the right after the transition. It can be visually very jarring if it keeps zigzagging with each cut. For simple cuts this isn’t so important, as the very nature of a simple cut is jarring, but for seamless transitions, this is a very important rule.

6. Use sound effects

Make your transitions pop to life by using a little sound. A whoosh here and a whizz there can do a lot to make the transition that much more interesting and less jarring to watch. If you have music in the background, consider timing the cuts to the beat of the music. This is especially great for a B-roll.

By the way, remember that Create Music has a great selection of both effects and music, easily tailored to your project. If your B-roll is just 1 minute 20 seconds, you can adjust any track to perfectly fit that timing. Check it out for free.


2020-12-03T09:26:46+00:00October 12th, 2020|YouTube|

About the Author:

Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, after a long bout of traveling the world, Shawn Basey finally settled down in the fantastic town of Tbilisi, Georgia in the steps of the Caucasus Mountains. Working as the main blog and content writer and editor for Create Music since February 2020, he also plays accordion, makes electronic music, writes novels, and helps bars, podcasters and YouTubers in the behind the scenes during his free time.