Every Edit in Video Editing Could be a Transition

Every edit you make in video editing could be a transition; a cut, a dissolve, a wipe, all transitions.  A sequence could be a transition.  A pan could be a transition.  A person walking across the screen could be a transition.  Anything that advances your story and takes the viewer to another location, time, or space is a transition.

Transitions can change the mood in your story.  Every edit should advance your story.  Every transition should have a purpose.  I am not a big fan of wipes.

I love Star Wars.  The Empire Strikes Back is one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time.  I understand why there is silly wipes in the movie (they wanted to harken back to the black and white tv serials).  The reason I point out The Empire Strikes Back is it’s still one of my favorite movies despite silly wipes.

If you use a wipe or two in a story it’s not a bad thing.  Just think about which wipes you use and if they’ll distract from the story. Wipes draw attention to themselves.  A good editor tries to hide his edits.  There are however times when transitions like dissolves are necessary.

The story for this post is The Ocean Carries Meaning.

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I’ll to break down the story and talk about transitions.  I’ll explain why I used a dissolve the way I did and what are some other transitional elements in the story.
The first 4 shots of this story I use dissolves.
The first two shots of the ocean are compositionally similar.  If you cut those two shot together it’s a compositional jump cut.

What is a compositional Jump cut?  Compositional Jump Cut is when you cut two shots together with similar visual perspectives together.

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Look in the middle of these shots.  See where the ocean meets the horizon?

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In each of these shots that line is virtually identical.  Another thing that’s similar in perspective is the amount of sky relative to ocean and sand.  The sky shares the same amount of space in both shots.  If these two shots were cut together I would refer to them as a compositional jump cut.  Compositional Jump cuts by the way is something I came up with.  I’ve never actually heard or read that phrase.  I just think it’s an easy way to explain why you don’t cut these kinds of shots together.

So, why didn’t I choose another shot?  I wanted to show those two beauty shot and didn’t want another shot.  It’s as simple as that.  I wanted to make these two shot work and using a dissolve I felt was the best way to do that.

From the 2nd shot above to the first time we see Tom [At :09]  I use dissolve again.

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These two shot actually cut together fine.  Why did I dissolve here?  It’s a feel thing.  I just felt like I needed to keep the dissolves going as almost a theme in the beginning of the story.

Sometimes multiple dissolves simply are there because they are complementing each other.

From Tom coming down the ramp [At :12], I dissolve to the interview shot.  Why?


Because they are both tight shots. Cutting those two shots together would create another compositional jump cut. Out of the interview, to the reveal of Tom [:17] in a wheelchair I cut.  From [:17] to [:35] I cut because for  sequencing.  At [:35] I cut back to interview.


You just see the wheelchair so the cut works fine. At [:37] is a tight shot of Tom’s leg and I use some natural sound to transition to Tom in the swimming pool training.


Natural sound can be a great transition.  No need for a dissolve or wipe.  The natural sound does the trick for the the story.  From here to [:48] is a sequence of Tom training in the pool which all cuts fine.


At [:49] I dissolve from Tom training to a wide shot of the Ocean.


Looking back at this edit, these two shots cut together just fine (if I’d chosen that).  I wanted a dreamy feel.  It’s Tom’s dream to dive, so from training to the ocean is almost a dream.  The dissolve helps convey that feeling of a dream.

Why didn’t I dissolve into the training.  Training is something he has to do but it’s not his dream.


From [:51] to [1:12] are cuts.  It’s a sequence of Tom on the boat and then a reporter stand up.  From the reporter stand up back to Tom I dissolve.  Why?  She’s talking about how he got paralyzed.  I want to create a feel of a transition of time.

Dissolves can create a transition in Time

I Dissolve [1:26] from the interview back to Tom getting ready to dive.


Again part of creating a dream feel. From [1:28] to [1:55] I’m cutting with sequencing.


At [1:58] I dissolve and 3 more dissolves follow to [2:07] Again, back to the dream of diving.  I’m continuing with creating that dream feeling. From [2:09] to 2:38] I cut. I’ve already created the dream feel as he begins the dive.


Now I’m sequencing.  I don’t need to keep dissolving.  He’s living the dream so you don’t need to create a feel anymore. At [2:39] I dissolve from a wide shot of Tom underwater to a tight shot.


Why here?  I didn’t like the way the shots cut.  I’m kind of anal when it’s comes to match action.  At [2:48] another dissolve. Same reason, the match action doesn’t cut right.  So, sometimes I dissolve simply because I don’t like who two shots cut together.

Here’s a place where I’d rather dissolve than use a cutaway.  So why not just show a cutaway?  First of all the reporter is talking about Tom.  So, there is no cutaway that would be relevant.  Second I try not to use shots unless they are relevant to the story.

Earlier I showed a cutaway of a fish [2:20] because it’s relevant to the story.


At [2:55] is another dissolve to an interview.  This is another feel thing.  I’ve just done two dissolves of Tom underwater.  Yes, I’m dissolving because I don’t like how the shots cut together. These two dissolves I’m again creating that dream come true feeling
Another dissolve just felt appropriate here [2:55].  It’s a feel thing.  I’m actually amazing myself explaining feel here.


At [2:59] I use sound as my transition.  I going from the interview to a sequence of Tom coming out of the water. From [2:59] to [3:24] I sequencing again so I cut.


At [3:18], I bring up the natural sound of the boat. Again, using sound as a transition.  I’m telling the viewer the boats moving and they’re on there way back.


At [3:24], I dissolve from a shot of the bird flying next to the boat to Tom on the dock (it’s a tight shot of his hand)


This dissolve is simply a time transition dissolve. The rest of the story finishes out on the dock so I sequence.  No reason to dissolve anything here.

Transitions are key to every story.

They are the tool that moves the story from one place to another.

They are also a tool to help set a mood.

Thanks for reading.

As always I love comments.


Match Cuts and Hiding The Edits

You see match cuts all the time;  movies, television shows, and commercials contain match cuts.

Take this Heineken commercial for example

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At [:13] you see match cut of the gentlemen in pink juggling the beer in glasses.

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At [:18] is a match cut of the gentlemen throwing beer bottles from the stage to the men on the couch.

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At [:27] is a match cut of a man serving beer balancing a glass on his chin.

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Match cuts are an edit that connects two shots together via the action within the two shots.  Editors who are meticulous with match action understand how edits work.

The idea is to edit to shots together using the action within the shot.  Having movement in both shots, editing on that movement hides the edit.

In the commercial you see
The action continues in two uniquely composed shots
• It appears as if the shots are done with two different cameras rolling at the same time

• It’s an easy way to create a very clean looking sequence
• The match cut edit hides that there is in fact  an edit
Editing two shots together on a movement will often make the edit invisible.  Good edits are invisible edits.  Good edits are edits your audience doesn’t notice.
Our story for this post is Michaela.

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There a lot of match action in this story. I mean a ton.  I mean…well you get the point.

The beginning of the story is a sequence of Michaela and her mom in the kitchen.  Within that sequence I use match cut from the shot of Michaela tight at [:11]

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to the wide shot of her and her mom in the kitchen.

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Match cuts make edits very smooth.  Match cuts are not always made with a person, you can use an item.

In this next example you see Michaela lifting the weights and then begin to put them down.  She doesn’t complete the action of the weights going to the ground in this shot.

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In the next shot you see the weights land on the ground completing the action.

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When the barbell leaves the frame your eye naturally drop down.  Your eye expects to see the barbell hit the floor.  The match cut is very natural.

Here is another match cut  beginning with the barbell on the ground and then Michaela picks it up.

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I make an edit while the barbell is moving up and out of frame.  The next shot you don’t see the barbell right away.  You do see Michaela coming up and then the barbell.  So the action completes in the second shot of the sequence.

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It looks like what you would see if you were in the room with her.  This is one of the tools to help take your audience to your story.  When Michaela drops the barbell I again have a match action shot at [:38].

This is a simple three shot sequence with match cuts connecting each shot together.

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Here is another three shot sequence with each edit connected with match action [:42].

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Michaela come up the a machine, takes the weight and does a squat.

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Starting at [1:22]  my match cuts go into overdrive.  Can you tell how much I like match cutting?

I try to use Michaela’s movement of starting and stopping points for my edits.

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Here’s another one at [1:44]

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Michaela’s entire family is at the weight-lifting competition. From [1:41] to [2:03] is all match action except for one cutaways of Michaela’s mom.
I had a lot of fun putting this story together.  I had even more for honing my match cut editing abilities.



Putting Images Together in Video Editing to Tell the Story

You have to put images together in video editing to tell a story.  You’re a storyteller.  It doesn’t matter if you are editing a news package, a documentary, a film or an online feature using stills, It’s all storytelling.
Putting the images together to try and tell a story is video editing.  Every edit should be made for the story.  Before sequencing, action/reaction, movement, eye trace or continuity, there is the story (See guideline of six for more).

You learned about telling stories with pictures when you first started reading.  When my sons were little I would have them read to me.  They were taught when they don’t know a word to look around at the pictures for clues.

As video editors  we need to help the audience with clues.  We need to give them picture clues.

When the wild things “made him (max) king of all wild things,” Maurice Sendak shows a picture of this happening.


As storytellers we can take a cue from when we first started to learn about stories.  We read them and look at the pictures.  The pictures help the stories make sense.  Take this basic idea and apply it to video editing.

The following story I edited a several years ago about a snowstorm here in Denver.  It does not matter if you edited a story yesterday or 10 years ago, the images still have to make sense with the story.
Please watch More Than Just An Inconvenience.

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The entire story my goal (and usually my goal with every story) is to find pictures to help tell the story.
The very first line of track from the reporter is

This was the end of the line.

And my image is


The next three shots I’m just trying to match the pictures and the words.

Instead of an interstate highway




Was a dead end road.


After the reporter track is a soundbite

I’ve been doing this for 30 years, you get…you know this stuff happens driving a truck. And it’s going to happen sooner of later and more than once.

I cover the second half of his soundbite with a truck with snow on it.


The shot supports the story and helps tell the story.

The next piece of track is

But twice in a week

And I show this


Multiple trucks in the shot.  The closest I can get to some kind of symbolism of twice.  I still think this shot advances the story.
The story continues

Truckers pass the time


with bottomless cups of coffee,



and John Wayne on the TV.


I’m making every effort I can to show what the reporter is talking about.

Now some make think I am being to literal with my editing of the story.  In the case of a simple general news story, I want to help the viewer understand the story as best as I can with the images I’ve been given.  As you develop your skills this is a pretty easy way to make sure your stories are making sense to the viewer.

Thanks for reading.



The Beginnings of Video Editing

Forgive me if you know what video editing is. This post is to those just beginning their journey or those that need a refresher.

Classes all over the country have begun teaching your eventual replacements.  On September 2nd, 2014 my students at Emily Griffith Technical College begin their journey into video editing.  On Tuesdays for the next 15 weeks they’ll  learn the theory and technique of video editing.


They’ll learn how to tell a story from me.

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I spent the last 17 years of my life trying to learn everything I know about video editing;

  • in broadcast news environments (6 different newsrooms)
  • at post-production houses editing documentaries and television series.
  • editing entertainment shows.
  • freelancing in the corporate world producing small business profiles, documentaries, training videos

Every situation I try to learn from.  Every edit I try to take a moment to understand what I did and how I can learn from that edit.  You’ve got to keep learning.  Why?  Those replacements are coming and they are hungry for opportunities in the workforce. My students will learn everything I can fit into their minds including the origins of video editing.  I’m here for you t0o my good friend.  I’m still learning.  Sometimes I learn a lot by simply refreshing what I already know.

All you have to do is read and learn.

One of the first films ever created is Round Hay Garden Scene (1888).

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Some may argue that Horse in Motion (1878) was the first film. That film was accomplished using multiple cameras. These were still photographs assembled into a motion picture. They used 24 cameras to capture this.

Actual motion picture cameras weren’t developed until the 1880s. That is when camera started capturing all the single images on one reel. As this time there was no editing. Each film ran as long as there was film to roll.

Filmmakers often would shoot and just stop the crank of the camera when they felt they completed capturing that scene. Then they would reset for the next shot and start cranking again when the next scene was ready. You could say this was the beginning of editing. It was editing in the camera so there still was no manipulation of the reel.

It wasn’t until the 1900s that editing really began.  Did you know that the one of the very first reasons for editing is that studios wanted films to be longer. They wanted multiple film reels compiled into one continuous movie. After that revelation they started putting images together to try and tell a story.

One of the very first films that not only combined reels but began to develop some rules (or guidelines as I prefer) for video editing is The Great Train Robbery (1903)


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Watch this movie and realize

  • There is action/movement in every scene
  • They maintain screen direction (except for one edit)
  • There is sequencing
  • Each edit advances the story
  • There is an effort made in pacing/rhythm
  • Editing hasn’t changed much in over 100 years.



You Better Know Your Trim Tools for Video Editing

I’ve been editing on non-linear systems for 15 years.  With each passing year and each new NLE I learn, I’m happy to say I’m still learning.  

One of the tools that took me a while to really grasp was the trim tools.  In fact it wasn’t until I had to learn Final Cut Pro about 10 years ago that I truly started to appreciate the power of the trim.  

A few year ago when I had to learn Premiere Pro. I once again spent extra time understanding the power of the trim tools.  I don’t care which NLE you’re on.  You better have an excellent grasp of trimming.  

I think this is THE MOST important set of tools on an NLE.

I use the trim tools daily, hourly, probably many times a minute.  The trim tools make an editor’s life easier.  Trimming is like the wax you put on your car.  

Sure you washed it and it looks good.  To get that extra shine without doing any more washing you put the polish on.

Trimming is polishing your edits.

I think trimming is one of the hardest concepts to grasp when you’re learning about editing.  I still get frustrated.  With my frustration comes education.

What is trimming.  I took this definition from Final Cut Pro HD Hands On Training by Larry Jordan.

 “Trimming is the process of removing, or adding, frames to the beginning and end of your shots so that the edits flow naturally, maintaining your story, without calling attention to your editing.”

So why should you trim?  What’s the great benefit?  These are the tools that make your edits better and it’s quick.  Eventually, it’ll make you better.

I’m going to speak about trimming in general and why and how.  I currently edit exclusively on Premiere Pro where I work and where I teach.  

I used to edit on a non-linear system very linear-ly.  Meaning I would mark an in and an out and place it into the timeline.  If I didn’t like the edit I would undo and reset my in and out.  That’s a waste of time.  The material you want is already down in the timeline.

Once you place clips onto the timeline, you should never go back to the preview window or re-load the clip ever.

If you don’t like the In, then trim it.

The tool I used the most is extend edit (In Final Cut Pro 7).

I’ll use the story, Swinging on the Trapeze on my YouTube site to show you how I utilized some trim tools in the edit.  

This is a story I edited on Final Cut Pro 7.  The images are from that edit, but the concepts still apply.

At [:21] into the story you hear the beginning of a sentence from the gentlemen helping Kellie with the harness.  He says “It’s gonna be…, then I show him.

I place the edit of Kellie and the gentlemen down on the time line.  I then ripple the video of the woman on the trapeze just over the this new edit.  I made a J cut (Whoohoo!).

Simply select the edit you want to extend.  In this case the end of the clip that has the woman on the trapeze (ONLY THE VIDEO).

In Premiere Pro I love I can just hold down the option key and I can select just one track (basically unlinking a video and audio track)

At [:35] I make another J cut.  You see another women on the trapeze.

And you hear Kellie say, “So this’ll keep..”  and then I cut to Kellie after that.

Between these two shots I select the edit.  I select the rolling tool and drag that edit forward to where I want it to be.

At [2:06] is a match-action sequence of Kellie swinging on the trapeze.

The 2nd shot in the sequence is Kellie swinging from the platform and then all the way back to the platform.  I’m confident the action is matched here.  But maybe I want to tweak it a few frames.  I like my duration of the clip (two seconds) I’ve laid down.  I want to slip it a few frames.

Meaning I’m going to change the in and the out with one tool.  I’m going to zoom in to the clip on the timeline,  select the slip tool, and drag the clip forward and backward until I like my new in and out point while maintaining my duration.

The Slip tool works great for situation like this.  Trying to help with your match-action in a sequence.

Slip, roll, extend edits are the easiest I think to try and explain.  A ripple while isn’t any more complicated, It’ just a hard to to explain in a blog.

What do I want you to learn from this entry?  The next time your editing and you want to change something, use a trim tool.  Sometimes just playing around with the trim tools are your best way of learning.  I still discover new uses for each trim tool everyday.

Play and learn.

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