Using Transitions in Video Editing

In video and filmmaking terminology, a “transition” could be defined as the way in which any two video shots are joined together.

The first point to understand about transitions is that misuse or overuse of transitions is a sign of an amateur, in the same way that overuse of slide transitions in a PowerPoint presentation is considered unprofessional. Especially if too many different types of transitions are utilized.

In short, any way that transitions call attention to themselves and distract from the video continuity would be poor utilization.

Conversely, when used professionally (“not” to the point of overuse), effective transitions bridge different video shots together to produce a better message or story flow.

There are significantly more transitions than depicted in this article, but the following are among the most widely used.

VIDEO TRANSITION: THE “CUT”

The most common transition is the “cut.” This is simply one video clip changing instantly to the next shot.

Cuts are the best way to keep the action or momentum moving along at a good pace.

Straight cuts are not only simple, but they create smaller overall file sizes, which are an advantage for web videos. (In other words, adding transitions create larger video files, and on the Internet, smaller files are desirable).

VIDEO TRANSITION: THE “FADE”

Two key transitions are fade-up from black and fade to black. Fading in from a single color, such as black, conveys a sense of “beginning.” And nothing says “the end” like a fade to black. (Fades can be used with any other colors, too).

VIDEO TRANSITION: THE “CROSSFADE” OR “DISSOLVE”

Another common transition is the crossfade, or dissolve. This is when one video shot gradually changes to the next.

Although the length of most transitions can be shortened or extended to best support the video, crossfades, in particular, can provide a more relaxed feel than a cut and slow the pace of the video.

Dissolves can better convey a sense of passing time than a cut.

VIDEO TRANSITION: THE “WIPE”

A wipe is a more complex transition and includes many variations. These could be categorized as fancier types of transitions, which means they would not be used very often in the realm of traditional storytelling. (They tend to have more applications in short social media videos and/or some commercials, to increase viewer interest, but much less so in long-form storytelling).

One way to think of a simple wipe would be imagining a single sweep of a windshield wiper as a transition from one shot to the next while it moves across the screen.

Variations include an iris wipe, a heart wipe, a clock wipe, and a star wipe, in which the name approximates the geometric manner in which the wiping motion occurs.

Examples: an “iris wipe” is like an expanding or contracting oval. A “heart wipe” or “star wipe” is like an expanding or contracting heart or star. And a “clock wipe” moves around in a circle.

Wipes can represent every shape or custom line imaginable. As another example, a jagged line, such as a lightning bolt, could move across the screen to unveil the next shot. And to make things more interesting, wipes can begin on the left of the frame and move right across the screen. Wipes can also begin on the right of the screen and move left. They can also begin at the top and move down. Or, as you might anticipate, they can begin at the bottom and move up to reveal the next shot. Furthermore, they can begin at any corner and move diagonally across the screen.

NOTE ON FANCY TRANSITIONS

Most video editing programs have a large library of built-in transitions. You can also buy additional video transitions. And on top of that you can create your own unique transitions.

Nevertheless, for the purpose of filmmaking and storytelling, be aware that you can create an entire feature film or documentary using only cuts.

So, why do fancy transitions even exist?

Fancier transitions are more often used in shorter videos to lend “style” or to increase viewer interest. Whether that be in social media videos, commercials or other videos. This does not suggest that fancy transitions are required or necessary in short content. However, as with all creative ventures, any rules can be broken.

Like fashion in general, styles change and what’s acceptable now may not be next year. Unlike fashion, what’s acceptable with transitions tends to change slowly. In the 60s and 70s there were TV shows that used wipes. Now, that would be uncommon. Yet, shorter-form videos and especially the “anything goes” culture of YouTube have demonstrated a greater facility with fancier transitions than ever. But this use bears the risk of such videos looking “dated” in the years to come, whereas a more traditional or classical use of transitions will better stand the test of time.

At the hands of professional video editors, appropriate use of transitions is an important aspect of the editing process.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Effective integration of transitions should always be inspired by some aspect of the story that is being conveyed in your video. For example, a transition may signify a change in location, or a change in the pace of the action, or simply the passage of time. If there’s no specific reason to use a transition, more often than not, just keep it simple and use a cut.

Another application of transitions is to smooth out minor video (or even audio) errors, which could appear more prominent with a cut, but which may be less apparent by a well-placed dissolve.

As a concluding note: in traditional filmmaking, transitions should not call attention to themselves. Their job is to subtly support the story or message.

How Robots Made This Food Commercial Look Effortless

Many moons ago I was shooting still photos for advertising in magazines, corporate brochures, annual reports, etc. The amount of work that can go into making something look simple can be intriguing to folks unaccustomed to what it takes to achieve such.

For example, I’m reminded of another past “simple” looking ad. A racquetball club wanted to promote its new healthy cafe they had just built. They conceived the idea of creating an advertisement that featured a guy and girl having lunch around a cafe table inside a racquetball court. So when my team and I created that, it did indeed look quite simple in magazines. However, if you were to visit the behind-the-scene set, you would think it was a construction zone. We used scaffolding on two sides of the court to raise numerous lights closer to the ceiling to create a cheery, bright look in the racquetball court. The scaffolding was woven with lots of power lines connecting to all the lights, in addition to the focused lights on the models around the table, so they would pop out more from the background.

And yet, all of that was quite rudimentary compared to what can occur to some simple looking product shots, such as featured above. In the above video, robotic cameras and devices are used to create an unreality that nevertheless seems somewhat natural when viewed.

In the above commercial, the whole camera and setting are built on a rig to rapidly rotate around the drink so that when a slice of lime is dropped into the glass, the resulting splash will show an exaggerated wave of the beverage cresting all around the top of the glass due to centrifugal force. In other words, you can’t tell that there is any rotating motion by looking at it, that’s intended to be hidden. All the viewer is expected to notice is that the drink seems to have more life. This is a sophisticated (and expensive) way to add some energy to a product shot.

As the video presents, creating this commercial required a lot of work sorting out numerous details. Even the final platform for the drink was the result of numerous tests of different materials that would stay stable and resist warping while spinning. Furthermore, how do you power and shoot a camera while it’s spinning? How fast should the robotic camera and set spin? How do you drop a slice of lime in a spinning drink in an exact location at the right time? Those are some of the challenges that needed to be solved to make this simple-looking commercial.

Having said all that, not all businesses have the budget to craft such types of visual messages. Hence, all ideas need to be tempered by the reality of budgeting. The good news is that nowadays much more production quality can be achieved for less cost than ever before.

“How to Make a Video Ad (the easy way)”

Years ago I went to a writing seminar and the speaker opened his presentation with a joke about how attendees want to know the secret to becoming a best-selling author. His answer: “Write a best-selling book.”

He got a good laugh from the audience.

Similarly, when creating video ads, those who are involved in the process would of course desire them to be productive. And it’s not unusual for clients to want them produced for as little cost as possible. More pragmatic business owners and marketers may just want to see positive results for their video expenditures.

Hence, the idea that there is an easy way to make video ads is a compelling concept, even if the above title is more suited to generating clicks than predicting real-world video ad success.

Nevertheless, this does not suggest that the information in the above video is not beneficial. The following points it outlines are indeed worthy:

  • Empathize with your customers
  • Evoke emotion
  • Focus on benefits, not features
  • Speak to your niche
  • Avoid ‘waffle’
  • Promote a call-to-action
  • Make your ad feel native

But it’s also probable that the speaker in the video, however well-intentioned, may never have run ads with his own money for his own business.

The idea behind the term “easy” is oftentimes marketing-speak for “it’s not.” Or stated another way, it’s analogous to writing a best-selling book. Or any book. It’s considerable work; whether it becomes a best-seller or not.

Representing all the above points in a video can still result in a video ad that loses money. Conversely, neglecting some of the points can yield great success. For example, big-brand advertising often does not emphasize product benefits or features and may not have a call-to-action. Check out this Nike TV ad, and notice how it’s not presented as an ad at all. Yet it does a reasonably good job of evoking emotion and generating a favorable impression for their brand. And — spoiler alert — it’s not inexpensive.

The most basic info not represented in the above “How to Make a Video Ad” is avoiding the #1 error in TV commercial and video production, and specifically, message testing. Testing is antithetical to the title and basic point of the video above: it’s not only work, but it’s added labor on top of the fundamental efforts of writing, producing and editing the ad.

And yet testing messaging before even writing the script can be essential to informing optimal messaging and eventual success. And then testing variations of the messaging can help to refine the video development before committing larger resources towards paying to get it viewed.

Having said that, a lack of testing may not be enough of a reason to not produce videos at all. But the actual shooting of the video is only one part of the writing, production and editing process.

In brief, there’s a lot more to the “writing” part of the process than is indicated in the above presentation on “easy” video ads.

Even more basic to the process of creating video ads is how does it fit in to your existing marketing and advertising strategy?

Like anything else in life, the best way to find out is to try. Or, in relation to creating videos: to get started. Your first video ad may or not be a great success, but you’ll be better informed for your next one.

How I Film Epic Pizza B Roll

Daniel Schiffer presents a behind-the-scenes (BTS) video of the shooting production for a Toronto pizza commercial.

A key takeaway is the variety of creative angles that are filmed on location, which are then punctuated and emphasized later in the video editing.

Speaking of video editing, as compelling as many of the shots are, this BTS also illustrates how much power the editing and post-production wields in delivering the impact of the final commercial.

It’s the quick cuts, speed ramps, color grading, sound effects and music that really highlight the product.

Another takeaway is how much reasonably high production value can be achieved with relatively low-budget shoots in this day and age. (Of course it’s still up to the talent of the production team to make that happen.)

The #1 Error in TV Commercial & Video Production

Video Production

OK, yes, it’s true: there are in fact numerous errors that can be made when planning or hiring professionals for a video production. So how can only one be prioritized?

In my years of producing over 1100 videos for TV, web and social media, the #1 error that I encounter boils down to this: Someone with good intentions and influence — usually an executive or business owner — initiates a project by saying, “I’ve got a great idea for a commercial. Let’s get it made.”

Indeed, this is a source of good business for video production professionals. And having a clear vision can make the process of creating a video more efficient. But it’s usually ‘not’ the best way to represent a company’s economic and/or marketing interests — particularly for commercials.

Does this mean it’s always bad? No. But the odds are stacked against any gut instincts when such may lack the experience to embrace all the factors that make a successful video — whether that be a brief commercial or something more substantial.

A better approach would be “We should consider video. Let’s explore this.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that one’s gut instincts or inspired ideas should be ignored. The idea could be valuable to informing the general concept. But it would be wiser to consider such within the context of what you’re trying to achieve in parallel with budgetary factors.

To put this in perspective let’s explore a few key points.

VIDEO BUDGET

First of all, it’s common that an inspired video idea might be beyond one’s budget, which would immediately curtail the project.

Secondly, is the budget just to produce the video? Or does it also include money for broadcasting, distributing or in some way getting the video seen, whether on TV or social media?

Sure, you could post it on Facebook and YouTube for free. But if you spent any meaningful resources on the video, the likelihood that it will generate enough exposure to make the project a success is low. (Viral videos are an exception to the rule, in the same way that winning the lottery is an exception to sound financial planning).

By the way, using Facebook and YouTube as part of a strategy to get your video seen is quite relevant. But getting it viewed is only reliable if you are “paying” to put it in front of the right viewers on YouTube and Facebook, not just posting it online.

Thirdly, if the video or TV commercial is intended to be used as part of a sales strategy, the idea of “return on investment” becomes a factor, and here the variables can become capricious. (Good news follows below in this article regarding how to make the ROI more predictable).

VIDEO STRATEGY

It could be argued that this next point should also be under the heading of “budget,” since the lack of a strategic vision, all in addition to a video vision, could contribute to inefficiency and waste. Nevertheless, its singular importance deserves its own heading.

You can ignore this if you are a marketing professional since it’s so obvious you would not overlook it. But I’ve observed this to be true even with business executives who achieved a certain level of success in the past through their inherent marketing savvy. You could say they allowed their own enthusiasm for a video project to eclipse the fundamental context of their existing marketing strategy.

Stated another way, does one’s “inspired idea” or “gut instinct” for a video actually align with any existing company messaging?

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, your video or TV commercial should align with your current marketing materials so that all your messaging presents a unified presentation.

Unless, of course, a whole new campaign is envisioned, which would then include new messaging for your website, newsletter, printed materials and other advertising. Specifically, if you decide you want to go after a younger demographic by making a commercial or promotional video series targeted to the younger generation, but your website and messaging is written for a different demographic, then the dissonance in your strategic implementation will reduce the effectiveness of your video.

“OK,” you may say, “That’s too obvious.” And so right you are. But let’s get a little more nuanced.

Let’s say you’re a tech company and your website and existing promotional materials all emphasize your cool hardware. But you are inspired to explore a “more human approach” to your company’s presentation by emphasizing the benefits of your products or services over and above the technology, by conveying a touching story. Such is fine and opportune as a vision. But it should also be represented on your company website in pictures and words as well as any other marketing channels in use. Not just in the video.

Video is such a potent way to convey messaging that a one-off production that does not fit into a broader strategic plan is rarely going to be as effective as one that fits into a holistic strategy for your entire business or nonprofit.

MESSAGE AND VIDEO TESTING

OK, this next point is not without controversy to smaller businesses, even though its merits are inarguable. It’s just that its value becomes even more important as your budget becomes more meaningful.

A core problem that many small and medium-sized businesses have is related to strategic implementation — or more specifically, lack of strategy to begin with. In my experience, a number of businesses view marketing and advertising as “let’s try this and see if it works.” Given that as a starting point, always bet that it won’t work and you’ll be living a lavish life versus anyone who would bet against you.

Of course, it could be argued that such an approach is the result of business owners or execs being too busy to understand that every marketing channel, whether that be email marketing, display advertising, search marketing, commercials or any type of video promotion, has its own factors that should be respected for optimum results.

The good news is that your marketing/advertising ROI can be optimized. As well, your strategy can be informed and refined by data science. That data needs to be derived by message testing, which is a disciplined comparative analysis of how to represent your own products or services.

In practice, there is much that can be known about this topic. But to keep this brief for any reader unfamiliar with the subject, the idea of testing is to present multiple ads or messages at the same time (to different viewers) for comparison. Always present at least two. Online, it’s relatively simple to test many different ads at one time, which are swapped out in real-time to different viewers. In other words, viewer “A” sees one ad or message and in the same instant viewer “B” can be shown a different version of the same ad. The marketer then analyzes the data to determine which ad or message generated the most desirable response. The ad with the best response becomes the “control” ad and then new ones are compared against that to find an even better-performing control message.

Not only can this testing be done with multiple videos, but it can be done before you produce any video at all. By testing messaging via simple online text ads, you are then better informed to approve video scripts that you already know will perform better. (Read “better return on investment”).

And then after you get to to the video production, you can create inexpensive variations of your video messaging to further refine performance. For example, sometimes you’ll find that a woman spokesperson will perform better than a man. Other times, it’s the opposite. Sometimes an older actor will engender more response, sometimes younger. Sometimes it’s obvious. For example, if you are selling to a mature or young demographic it’s best to feature similar actors in your video. Other times it may not be so intuitive. For example, you may be targeting grandparents by featuring young children who would represent the viewers’ own grandchildren for the purpose of selling children’s toys or clothes or other gifts, for their grandparents to purchase.

Although testing is an ironclad path towards greater video performance, as well as more effective marketing, advertising and messaging in general, the argument against it, typically for small businesses, is that it takes longer and costs more. That can’t be ignored. It does take more time and resources. But when done well, the whole point is to generate a higher ROI on your marketing and video-messaging investment.

Testing is how you can build more predictability into your ROI. And by the way, in some cases, testing inexpensive online text ads before moving to video may demonstrate early on that your gut instinct for a great video doesn’t seem to generate the positive traction you were desiring and you may determine to “not” produce the very vision that initially inspired this exploration.

Testing is not only the path towards more effective video production. It’s the path towards marketing and advertising success, in general.

FINAL WORDS

Of course none of the above deals with the details regarding pressing “record” on a video camera.  For those familiar with the overarching three phases of the video production process (pre-production, production and post-production), the above would be categorized as planning and pre-production.

A briefer statement regarding the #1 error in commercial video production would be neglecting that the more you invest in strategy, pre-production, and especially message testing, the better your ultimate results.

For more information visit VIDEO & TV.

If you think your products or service might qualify for our pay-for-performance partnership, including video and TV, check out our TWO PAY-FOR-PERFORMANCE MODELS.

What’s the Best Length for an Internet Video?

Question: Since videos can be published online of any length (even if broken into a series of segments), what would be the best length for a self-created video?

Answer: It depends on the purpose of the video and who it’s for. The following are guidelines and you will find exceptions for each.

1) “Introductory Videos” are short: 15 seconds to 2 minutes, and no more than 4 minutes. If you want to expose a brief message to as many potential viewers as possible, who do not otherwise know you, the shorter the better. Anytime someone clicks on a video they are making a small commitment or time and a shorter video just makes it easier for someone to make that decision. If they like what they see, then they may be more inclined to watch a longer video from the same creator.

2) “Content Videos” or marketing videos should be less than 10 min. These are videos that have good info and can even be condensed highlights from longer videos. They have the potential for being passed along to others if the content is valuable, interesting and/or entertaining.

3) “Training Videos” can be any length. Training, or educational videos could include how to use a specific software, or how to perform maintenance on an engine, or how to use a specific camera, or anything you can imagine. These could even be complete seminars. However, the longer a video is, the less likely it would gain traction as a property that gets passed along broadly (although anything can happen on the Internet). In other words, if a 3 hour presentation could be edited down to less than 30 min, it would generate more views. However, given a valuable enough seminar, there would still be a smaller amount of viewers who would watch the entire 3 hours.