Alright, you’re starting off on one of your first video editing projects. Congrats! You have two great shots which you want to use, but you have a problem: they don’t really go together.

There’s just something off about the two shots when you abruptly cut between the two. And despite how you trim your clips, or other basic video editing tips that you might try, they just need something extra to help them transition between the two shots.

Well, you’re in luck, as you’re about to discover the wide, wonderful world of video transitions. A concept which we’ll break down and explore, as well as share some of the best practices for adding masterful transitions to your videos. Let’s dive in!

So what are video transitions? 

Video transitions are video effects that connect two different shots together with an edit. Basic transitions include fades, dissolves, and wipes as a way to move the video from shot to shot.

Why are video transitions important? 

Let’s rewind back to the beginning. In the early days, there were no transitions between shots. Instead, there were simply cuts. You’d have one shot (like a wide shot) that would abruptly cut to another shot (like a closeup). These cuts made up the fundamental building blocks of video editing.

However, as the medium evolved, early filmmakers devised ways to “transition” from shot to shot, making these cuts more pleasing to the audience.

These early transitions included many that we still use today, like:

  • Fades: Transition to or from a solid color (usually black or white)
  • Cross dissolves: Two shots transition into each other
  • Wipes: The old shot appears to move across the screen to be replaced by the next shot

When first introduced, these simple transitions were quite revolutionary, as they were not as abrupt and more appealing to how audiences perceived film. And just like the original cuts, many of these early transitions are still being used, although more likely in a digital edit and with plenty of new options and controls.

Dos and don’ts for your video transitions

As you get started with video transitions, let’s go over some basic dos and don’ts, which should help you add transitions the way they were meant to be used.

✅ Do: Make it subtle

When one first discovers transitions, it can be quite fun to use them early and often. They are very cool, after all. A transition can be a great trick for joining two shots or moving from one scene to the next scene, but it needs to be subtle.

Try using only basic transitions at first, like fades or dissolves, and keep the length to only a few seconds or frames.

🚫 Don’t: Add too many transitions

They say that the best edits are seamless transitions — the ones that you don’t even notice at all. This is doubly true with transitions, as you really don’t want them to take attention from the greater story.

So don’t add too many transitions to your edits, as they can become distracting.

✅ Do: Be consistent with your transitions

Transitions should be used when needed to help bridge unnatural or awkward cuts or to put forth a cinematic theme. If you’re using them just for fun on every shot, they can get stale quickly.

Instead, be consistent and try to limit their use as they help inform your narrative or story.

🚫 Don’t: Distract your audience or pull them out of the moment

Similarly, you also want your transitions to feel very natural. Transitions usually work best when they’re kept short and happen quickly with the action of your video. If you choose to use transitions which stretch too long or are quite awkward, it can quickly pull your audience out of the moment.

✅ Do: Add dynamic energy

Transitions can be great for adding movement and energy to a dull or boring edit. Fades and dissolves will always be a bit more cinematic. Working with wipes, pushes, or pulls can be a great way to add kinetic energy to your edits to help them feel more alive and fun.

🚫 Don’t: Fight against natural movement

That being said, you always want to try to follow the natural movement of your videos. Adding transitions with energy is great, but only if you can channel that energy into how your story already flows. Remember, narrative action traditionally follows the character’s movement, so unless you’re looking to challenge your audience, try to put things in motion across the screen in the direction it’s naturally flowing.

✅ Do: Try different transitions

When first starting off, it can be fun to experiment with the many different types of transitions out there. Depending on what video editing app you’re using, you might have dozens of transitions to check out. Try as many as you’d like and experiment with how they look between different shots and at different lengths.

🚫 Don’t: Use too many different types in the same video

After you’ve had your fun experimenting, it’s usually a best practice to settle into using just a few of your favorite transition types. As stated above, transitions can be fun and interesting, but you don’t want to overuse them.

How to add transitions to your videos

You’ll want to follow the “dos and don’ts” best practices as much as possible, but the real trick to learning how to master transitions comes simply from opening your favorite video editing software or app and trying them out for yourself.

In modern digital editing, transitions are only limited by your imagination. We’ll go over specific steps for making transitions on different platforms like iMovie, Windows, and Vimeo Create. But for many of these platforms, it’s as simple as dragging and dropping to add effects to video.

The real trick is finding the transitions that work for you. Be sure to experiment with different types of transitions, as well as with length and intensity, until you find some transition presets that work best for you.

Types of video transition effects

  1. Cutaway
  2. Ripple
  3. Wash out
  4. Jump cut
  5. Fade in
  6. Iris in / iris out
  7. Timelapse
  8. Pan
  9. Whip
  10. Cross zoom

✂️ Cutaway

This is a type of transitional technique in which the shot “cuts away” from the primary action to show something else — physical or emotional information that is relevant to the scene and space — then cuts back to the main action.

🌊 Ripple

Ripples are video effects that add spaced-out wave-like texture to the image’s surface. Video transition makers and editors typically allow users to change the number of ripples added and the speed at which they move.

🧼 Wash out

A wash out transition effect is also called a “flash fade” or “fade to white.” Instead of a fade effect that goes black (aka “fade to black” transitions), a wash out starts looking bleached out or transitions to a color until the screen goes completely light.

🦘 Jump cut

A jump cut is a scene transition in which the subject of the shot appears to “jump” from one scene to another — typically indicating the passage of time.

🔅 Fade in

With fade ins, the primary shot gradually comes into view and becomes visible. Fade ins are types of video transitions that are helpful for beginning a scene or letting viewers take in an image.

👁️ Iris in / iris out

Iris in and iris out are two types of wipe transitions that may be best explained through the use of cartoon examples:

  • Iris in: Typically used at the start of a scene, “iris in” video transitions show a portion of the shot in a small circle before expanding to show the entire frame — famously used in “Tom & Jerry.”
  • Iris out: Typically used at the end of a scene, “iris out” video transitions show the entire frame, then a circle that contracts inward from the edges to close the frame — famously used at the end of “Looney Tunes.”

🕰️ Timelapse

Timelapse is an editing technique that speeds up footage taken over several minutes, hours, days, months, or even years. Timelapse is designed to show the passage of time or the evolution of an event.

🍳 Pan

To “pan” the camera means to move it left or right horizontally while keeping it in a fixed position vertically. This movement helps to make the shot more dynamic.

🛼 Whip

A whip is a type of “pan” transition in which the shot moves horizontally or vertically to connect two scenes through a motion blur. It’s primarily used to add energy or speed to otherwise straightforward footage.

🔎 Cross zoom

The cross zoom video effect is one in which the action will “zoom in” on one clip and then “zoom out” to a different clip, creating a video transition.

How do you edit a video with transitions?

You can edit a video with transitions by using an advanced non-linear editing (NLE) program to add and customize transitions.

How to make video transitions with iMovie

First, we’ll look at making video transitions with Apple’s iMovie. This app is great for beginners and should be pretty straightforward to learn in terms of basic editing principles. To get started with transitions specifically, follow these steps:

  1. On your Mac, open iMovie.
  2. Open your movie in the timeline or create a project.
  3. Above the browser, select the “transitions” tab.
  4. Preview a transition by skimming over it. 
  5. Add a transition between two clips by clicking to add.
  6. On the timeline, drag the transition to the two clips you want.
  7. Adjust the settings and lengths as you’d like.

How to make video transitions with Mac

If you want to use a Mac-compatible video editor other than iMovie to make video transitions, try Camtasia’s, Wondershare Filmora’s, or DaVinci Resolve’s (to name a few) straightforward methods. 

Camtasia & Wondershare Filmora:

  1. Open your project and scroll to “Transitions.”
  2. Select the transition you want to use and drag & drop it into your editing timeline.
  3. If you want to shorten or lengthen the transition, grab the file’s “handle” and drag it as needed in the timeline.

DaVinci Resolve:

  1. Navigate to the “Edit” page.
  2. Left-click and drag on your editing timeline to select clips you want to add transitions between.
  3. Select “Command+T” to add transitions between all selected clips.

How to make video transitions with Premiere Pro

You can use Adobe Premiere Pro with macOS or Windows. If you select more than one clip in the editing timeline while holding down “Command” (macOS) or “Control” (Windows), you’re able to apply your chosen transition to all selected clips.

  1. Browse or search for a transition in the “Effects” menu.
  2. Apply your chosen transition to the beginning of, end of, or between two clips.
  3. You can also apply “default” transitions by right-clicking the end of a file in a specific sequence.

How to make video transitions with Windows

If you’re working with a Windows computer, making a video with transitions might be a little trickier unless you’re ready to use a more advanced program (like Adobe Premiere Pro).

Still, if you do want to work in Windows, you can always use Windows Video Editor; however, this app does not currently include transition effects. Or you can also try out some of these basic video editing platforms designed for Windows:

Now try your own video transitions

Regardless of your video editing app of choice, transitions can be a great way to spice up any video project. Just remember to follow best practices by only using transitions as a way to enhance your normal edits and cuts without distracting your viewers from your content and story.

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Originally published August 13, 2021 and updated July 26, 2023.