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iLife '04: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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When to Use Transitions

When you begin to polish your movie by adding transitions, consider these questions:

  • Does it really need a transition? Sometimes a simple cut is the most effective transition from one shot to the next. Remember, the crossfade lends a feeling of softness and smoothness to the movie, but is that really what you want? If it’s a sweet video of your kids growing up over time, absolutely yes. But if it’s a hard-hitting issue documentary, then probably not, as those soft edges would dull the impact of your footage.

    Remember, too, that transitions often suggest the passage of time. In movies and commercials, consecutive shots in the same scene never include such effects. Plain old cuts tell the viewer that one shot is following the next in real time. But suppose one scene ends with the beleaguered hero saying, “Well, at least I still have my job at the law firm!"…and the next shot shows him operating a lemonade stand. (Now that’s comedy!) In this case, a transition would be especially effective, because it would tell the audience that we’ve just jumped a couple of days.

    In other words, learning to have taste in transitions is a lot like learning to have taste in using your camcorder’s zoom controls. Use transitions for a reason.

  • Is it consistent? Once you’ve chosen a transition-effect style for your movie, stick to that transition style for the entire film (unless, as always, you have an artistic reason to do otherwise). Using one consistent style of effect lends ...

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