Not Another Transition!

I was trying to watch a show on the DIY network the other day about sustainable building practices. Those that know me well know that I'm really into building. It's a hobby out of control, really, so I was very interested in the content of the program. However, I had to stop watching because I became so annoyed with the editor's attempt to use every single transition style his editing package came with (and even a few third party ones I think…). Even my wife was aggravated by it, which says a lot. Some of the transitions were really cool and used sparingly, would have been great. The problem was, the transitions got in the way of the message. After 10 minute of yelling, "STOP!" I had to turn it off.

Back in the old days of editing (the real old days of cutting film with a razor and taping it together), cuts were pretty much all an editor had to work with. Even dissolves took a lot of work. This was fine however, because editors developed a language of editing in which cuts ruled and dissolves marked the transition from one scene to another (or a change of time).

Today, with the advent of digital editing and the hundreds of transitions just a mouse click away, many editors find themselves afflicted with ET—Excessive Transitionitis. Thankfully, there is a cure: I call it CDO—Cuts and Dissolves Only (which is not to be confused with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in alphabetical order...).

Try this experiment. If you are telling a story, cut it together using cuts only. Then watch it and ask yourself if a whole bunch of wacky transitions will really help further the message. I often say that ET is merely a compensation mechanism—compensation for lack of good content. The truth is, if the story isn't compelling, piling on 3-D rotating cubes and cross-zooms will not make it more so.

Often times, when we produce industrial or commercial videos for clients, we have to use some flash, because the content really isn't that exciting. However, in the church setting, we have a story to tell. When telling stories, all we really need is cuts and dissolves. Seriously. Don't believe me? Watch any movie that tells a powerful story (The Passion of the Christ, Saving Private Ryan, Crash). You won't find a flip zoom or venetian blind transition in any of them. Why not? Because the story and the visuals conveyed the message, powerfully. The editors spent their time cutting well, not tweaking the reflection settings on a page turn.

So give it a shot. Try CDO for a week or two. Spend more time developing content, getting the lighting right, shooting interesting B-roll (to cover up jump cuts) and having the on-camera talent do it one more time. I can almost promise your videos will be more effective.