Video 101: Vignettes and transitions

Ideas for transitions in your videos
A “vignette” is a small portrait whose edges fade into the background without a definite border, or a brief episode. Vignette is my word for a video scene from a story that is unfinished or only partially told.

Al Tillman’s railway was undergoing a major renovation on the day we visited but it had several great vistas for viewing slow-moving trains. On the top level we ran Kristine McNary’s super-detailed articulated locomotive, hauling a train of two finescale passenger cars. Later we pulled the coaches with Al’s geared locomotive. Below this we tested a string of classic Santa Fe diesels, ready for delivery to a customer, to which Kristine had added a topnotch sound system. We filmed vignettes of slow moving trains and we listened to the sounds they made.

Between scenes we added some transitions. Transitions are little postproduction features that join one scene to the next. Examples include cross dissolve, fade to black, wipe left, page-curl left, ripple, circle open, wipe down, and many more. They are included in the editing software.

Often movies will butt one scene up against another with no transition. Some television programs run for a half hour or more without a single transition. But, because I wanted to talk about transitions this month, we used lots of them. I admit that we used far too many. But now that you are watching for transitions, try counting them. How many did you count? I’ll post the answer in the comments section below the video in a couple of weeks and heap praise upon those with the correct answer.

So here is a video of a promising railway that was under reconstruction—like almost every growing garden railway. We filmed what we thought were the most interesting scenes and sounds. The vignettes became the story. We linked the scenes with video transitions like paragraph markers. Some were great big transitions, such as one picture replacing another like new chapter headings, and some were subtle.

Vignettes are scenes that tell short stories. Transitions lead us gently from one story to the next. That became our movie. Don’t overuse either technique.

Production notes:

*All of the sound is natural, not postproduction, except in the credits.
*All video and stills were shot with an iPhone


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