Tech, No Babel: Live Video Production – The Language of Transitions

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This past Sunday, I was running propresenter and we had a new director in the chair next to me. Midway through the service, I noticed he was using the “auto-trans” button exclusively. He didn’t cut at all.

New directors (and most churches, which tend to have self-taught, or local directors) tend to think that music demands a cross-dissolve “because it’s smooth.” While I won’t argue with the smoothness of a good cross dissolve, I will argue that music, especially needs it.

Look around at your experience. Have you ever instantaneously moved from point A to point B, several feet away, without moving through the distance in between? No. Our brains don’t notice cuts (unless we’re specifically looking for them or the ones causing them) because there’s nothing in our experience to train us to look for a situation where you’re one place and then another without the movement between the places.

Now, slowly close your eyes and open them again. Maybe tomorrow morning open them and wipe the gunk from a night’s rest. This is more like a dissolve. You’ll notice a dissolve because it’s more like what you do all the time.

In film and television, dissolves tend to show the passage of time. That’s not what music is though. It’s not starting at one time and ending much later. No, dissolves in IMAG are showing events that happen one after another. Likewise, if you’re not careful, a cross-dissolve between two people framed similarly, may look like one is becoming the other. This is because, before modern special effects, monster movies would often show the transformation of a person to a monster with similar shots and a cross-dissolve.

Look at national television, especially concerts. You won’t see dissolve after dissolve. When a professional does live video production, he (or she) cuts the vast majority of the time.

So, my argument is two-fold. First, cross-dissolves are used for other things. Secondly, despite what you may think, cuts are used by the best directors.

I’d rather emulate the best than someone local. That’s why I suggest people try and only use other transitions when they have a very good reason and “it’s a song” isn’t one.