In-camera transitions are the process of anticipating two successive shots and making them connect without the use of post-production, giving the impression when viewed that the location has been changed without a cut in the sequence. We’ve selected a number of transitions below that are easy to do in-camera and an explanation of each.
1- The Principles
You are probably already aware of the most common in-camera transition whereby you follow a subject, before tilting the camera to the sky at the end of the shot. When beginning your next planned shot, you would then begin the sequence by tilting the camera to the sky before following your subject again, which has since changed place. Use of the sky as the transition will give the impression that there are no cuts, and also maintains a level of fluidity.
Another example is when a camera crosses a wall when following a subject from one room to another. When the camera hits the wall, you would naturally expect the shot to move to darkness, therefore the trick is to use the assumed opacity of the subject by adding black in front of the lens. We would then resume the same movement on the next shot by removing the black cover very quickly. The key here is to maintain the speed of movement from the previous shot to hide the defects. We have taken an example from the Sherlock series seen below, where we see this technique in action. This has also been improved by a mask in post-production.
- Always maintain continuity of movement from one shot to the next
- Use any decorative element as a source of transition (the sky, the wall, the object etc.)
In this PremiumBeat video, the author highlights the use of in-camera transitions to demonstrate some pretty funny examples: character cloning, a superhero racing start, and a knife throw. The camera operator always uses the same ultra-fast hand pan movement, which you can see below:
- The first shot fixes the subject, then pans to the right very fast with a low shutter to cause motion blur (1/50th/180°) (see our article on exposure.)
- The second shot takes the same pan (left to right) but ends on the subject in the final position. You can also just reverse the angle.
- When editing, simply connect the two shots during both pan shots with a fade.
- For the last scene with the knife, since the character isn’t going to grab a knife in-flight, the author uses a trick whereby the foreground is identical to the other shots. The second shot is then turned backwards. The camera is in final position ( when the knife has been caught) and thrown to the left. Panning is a left-right. When editing, just reverse the map and you’re done.
A more classical compilation
In this Mango Street video, they show all the principles outlined above in a compilation of six ‘in-camera’ transitions, explaining each in detail.
As you can see, the principle never changes where a camera movement is used to hide the connection. However, where the perfection comes from is the quality of the movement, the synchronisation of the stage and the connection to the audience. Make sure you complete several takes to achieve perfection of the movement, and when on location always have a look at what decorative elements you can use for completing fluid in-camera transitions.