Dude, where’s my Star Wipe?

Posted on January 30th, 2013 by · Filed under Video Production articles


Premiere CS6 does not have a default star wipe transition.

I’ll just give you a moment to consider that. 

I discovered this when working on an internal video for Mediaworks. They commissioned us to create a video to screen at their Christmas party, which showed a brief history of the company from inception to present day, but basically taking the mick out of their staff all the way through! We staged interviews and led the staff’s answers, dubbed the real questions out and added in new ones that made them look as daft as possible. We also created South Park style animations, crudely photoshopped peoples faces to cartoon bodies and more.

A fun project all round and one that brought many laughs. When Kevin first mentioned it to me I said I was determined to fit a star wipe into this video at some point. It had definite star wipe potential and it’s not often I can say that. Unfortunately CS6 is without a default star wipe and I decided it wasn’t worth the ten minutes it would take to create one myself. Which pretty much sums up star wipes.

In truth the star wipe, and for that matter many other wipes have had their day in sun. And that day was quite a few days ago. It’s difficult to think of many times they were used effectively and inoffensively. Star Wars is my favorite example. Lucas used the variety of transitions to mark the end of most scenes. By using a different variant of a wipe for every conclusion of a scene it helped the viewer subconsciously realize the scene was over and due to the regular use of them they didn’t feel out of place. In most edits unless you make use of them frequently it will just seem out of place, and to be honest it’ll make my eyes very, very sad.

The first project I was set at University involved a pretty loose brief. Pair up, take a camera, film some stuff and edit said stuff, all with a supposable gothic theme. Once finished the classes results were screened and critiqued. One of my classmates had elected to use a clock wipe to transition from a wide of a landscape to another shot. It stank of using the transition just for the sake of it and I won’t be too harsh with my words due to the fact nearly all editors have used transitions or effects for the sake of it at some point or another. And that is one of the main mistakes you see junior editors experience. It’s that desire to use something, anything to make your project stand out. To impress anyone watching it. Effects are great and really can be used to give that wow factor but quite often it seems people resort to them to mask the fact the subject isn’t that great.

‘24’ used picture in picture to better effect than most, with it helping to portray several places at once and push that frantic feeling the audience needed to feel to properly engage with the action on screen. In the corporate world picture in picture seems to appear in promotional videos just to do something with the footage rather than straight cuts. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Editor Matthew Newman, alas not the YourFilm Matthew Newman, put dissolves to the best use I’ve seen in recent times, in the stunning film ‘Drive’.  Fellow editor Glen Montgomery (@glenmontgomery) goes in to excellent detail about the use of dissolves in his scene breakdown of the film. (http://coldpost.tv/scene-breakdown-drive/1604/ ) summing up quite nicely how the dissolves aren’t used to show a passing of time like in many instances, more as perfectly planned transitions for changes of shots. Large parts of this were down to director Nicolas Winding Refn and DOP Newton Thomas Sigel. Planning from shot to shot to make sure the dissolves would work perfectly. Perfect use of a transition. The best edit is one that the viewer doesn’t notice. In film and music videos this is often easier to achieve. Cutting on action makes it easier to time edits and to hide them. The viewer’s eyes are concentrated on that movement so it doesn’t matter if you’re changing angles. Editor Les Healey, whose credits include assisting on Aliens and Blade Runner on top of numerous TV editing credits, told me not to worry about continuity of the actor’s movements in shots. As long as the cut is hidden by movement either side, and the actor isn’t moving in a completely different way, then the viewers brain is happy to adjust to this with no complaints as it’s associating the movement with the movement of shot to a new one. 
Yet there is a need for FX transitions. Sometimes our footage can’t move as seamlessly from one cut to the next as we like. Be that for whatever reason it is. Wipes were the go to tool of the past but now it’s more gentle options such as Edit With Light’s great 5DLeaks. A collection of great light leaks in varying colors and paces, I used these earlier this year over a small series of adverts filmed on the RED.

 The great part about any hues or leaks like this is you don’t just have to do what it says on the tin. Take a freeze frame; create a matte and then play with that, as you will. Think outside the box and you can get some great results.

Crumplepop make some great effects along similar lines. They’re not traditional transitions but just pop them on the track above and key frame in and out. Sorted. Just because it’s not in the transitions pallet doesn’t mean you can’t use it. Noise Industries are another company stocked to the brim with innovative products worth checking out.

So there’s a plethora of products out there to help you, but with no imagination you will resort back to the transitions pallet and start to wonder where all the wipes of the old days have gone. In the words of Kauto, “Open your mind.” And in due course the solutions will arrive. 


Written by Tom Strachan.