A cross-dissolve transition is a great transitional editing technique that basically represents the passage of time.  While fast motion is also a great technique to show time passing, cross dissolves are much more common and easier to do.  Learning to do the technique is simple—don't forget about the audio when you use the technique.  If you do, you may find some sounds that don't belong in the scene or no sound at all.  Once you figured out how to create the cross dissolve, the only thing left to know is when to use them.

Cross-dissolves are easy—even easier than playing around with an L-cut. One piece of advice to beginning videographers who are learning this technique however, is do not over do it. All you have to do is stick your clips up against one another.  Then, you right click on the edit point, which is the point where the two clips meet, and select cross-dissolve.  Another way is to find the effect in your effects bin and drag it over onto your cut.  Don’t stop there.  You can control the length of the dissolve by dragging the handles on either side of it, or in some programs you can double-click on the effect and type in the exact amount of time you want the dissolve to last.

Cross-dissolves can be really useful, but it’s really easy to overuse them and to use them in the wrong scenario.  After all, you don’t want it to look like a wedding video.  Here are a few dos and don’ts.

Do's and Don'ts for Using Cross-Dissolve Transitions

  • Don’t use it between every single shot in your piece.
  • A conversation between two people using two over the shoulder shots does NOT need a cross-dissolve over each cut. That would look silly. However, transitioning out of that conversation and into a brand new scene may benefit from a dissolve, granted the timing is right on the effect.  A dissolve’s main purpose in a narrative is to show passage of time.  From our example conversation, if you dissolved to a new scene in a new locations that involved either or both of our characters, the audience would get that time had passed and you wouldn't need to fill the time between with useless crap or a time-lapse shot of some clouds. They’d get it and that would be that.
  • Be careful about what you’re seeing and hearing from the fading clips. When you add a cross-dissolve, you are essentially adding time to the end of one clip and the beginning of the other, so there is footage to fade in and out.  What happens if you dissolve over the very beginning of a take?  You may see your actors settling into their positions and you may hear other sounds from the scene.  Make sure the footage leading in and out of your dissolve is right, otherwise, you may wind up with some garbage in your scene you never wanted there in the first place.  With the audio, simply mute it on the out or the in of each scene to make sure it’s not overlapping.

Cross-dissolves are pretty cool, but as stated above, you don’t want to overuse them.  If you do, you might unintentionally OD your video with fades, and then you’re stuck with a bland video.