IN DEFENCE OF DISSOLVES

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Howard-Smith
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IN DEFENCE OF DISSOLVES

Post by Howard-Smith »

Certain BIAFF judges have an aversion to dissolves as transitions in films, arguing that (a) they are old-fashioned and have no place in modern films, and (b) any still taken from the film during a dissolve would not be good, as it would be a jumbled mess.
I personally like dissolves when used correctly and sparingly. They are a useful way of indicating the passage of time from one scene to the next. They can be effective in montage sequences. And the argument about ‘stills’ is spurious. We are talking about a moving film and it’s wrong to think that every moment of a film should make a good still. How about if you’re filming something from across a busy street and a bus or lorry momentarily passes by? How about when in a tracking shot the camera passes behind a chair or a tree or whatever? Such moments pass by very quickly and it’s irrelevant that a still shot from those moments wouldn’t be any good.
So I still intend to use dissolves when I think they are appropriate.
Dissolves are used a lot too in AV sequences. In the words of the late Barry Norman, “And why not?”
I could make a similar comment about fades to black followed by a fade-in or a straight cut to the next scene. I’ve heard BIAFF judges express irritation at this happening in amateur films, stating, “you don’t see this in professional films.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. Such transitions are seen time and again in films old and new.
Last edited by Howard-Smith on Fri May 28, 2021 1:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Dave Watterson
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Re: IN DEFENCE OF DISSOLVES

Post by Dave Watterson »

I'm with you, Howard!

The only rule is "all things in moderation". Because dissolves and transitions became so much easier to achieve in video, the early video days suffered from overuse of visible transitions. You can see a similar overuse of drone shots in the past few years as that technology became available to us.

For the AV workers ... the transition is the magic point. Their work is never just a sequence of slides projected one after the other. The hard work and the magic comes from creating combinations of slides which produce a third image as you move from one to the other.

I have always liked the idea that taking a still from anywhere in a movie should produce a picture to be proud of. Early Japanese cinema had that quality. It meant image composition and exposure had to be carefully planned for every shot. Even then there were transitions which would not work so well as stand-alone images.
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TimStannard
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Re: IN DEFENCE OF DISSOLVES

Post by TimStannard »

Dissolves deservedly have a bad press.

Why? Because they are the magnolia/taupe/beige of film making. They are the cop-out, inoffensive glue that can stick two poorly matched shots together and make them look not so obviously bad.

As Dave Watterson has said above, and as I have been told many times by Jill Bunting, John Smith and others among the AV community, so much of what they do is based on the image that appears as one image dissolves into another. Do we see this in film making? Outside of “art house” films - essentially no!

I’m not anti-dissolve any more than I am anti heart-shaped iris transition. Each has its place, but the key thing is, like any movement, shot, action, dialogue etc, it has to be motivated.

We do see dissolves in drama – either as an indicator of a change in time or location and less frequently as part of a POV dream or hallucinogenic sequence. Indeed one of my favourite uses of the dissolve is in combination with the match-cut (again indicating a change of location or time). In these examples is clearly motivated. Outside of that, we rarely see it. Indeed, the dissolve is so closely associated with these it would most likely confuse the audience if used mid scene.

The problem really occurs in documentaries or montage sequences. The dissolve is so often used simply because it is apparent the editor cannot find a way to cut the shots together. Either the cut is in the wrong place or the shots simply shouldn’t be cut together. Dissolves feel like a solution because they smooth out the movie. But without motivation this just has a soporific effect on the audience.

Furthermore, you’ve spent shed loads of money on equipment, a small fortune on the cost of a trip to some game reserves and countless hours waiting to get absolutely stunning images.
Dissolve from one image to another, without motivation, and you have now spoiled two perfectly good images for the duration of the dissolve.

Dissolves have their place – but the must be motivated.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it
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John Simpson
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Re: IN DEFENCE OF DISSOLVES

Post by John Simpson »

Two Points:

If I see a really good match cut style disolve it makes me think wow that was clever the same with a focus pull, if it is from one well composed scene to another well composed scene it is impressive. To do these things takes a lot of time and effort. On the other hand a lot of footage is shot from the hip and it is only when trying to edit it together that the insufficiencies arrise. and perhaps transitions or bad cut aways come to the rescue! If we only presented perfect well planned films, there would be very few made.

In a sprint takes the brain about 1/5 th of a second to hear the starters gun, The mind can pick up what has happened in the scene of a film very quickly. Many films are ponderous and encourage thoughts to wander and that may be the filmmakers intension, long transitions encourage this! But there is also room for sharp punchy films, a bit like the old Tom & Jerry cartoons which keep children on the edge of their seat. This type of film certainly lightens the atmosphere at BIAFF.
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Howard-Smith
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Re: IN DEFENCE OF DISSOLVES

Post by Howard-Smith »

The pace of a film to a large extent depends on the type of story being told and the kind of atmosphere being aimed for. I’m all for punchy, tightly edited films but I’m also tolerant and appreciative of ‘slow cinema’ when it’s interesting and well done. Putting aside whether or not they should have been included in BIAFF at all let alone whether they should have won the top award, I could see the merits of two recent feature length foreign films GOLNESA and ABOUT DEATH. To edit these films tightly to the bone would make them considerably shorter but would also destroy the mood and atmosphere being created by the slow pace.
John mentions shots of pulling focus. Presumably the people who want every second of a film to be a potential ‘perfect freeze frame/still’ also dislike focus-pulling because for a few brief moments there’s nothing in focus between the start and the end of the focus pull.
I’m all for directors making their own decisions on pace, transitions, focussing techniques, editing style and everything else.
Going back to dissolves, I as an amateur filmmaker have the freedom to make a film exactly to my own personal liking and I resist the thought of avoiding using a dissolve (if I think it’s appropriate) just in case one of the BIAFF judging teams mark the film down because of it.
For the record, my 5 star film IT’S NOT ME has quite a few dissolves between scenes to show the passage of time, and the judges involved made no mention of them.
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TimStannard
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Re: IN DEFENCE OF DISSOLVES

Post by TimStannard »

Howard-Smith wrote: Mon May 31, 2021 9:41 am Going back to dissolves, I as an amateur filmmaker have the freedom to make a film exactly to my own personal liking and I resist the thought of avoiding using a dissolve (if I think it’s appropriate) just in case one of the BIAFF judging teams mark the film down because of it.
For the record, my 5 star film IT’S NOT ME has quite a few dissolves between scenes to show the passage of time, and the judges involved made no mention of them.
And that is precisely my point. Dissolves, like everything in film or storytelling, should be motivated. It is part of the language of cinema that a dissolve indicates a change of location or of time. That is not to say they cannot be used for other reasons. My own dislike of dissolves is when they are used because the film maker had a jarring transiion and used is soley as a means of putting a sticking plaster over it! This happens all too frequently and that is why they have a bad press.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it
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