What is a Dissolve in Film_

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What is a Dissolve in Film?

Many different types of film editing techniques and transitions are used to adjust from one image or shot to another. The goal, typically, is for the cut to be unnoticeable or unrecognizable by the audience, but some transitions perform better than others. One transition that commonly achieves the adjustment from one image to another is the dissolve, but what is a dissolve in film and how does it work exactly?

What is a Dissolve?

The dissolve is sometimes referred to as the lap dissolve and technically means that the film transition from one image to another is taking place. Dissolve represents the methods in which the transition will occur.

The first image will begin to disappear and the second image will begin to gradually appear at basically the same time. At one point during the dissolve, both images will overlap for a brief period of time such that the two images are superimposed.

The blended images will superimpose with one another for any period of time, it could be milliseconds, seconds, or something else. The amount of time that the two images are superimposed will play a key role in the effect of the dissolve.

As the images are overlapped, a third shot is produced to blend the various elements together and link all of the visuals so that there is a formed image that is apparent of the sum of all of the visuals together.

The Origination of the Dissolve Effect in Film

When someone asks, “What is a dissolve in film?” It’s hard not to provide an in-depth answer that includes a brief history of dissolves and how they were once a major part of continuity editing.

The dissolve effect originated prior to the 1950s and became incredibly popular in French films during that time. Amateur French New Wave editors found the dissolve effect to be superior to the use of jump cuts when linking scenes together throughout the 1950s.

How is a Dissolve Created?

Sometimes, when the question of “What is a dissolve in film?” comes up, the underlying desire for an answer to how to create a dissolve is technically sought.

Learning how to create a dissolve that will effectively mend two different visuals or more than two visuals together is important in film editing continuity. In early film editing, devices called optical printers were used to create dissolves in film. 

Today, when it comes to understanding the answer to the question, “What is a dissolve in film?” the focus on creating a dissolve is significantly more relaxed than it was in the early film editing days.

Today’s dissolves are created using various film editing software such as Adobe Premiere which makes it incredibly easy to layer the various scenes and shots for the appropriate transition.

With a few simple steps, dissolves can transition between 24 and 48 frames over a period of one to two seconds resulting in the desired pace, mood, and energy for the film.