What is Lap Dissolve in Film

What is Lap Dissolve in Film?

Post-production editing is where a lot of the magic in the filmmaking process takes place. This is where special effects, transitions, and the use of music and sound are integrated to add meaning to the story and effectively bring the movie or film to life. One of many techniques that is used in the post-production process, the lap dissolve, is a transition that can help to effectively superimpose two images as we go from one shot to another. But what is a lap dissolve in film, and how does it work?

BBP post production editing

What is a Lap Dissolve?

A lap dissolve, or just a dissolve for short, is a transition effect that is used in post-production film editing to gradually move from one image to the next. A lap dissolve works by showing the fading of the first image as the second image begins to gradually appear.

The purpose of the lap dissolve is to effectively link the two shots so that the viewer recognizes that they belong together and that there are connections consistent with the story between the two shots.

Traditionally, dissolves were created through the superimposition of two images using an optical printer. However, today’s use of nonlinear editing allows for a dissolve to take place in a much simpler fashion using basic editing software to overlay the effect on the desired shots.

When Should a Lap Dissolve Be Used?

The use of a lap dissolve is frequently employed to show the passing of time in a film. You might recall this effect being used as the end of a scene is shown and the start of the next scene immediately after is transitioned in.

In this method, the dissolve provides the audience a subtle clue as to the passage of time. Sometimes films will even show a reference to the amount of time that has passed when the dissolve takes place.


The dissolve allows the audience enough time to think about what they are seeing, and to comprehend it, processing it in whatever way was likely desired by the Director. Oftentimes, dissolves are used alongside the shots and accompanying dialogue to imply a particular emotion among the audience.

Dissolves can be used for a variety of purposes, to showcase the passage of time, and to elicit a connection between scenes, shots, or instances taking place within the story. These techniques are popular in movies and full-feature films. 

Although dissolves appear to be used less frequently in modern cinema than they once were, specifically because pacing and tone in today’s films is significantly faster than older films were, we still see some instances where a dissolver can work!

When executed appropriately, the lap dissolve is widely accepted by the audience in most cases.

In Summation

So, what is the lap dissolve in film? It’s a transition technique that is used to combine two shots or scenes such that as the first scene is fading out the second scene is coming into view. 

Want to see dissolve cuts in action? This Guy Edits has spliced together a fun and educational video on film dissolves:

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