How to…create an invisible wipe

For our first in a new series of How To blog posts we thought we’d start with something you might never have seen before! Or maybe you have…but never noticed!

The invisible wipe is a great challenge for filmmakers – and one that pops up in loads of films.

A wipe is a transition – when one shot slides into view on top of another. If you’re struggling to picture it, think of Star Wars – George Lucas used them lots of times. The wipe draws attention to itself as a deliberate comicbook-esque technique.

star wars wipe frame

The space ship shot wipes over the desert in this moment from Star Wars

So, an invisible wipe – what is it? It’s a wipe where you can’t see it!

It’s been used lots of times and you probably have seen lots without noticing! In Wolfgang Peterson’s Das Boot the team used it to show two u-boats in the sea, when they only had one u-boat in real life, the camera panned from one to the other, and because of the invisible wipe you can’t tell. It’s done lots – whenever you’ve seen a character walk towards a wall and the camera seems to magically travel through the wall to follow them on the other side – the chances are this is an invisible wipe! Take a look at an early example from Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane:

How to create an invisible wipe!

1. Shoot two tracking shots – where the camera moves in a steady way towards the left -being sure to move at the same speed, as to pass behind something with a straight vertical surface – like a tree or wall. We going to use the tree to obscure the wipe – to help make it invisible!

2. In an editing program like iMovie import the footage and apply a wipe transition to the two clips.

3. In the transition settings ensure the direction is set to the same direction as your camera movement. Then play with the speed of the transition (tip: by making the transition longer you will make the ‘wipe’ travel slower).

4. Tweak the timings by speeding up or slowing down your clips.

5. Show off your work! We’d love to see any attempts you make!



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