What is a natural wipe in video editing?

Learn more about one of the earliest types of film transitions and how to use it creatively in your videos today.

Creative cuts and transitions are powerful storytelling tools that help move a viewer through a story. One such transition is the natural wipe, a variation of the original wipe transition from the early 1900s. Let’s explore this technique and when you might want to implement it in your own films.

What is a natural wipe?

A natural wipe occurs when a film editor uses an object or character within the shot to change the scene. Common natural wipes include a door closing on the scene, or a character walking toward the lens until the scene is completely dark.

You can get even more creative with natural wipes — take, for example, an orange on a kitchen counter. You can blur the orange until it’s obscure, then refocus it to open the next scene — except this time, the orange blur is actually basketball, and you’re now at a park.

Wipe transitions: then and now.

Travel back in time to the early years of cinema, and you’ll witness the first use of the wipe transition in action in Robert Paul’s Scrooge. Here, Paul transitions one frame to another by using a horizontal line to “wipe” from top to bottom, emulating a curtain dropping.

If you’re a fan of Star Wars, you’ve seen the wipe transition in action in every movie of the franchise. Scenes wipe from left to right, diagonal, and more — to signify a change in time (or even a planet.)

Historically, wipes were physically created in a lab and were very expensive to develop, making them a rarity. Today, with good editing software, wipe variations are just a few clicks away.

Discover more tips for video editing. Then, explore everything you can do with Adobe Premiere Pro to add epic edits and transitions to your own films.