What it is…

A type of transition between two shots in which the first shot is swept out of the screen by the second. The second shot could either enter from one end of the screen or blow out from a particular point on it as it replaces the first one. Countless variations are possible in this type of shot transition, but the basic Wipe resembles the movement of the automobile wiper as it cleans the windshield.

Why it is special...

Like the Dissolve, the Wipe is a transition that unfolds over a period of time – however short – and thus is a very visible transition, unlike a simple, straight cut. As a result the viewer is made aware of the technique and hence the synthetic nature of the film. Moreover, the Wipe transition mimics the way a strip of film works: one frame making way for the next by literally moving out of sight.

When it is deployed...

The Wipe is an oddity in mainstream cinema and television today chiefly because the transitions between shots or even scenes are becoming increasingly invisible. Unless it is used to call attention to itself, as in the case of spoofs or pastiches, the Wipe, even more than the Dissolve, is rarely used as passages. Nevertheless, it finds refuge in photo-compilations and office presentations.

Where to find it...

Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein (1974) is a parody of old horror movies and employs a number of old editing techniques such as Double Exposures, Dissolves, Irises and, most extensively, Wipes in highly innovative ways. Such sharp use of dated techniques makes Brooks' film look like a Frankenstein monster in itself: new-age ideas injecting life into a dead and buried form.

How it is used…

Boxing Away

The strong vertical or horizontal quality of the simple Wipe has a very compartmentalising effect. It gives a feeling of a transition from one closed space and time to another. This effect is utilised by a number of filmmakers who use the technique to give the impression of reading a mythological scroll or a comic book, where too the separation between sections is as important as the transition.

Conceptual use

Complex forms of the wipe could be deployed to score conceptual points along with its functional use. Instead of a straight line, polygons and curves could be used as wipes in which the shape containing the second shot slowly blows up to fill the screen entirely. The specific shape, such as a heart or a whirlpool, itself might be chosen to suggest the emotion that defines either of the shots or the transition.