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What is a vignette?

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As video technology advances, more and more techniques and effects are coming into the spotlight. Some help boost the visual impact of footage and some work to improve the storyline. Some you need to execute during production and others can be added and adjusted post-production.

One of the most popular terms in video editing is the vignette. Let’s dig deeper to learn about the two types of vignettes, what they are, where and when to use them, and why you should learn these video editing techniques.

What is a vignette?

Vignette is a French word that means “little vine”, which are intricate details you often see in old 19th-century books. In literature, a vignette is a brief passage in a story where descriptive language is used to describe a place, character, or event in detail. This is also used in creating a video storyboard, wherein more detailed scenes are necessary to improve the storyline.

Storyboard vignette

The other vignette is the effect. You've probably seen this editing option on your mobile phone image editing app or as filter option while editing your videos online, like so.

Brunette women holding tablet against blue vignette background

When to use a literary vignette?

In movies or TV shows, it’s often added to the storyboard as a flashback. This gives a more in-depth look at the subject or a more thorough explanation of an event. These scenes are short and rely solely on the descriptive aspect, not the narrative or timeline of the main story. 

What is a vignette in video?

The more familiar vignette video editing technique is when a scene is gradually darker towards the borders. This effect is more commonly used in images but can also be used to make videos more visually appealing.

Benefits of adding a vignette in videos

The power of a vignette is more rewarding when you know when to use it. You can’t just add darkened borders in every video you make. With careful planning and a creative visual purpose, it can:

  • make the scene look more cinematic

  • add a more aesthetically pleasing element

  • beautify the video or a selected scene

  • help put emphasis on the center of the composition, be it a character or a place

  • put the viewer in the shoes of the main character, seeing the world from his or her perspective

3 Ways to create a video vignette

1. Standard

This is the most common vignette technique. By default, it darkens the border of the chosen clip in a video, starting from the corners going inside. You can adjust the amount and opacity, depending on how intense you want it to be. Some editors even allow you to choose a midpoint.

2. Shape

This type of vignette editing follows a shape, often an oval or circle, putting harder emphasis on what is being highlighted. This is also the type used when viewers become the character, with the shape of the vignette showing them what the character can actually see.

3. Masked

This is the trickiest of all video vignettes. It also involves a shape but it follows that of the person or object in the video. This is often used in testimonials and interview videos.

How create a flashback video with a vignette?

There's more than one way to create a flashback scene in videos. In a shot list, the flashback is obvious when there's a change in lighting, transition, and even color. 

1. Lighting

The scene may involve a diffused glow of light, like a fog or a ray of light from a window. The setting would be hazy and dreamy, giving the impression that it is from a distant memory.

2. Transition

The most common transitions used for vignettes are fades and wipes. A flashback will often appear in the video, with such a transition that lets the viewer know that this is a flashback into a moment in time or a detailed look at a character.

3. Color

Flashback scenes often have a different color tint or hue from the rest of the video. Video editors are getting more and more creative with this, trying to avoid the traditional black-and-white effects reminiscent of old movies. The color may be warmer or cooler, or it could have higher contrast, giving the scene an almost unnatural look.

Boost your visuals with a vignette

Now that you understand the two types of vignettes you can use in your video, make the most of this video editing technique. It can make your video more interesting, helping bring your video to a whole new level of artistry.

If you'd like to learn more about video editing, dive into Clipchamp’s glossary for more video editing techniques and must-know terms.

And when you're ready to give them a try, turn your video ideas and concepts into reality with Clipchamp’s online video editor.

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