Morph Cut Transitions on TV News

Yesterday, this clip from BBC News popped up on Twitter, in which a small child appears to materialize in the background of a woman-on-the-street interview.

If you watch the woman’s face at the same time the boy appears, you can see her expression morph into a smile.

This technique is known as a Morph Cut, a feature added to Adobe Premiere Pro in 2015, intended to smooth transitions in interview footage, removing unwanted pauses, stutters, and filler words (“like,” “um,” and “uh”) without hard splices and cuts.

The results, when used appropriately in interview footage without a changing background, can be nearly seamless.

It’s likely that BBC News used a morph cut in the clip above to tighten up the interview without changing its meaning. But it’s also ripe for abuse and fully capable of altering the meaning of an interview, and in many cases, undetectable.

I’ve known radio interviews were edited like this for years, but the BBC News clip is the first time I’ve seen the technique used in a video interview… or is it?

How many times have you watched footage that was subtly modified using off-the-shelf software, and never knew? Would you ever notice? Would you care?


    There’s been an effect like this available in Avid for at least 8 years that is commonly used for covering edits in interviews, although it’s typically for sit-down interviews where the camera is locked down and the subject is stationary. You have probably seen this effect used hundreds or thousands of times. (Although for a handheld, Man-On-The-Street shot it’s much less likely it would work.)

    Of course, when you hear the subject talking and they’re not on camera, chances are that is just there to cover edits of what the subject is saying.

    Seems like extremely bad practice from BBC, and bound to decrease trust. Cuts should be *emphasized* to be made visible and understood as such, similar to how we use “…”, “(…)” or “[]” when cutting and editing in text quotes.

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