As its name implies, split screen is an effect that basically divides the screen so that two (or more) videos play in the original frame at the same time. Traditionally split screen videos used to evenly divide the frame in half, but nowadays a more varied approach is sometimes used and the screen may be unevenly split, or split into quarters.
While split screen was a fairly popular effect in film during the 60s and 70s, in the modern era it has been used more situationally. Still it can be a very useful effect to employ in your videos if you know how and when to use it:
Showing actions taking place simultaneously
The most popular way in which split screen is used is to show actions that are taking place simultaneously but in different scenes or from different perspectives. By using a split screen effect you can place several scenes of video footage that take place at the same time side by side rather than having to cut back and forth.
Allowing viewers to perceive both scenes and perspectives at the same time lends to the effect that they’re taking place simultaneously while letting them observe how both play out at the same time.
Comparing actions or objects
Another popular use of split screen is to compare actions or objects. By showing two similar actions or objects side by side, viewers will be able to compare them directly and notice any differences more easily when they are pointed out in the video.
It is important to use split screen sparingly as a comparison tool however, as it can be confusing. Because viewers will be trying to focus on both images at once, the video itself will need to guide them through what they should be looking at.
Cloning a person
Most people don’t realize it, but split screen effects are actually the foundation for another type of effect – cloning or duplicating a person. If you’ve ever seen a video where someone is talking to a duplicate of themselves it was probably creating using a split screen.
Basically to clone a person you’ll need to record two separate videos of the person and then use a split screen effect to put them together. To pull off the illusion the background and rest of the video needs to match so there is no noticeable separation between the two screens.
If you want to start using a split screen effect in any of the ways listed above you’ll need a video editor that can pull it off – and preferably without making it too complicated.
Ideally you should avoid using a split screen effect too gratuitously – but in the right situations it could help to make your video more interesting or convey information more effectively.