Pond5 in Action, Pro Tips

Split Screen Video Editing


Content creators draw on various filmmaking techniques to entertain viewers. One such technique is the clever utilization of split screens. By sectioning the screen, split screens simultaneously display different visuals and allow storytellers to communicate nuanced narrative aspects. Creatively inspiring and on a serious comeback, there’s much to learn about one of cinema’s oldest mechanisms. Without further ado, let’s split.


About Split Screen

Traditionally, this term refers to the visible division of a screen. Editors can cut the image on the screens in half or fragment it to display several visuals simultaneously, shattering the illusion of ‘the human eye.’ The view of reality is no longer singular or seamless. A split screen is often a stylized, dialed-up intrusion enabling an even more comprehensive narrative. It is one of film’s oldest techniques, starting as ‘Polyvision’: using three separate projector screens to show related footage as a single panoramic shot or a triptych of differing images.

Only the grandest cinemas in the world could display these expensive and time-consuming works. Later, filmmakers would use an optical printer to combine two or more separately filmed actions by copying them onto the same negative, called the composite. The technique was maligned for over-use in the 1960s but is enjoying a resurgence thanks to the success of independent filmmakers and the creation of new tools in programs such as After Effects.


The Creative Benefits of A Split Screen

Juxtaposing multiple scenes or subjects within a single frame offers a dynamic viewer experience. Filmmakers can consider how each frame will best display different perspectives, moments, or characters, adding depth, storytelling cues, and complexity to the narrative. Alternatively, they can fly under the radar and use the technique as a compositing aid. Whether editing clips together or making a single shot from multiple takes, there are many ways to use split screens. These include:

  • Showing parallel storylines. Highlighting the interconnectedness or contrasting nature of different characters or events can build suspense, emphasize relationships, or provide a comprehensive view of agents and factors in a story.
  • Offering visual variety and innovation. Style choices can provide a distinctive, visually striking composition.
  • Keeping the pace going. Condensing multiple scenes into one frame saves time and keeps audiences engaged.

How many of them can you spot in this video by Marco Heiter?


Popular Examples

Numerous films, television shows, music, and online videos use split screens. Here is a non-exhaustive list featuring great examples:


Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

Director Edgar Wright uses split-screen for everything from scene transitions to inspired fight sequences. The technique was vital to pulling off a distinct visual style, enabling dynamic storytelling, emphasizing character reactions, and immersing viewers in a vibrant, retro-modern world inspired by comic books and video games.


500 Days of Summer (2009)

Director Marc Webb used split screens to convey Tom and Summer’s contrasting perspectives and emotions at the end of their relationship. He highlighted their emotional dissonance with a nuanced portrayal of events. In this way, one carefully orchestrated scene unfolded in two opposing directions using the simple vehicle of Expectation V.S Reality.


Indiscreet (1958)

The technique has even been used to bypass censors. Between the 1930s and late 1960s, the Hayes Code prohibited scenes of unmarried couples in the same bed. So, director Stanley Donan subverted the rule with a strategic split screen, placing Carey Grant and Ingrid Bergman talking at less than arm’s length from each other.

That’s it for explicit split screens. Now, let’s peel back the layers on less apparent examples.


The Parent Trap (1998)

Combining meticulous framing, synchronized performances, and precise editing, director Nancy Meyers used this technique to create the illusion of Lindsay Lohan interacting with her on-screen twin. The result was a visually convincing portrayal of two distinct characters sharing the same space.


The Social Network (2010)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Director David Fincher is known for compositing multiple actors’ best takes into one single shot. Watch the tutorial below to discover the split-comping process: including how it featured in The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and how to try it yourself!


Pond5 In Action: Transport Through Time

Pond5 in Action shorts are monthly stories to inspire creativity, featuring trending industry topics or techniques. We’ve seen a rise in popularity due to accessible split-screen software and modern video-led aesthetics. The future is bright for split screens—so we used them to look back over transportation history.


Ready To Make Your Own?

First, visit the collection to explore the scenes we used, or head to our Free Collection. Then, find various online tools and video editing software to simplify the process! Filmora9, Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve offer user-friendly features, plus online Pixiko will spit out a split screen in minutes!

Split screens are a powerful video editing tool, ripe for impactful stories told through visually striking compositions. Convey parallel narratives, display contrasting visuals, and maximize messaging in just one scene—the possibilities are endless. Why not experiment with this technique and unlock more ways to express your imagination? We’d love to see it.