Developing a reliable and efficient fabrication method for phase-transition thin-film technology is critical for electronic and photonic applications. We demonstrate a novel method for fabricating polycrystalline, switchable vanadium dioxide thin films on glass and silicon substrates and show that the optical switching contrast is not strongly affected by post-processing annealing times. The method relies on electron-beam evaporation of a nominally stoichiometric powder, followed by fast annealing. As a result of the short annealing procedure we demonstrate that films deposited on silicon substrates appear to be smoother, in comparison to pulsed laser deposition and sputtering. However, optical performance of e-beam evaporated film on silicon is affected by annealing time, in contrast to glass. © 2012 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.