Rethinking The Fade-out

What colour are most movie fade-outs?

In the olden days of film, the transition between Act One and Act Two was often marked by a brief fade-out, a momentary darkening of the screen which indicated passage of time or movement in space. The fade-out was equivalent to the curtain coming down in the theatre so the stagehands can change the set and props to crate a new locale or show elapse of time.

– Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey

It’s interesting to think about how so many of the conventions in modern film — and by extension, storybook apps — come from realworld logistical constraints of yesteryear.

The fade-to-black has been played with in more recent times. One notable example is in the HBO series Six Feet Under, in which the fade-to-white stands out and makes a statement (about heaven, about nothingness, about zoning-out) in a way the fade-to-black says nothing much at all, simply because the audience  does not ‘see’ something when it happens to be the default.

Along came PowerPoint and movie software for the Mac and PC, and home movie-makers were suddenly offered a lot of rope when it came to transitions. Cuts, fades, cuts, wipes, random bars, flashes, you name it, all the transitions could be yours!

Most recently, Microsoft has offered up some genuinely impressive transitions, if you’re inclined to be impressed by code.

But what does that mean for story app developers? A few things, I think:

1. It’s hard to wow readers with fancy transitions because they’ll have seen it all before. Page turns are not easy to code. Microsoft and Apple (for their iBooks) have spent a lot of time and money perfecting theirs.

2. It’s easy to pull a reader out of the story by making a simple thing like a page turn into a thing.

3. When using a fancy transition, the fanciness should relate directly to the story — advancing the plot, hinting at theme, providing the reader with foreshadowing/symbolic hints etc.


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