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Saturday, November 9, 2013

I Saw a Frame of Black Last Night!

It was intentional!  It looked like this:


 And it was preceded by the screen image gradually fading to it then back up again.
It was surprising, no, refreshing!
Have you ever listened to the average teen talking, ending each sentence on an upswing to tell you they had more to say, segue after segue. Today’s production and operations fit that personality well.  A constant barrage of semicolons and commas but never the period that a fade to black brings – that little breath your mind gets.
They now only to seem to exist in the theatrical world, smartly used as an emotional device.  (Although I don’t know what emotion some French films are trying to convey as they fade to black and stay there long enough for a cat nap.)  The same device was once used in the broadcast world, too – and for the same reason – change of thought, emotional impact, not cat nap.
I’m not talking about the “silent pullup” that was once commonplace.  (Trivia time:  what was a silent pullup and, for the prize, why was it employed?)  I’m talking about the good old transition of a FADE TO BLACK that was the punctuation mark on a scene.
Maybe it disappeared when early satellite relay was implemented.  Full screen black put a heavy load on the transponder – ate up power and contributed to higher heat “up there” – so directors, especially live feed folks like those who worked news and sports, were told not to go to black for significant periods.  Once sensitized to it, they began interpreting it as “never go to black.  Ever.”
But, even in television drama, I don’t see it much.   Certainly not in a commercial pod where every frame is filled.  Hey, if ya got nuttin’ else to say, stick up the URL or 800 number.  And I really think that’s part of the clutter.  Like running wind sprints but never being allowed to stop and take a breath.
Just for the heck of it, I went to YouTube and started looking at random clips.  I decided I’d make sure they were over 2 minutes in length figuring that anything shorter probably had a lesser chance of having an opportunity for a “dip” or fade to black.  Even with materials 2 minutes plus, I didn’t see any except at the open and close and, even then, they were few and far between.  I then jumped to some sites where the subject might include a video.  When I found them, I found the same display as I had seen on TV.  OK, full disclosure, I didn’t do a frame-by-frame analysis, but my recall told me it was the same.  Sure enough, wall-to-wall video.
So what, who cares?  Probably no one except me.  But it’s fun remembering that chance to settle for a fraction of a second – whether it’s watching the tube or listening to a teen.