How to drop a clean fade in into your films.

Fade in transitions are a foundational skill for beginning filmmakers. Learn how to move from shot to shot to make your film jell and set its tone. 

What is a fade in?

A fade in is an opening shot or transition technique used in film editing to ease viewers into new imagery, rather than using a sudden cut from scene to scene.

Fades set the tone.

If scenes are the frame of your motion picture, transitions are the glue that holds it together. The way you transition from scene to scene in your film determines how your audience experiences pacing, theme, and mood. Rapid cuts, for example, will add a frenetic intensity to your scene transitions. Fade ins, on the other hand, offer a slower, more measured pace.


Commonly, a fade in begins with a black background and a slow transition into a new clip. Fade ins gently begin or end a scene, rather than just jumping right to the next action. They give the viewer a little time to think about what just happened in a clip or scene. Often, in the final draft of the script or teleplay, a fade in will be pointed out in the screenplay precisely because they are so effective at conveying mood and tone. They can often be powerful and useful if the writer of the film wants to capture a particular move. 

How to create fade transitions.

To apply a fade transition in Adobe Premiere Pro, you have two options. One is simple and quick, and the other is more advanced but allows for more control: 

Option 1 


Select your clip, right click on the left or right edge, and choose Apply Default Transition. This will create a Dissolve In transition. 


Use the small handlebar on the clip to change the length of the transition. (Or double click the transition to type in a specific fade duration.)

Option 2


From the Effects panel, select the Video Transitions folder, then navigate to the Dissolve folder. There is no Fade in/Fade out option — Dissolve is how it’s referred to in Premiere Pro. 


From the Dissolve folder, you can select a transition that fits the fade you’d like to use. Film Dissolve and Cross Dissolve are good for experimentation.


Drag the transition onto the edge of your clip where you want it. You can make further adjustments or revisions in the Effect Controls panel.


Adobe Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro

Types of fades.

Fade ins are not exclusively applied to the visual, either. There are other versions of fades you can use as well, like audio and text fades.


The audio fade.

You can fade audio in or out, similarly to the way video fades work. You can use a gradual increase in music volume to start a scene off with a certain tone or mood. Often, with a slow fade in, audio serves as a bridge between scenes, starting while the image is still black. This is common in documentaries, where you’ll hear narration or an expert speaking on a topic before moving into a scene. 


One of the most iconic uses of audio to complement a fade in is in Goodfellas, where the audience hears the sounds of cars zooming by as each title card shows a cast member. After this introduction, the video cuts in, and we see the car containing the characters moving down the highway on their way to perform their evil deeds. 


The text fade.

Fading in and out can also be useful for text, and it’s often done for functional purposes. You might be incorporating subtitles into a film, and the way they transition keeps your audience focused on watching rather than reading. There are also many artistic flourishes you can accomplish with a text fade, like title cards or other instances of text being incorporated, like in the film Stranger Than Fiction, where numbers and text are part of the narrative. 

Three photos side by side: Left image is a surfer catching a wave from a head-on perspective peeking out of the water. Middle image is a combination of the left image transitioning into the right image using fade in. Right image is of a surfer contemplating on a surfboard in a thunderbolt pose.

How to use fade ins to tell better stories.

When you’re considering how to shift from scene to scene, knowing why you’re doing it is important. Here’s what you can do with fade ins:

  • Add a cinematic feeling to the film
  • Draw attention, re-engage the audience, and allow for additional micro storytelling points 
  • Simulate the passage of time or indicate that a new act is beginning in the film
  • Give the audience time to take a breath

 Applying fade transitions in Adobe Premiere Pro is easy  and it gives  you complete control over how  your transitions work. 


Before you start, though, it helps to know some best practices. You want to ensure the clips you’re working with are long enough to apply transitions to. If they’re not, Premiere duplicates frames to make sure the transition is smooth, but this can create some odd effects. “If you’re planning on something important happening in your fade in, you probably want to shoot a little bit extra so you can account for that fade in,” says cinematographer Paulius Kontijevas.


Sticking to the basics while you’re learning is a great idea as well. Once you’ve learned the rules, you can break them, but at first, focus on getting your timing right. 

Create your own perfect fade.

Transitions are just one tool in the filmmaker’s kit. For first-time filmmakers, there are hundreds of tutorials and guides available to help you learn the basics of filmmaking, from shooting to the edit bay. The word of the day is experiment. Learn what works and what doesn’t, and before long you’ll be piecing together compelling films. 

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