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Fade to Gray

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Often used as a "trip down memory lane" effect, this occurs in film or TV shows (usually referencing a film) when wishing to confer an obvious stylistic nod to the black-and-white era of moviemaking upon the audience. A simple trick, the saturation (colour) of the effect is slowly drained until the picture is completely monochromatic or grey, just like all those Film Noir pictures of the 1940s and 1950s. The effect can also be used more subtly, with only a slight change of hues and saturation to simulate the effect of a dream (fuzzy edges), fantasy (usually with a cloud) or flashback sequences as required. Also done in reverse.


A Sub-Trope of Deliberately Monochrome.


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  • Clerks II used this at the end of the movie as a nod to the black and white origins of the first.
  • The ending of Ransom.
  • Dutch film Het meisje met het rode haar (The girl with the red hair), about a resistance fighter in WW2 Holland, deliberately fades almost everything to monochrome as a visual reminder of the grim nature of life under German rule. The only part of the picture to remain red, or at least in Dutch national orange-red, is the long hair of the titular character, Resistance fighter Hanne Schaft.

     Western Animation  

  • In The Simpsons episode $pringfield (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying), Jasper and Abe are visiting a movie parlour back in their day as young men, watching a short film about the successes of Springfield. This is shown in black and white before fading to colour, revealing them as hypocritical old men. The current events movie they watch also contains a few Department of Redundancy Department jokes.
    • The Simpsons also did this in an early issue of Simpsons Comics, wherein a tale Grandpa was telling of his past, the pages would randomly turn black and white. Bart complains about this.

     Real Life  

  • The last colour to remain visible as daylight fades to night is red. Even when comparatively dark, red is often still visible in a sort of bleached-out faded way. Try this for yourself. Dutch film Het meisje met het rode haar (above) uses this effect as a visual metaphor for the "dark night" of occupation by Nazi Germany.


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