Five Film scenes that are pivotal to the story and present an ideal example of how a cinefade could be used in cinema.
Cinefade varies depth of field in a single motion picture shot at constant exposure, enabling Cinematographers to gradually transition from a sharp to a blurry background. The in-camera effect could be used to accentuate a moment of extreme drama and immerse the viewer in the story. The following five scenes from well known movies all demonstrate moments of extreme drama that could have employed a Cinefade to accentuate the drama even further.
Jaws (1975) - Directed by Steven Spielberg
One of the greatest and most well-known film scenes in which Chief Brody realizes there is a shark in the water attacking swimmers. Spielberg uses the Dolly Zoom, made famous by Alfred Hitchcock to accentuate the moment and communicate a heightened sense of awareness as well as accentuating the horror that the character feels.
A Cinefade could be used in this scene to similar effect. Fading from a deep depth of field to a shallow depth of field in a short time span would draw attention to the effect and communicate to the audience that Chief Brody is drowning out the world around him, as he focuses all his attention on what is happening in the water and trying to deal with the overwhelming horror of the situation.
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - Directed by Irvin Kershner
In this classic and pivotal scene Luke Skywalker learns the real identity of Darth Vader, which emotionally affects him very strongly and turns his world upside down.
This scene is a perfect example of how a Cinefade could be used to express the emotional turmoil experienced by a character. The shot (see a screenshot below) goes on for several seconds in which Luke digests the information.
His facial expression says a lot but imagine if the background were to slowly fade from sharp to blurry. The viewer's eyes would be drawn away from the background and forced to concentrate solely on his facial expression and witness his world falling apart.
Goodfellas (1990) - Directed by Martin Scorsese
Another fantastic example of a Dolly Zoom shot, also known as the Vertigo shot. Unlike the Dolly Zoom in Jaws, this one is much longer and much more subtle.
The effect doesn't draw attention to itself. Scorsese used the shot to communicate that the world is slowly changing around the two characters.
I would actually argue that a Cinefade in this shot wouldn't have the same effect and would probably be wrong to use in this particular shot.
However, if Scorsese had wanted to communicate a growing sense of danger and threat he could have used a Cinefade to slowly and gradually fade from a shallow to a deep depth of field, thereby revealing the background and the danger the outside world poses to the two characters, as their friend has just put a hit out on them.
On a side note, here is a great analysis of the Dolly Zoom by Filmmaker IQ.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) - Directed by Gabriele Muccino
In one of my favorite movie endings, Chris the protagonist finally gets offered the job he has been slaving away for. Will Smith's acting is fantastic and speaks for itself.
A Cinefade can be used very subtly and does not need to draw attention to itself. In this example I would use a Cinefade in the scene where Chris leaves the building and joins the crowd of people outside.
He is finally one of them. The depth of field fades from shallow to deep. He is no longer trapped by his position in life (signified by a shallow depth of field) but can finally breathe and embrace the possibilities ahead of him (deep depth of field). The change in depth of field doesn't single him out anymore but makes him go under in the crowd of other 'happy' and successful bankers.
Rocky Balboa (2006) - Directed by Sylvester Stallone
This scene has a great inspirational monologue and could be accentuated with a Cinefade that is timed to coincide with the rising tone of voice and enthusiasm.
The Cinefade would start with the words "Let me tell you something you already know...". The fade would start with a deep depth of field and very slowly fade to a shallow depth of field over the course of the monologue.
The bokeh in the background caused by street lights and reflections would gradually become larger until the background would be completely out of focus. The viewer would gradually focus all his attention on Rocky and his powerful words until they are captivated.
The climax of the speech is reached with the words "You're better than that". From that point forward, as the tension slowly drops back, it would even be possible to fade the depth of field back to a deep depth of field. It would almost be like Rocky is waking up from whatever possessed him to shout at his son like he did and return to the present. The viewer would be allowed to slowly return to his normal state of mind and 'take a breath' after the intense monologue.
Please feel free to comment or get in touch with me and tell me your own ideas for using a Cinefade in narrative film or indeed commercials, documentary, TV drama etc. and follow Cinefade on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date.