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In stage lighting, a fade is a gradual increase or decrease of the intensity of light projected onto the stage. The term fade-in refers to gradually changing the lighting level from complete darkness to a predetermined lighting level. A fade-out (also known as fade-to-black) refers to gradually decreasing the intensity of light until none is shining on the stage. A crossfade is when lighting levels are gradually altered from one setting to another. A fade-in is sometimes called a build, and where this terminology is used, a fade is understood to be a fade-out.
In nearly all theatrical lighting designs, multiple lighting instruments are used to illuminate the stage at any one time. The instruments are controlled by a lighting technician from a dimmer board or lighting control panel. A fade refers to a change in illumination for the entire stage. Thus, the intensity of many lighting instruments are often altered with a single fade, especially with newer digital control systems like DMX, which uses a serial data stream to control up to 512 dimmers or other compatible fixtures, via a single twisted pair of wires. DMX consoles are largely computerised, thus allowing digital process control from multiple input devices, and synchronisation via MIDI, SMPTE etc.
The terms fade in, fade out, and fade to black were borrowed by Hollywood, and are used in the formal structure of screenplays.