Desktop fadeout

Reedbeta 168 Apr 05, 2006 at 14:00

Many games take up the entire screen, and when they start up there is often an unsightly few seconds in which the window creation, video mode changes and so forth cause the screen to flicker, the desktop to wink in and out of existence, and so forth. This code sample shows how to make the desktop smoothly fade to black when an application starts, allowing the messy details of graphics initialization to be hidden.

The demo operates by creating a borderless, captionless popup window covering the entire screen. Initially, this window is transparent because it does not paint itself. Then an OpenGL context is created that has no back buffer, so all draw calls operate directly on the displayed image. Each frame, a full-screen alpha-blended rectangle is drawn, fading the image gradually toward black. Any color (or texture) could be chosen, but black is probably the best in most cases. After the fadeout is complete, the application can switch video modes and create its main window, and then destroy the fadeout window. The demo program creates a new OpenGL context and renders a spinning cube until you press Escape.

The core of the effect is in this message handler for the fadeout window:

LRESULT CALLBACK FadeoutWndProc (HWND hWnd, UINT message,
    WPARAM wParam, LPARAM lParam)
    static int frames = 0;
    static DWORD nextFrameTime;

    switch (message)
        case WM_CREATE:
            // Set up a basic OpenGL environment for the fadeout, with no
            // backbuffer, zbuffer, stencil, or destination-alpha
            g_pRenderEnvironment = CreateOpenGLEnvironment(hWnd, false, false,
                false, false);
            if (!g_pRenderEnvironment)
                MessageBox(hWnd, L"Could not set up OpenGL!",
                    L"Error", MB_ICONEXCLAMATION);
                return 0;


            // Setup OpenGL state
            glBlendFunc(GL_ONE_MINUS_SRC_ALPHA, GL_SRC_ALPHA);
            glOrtho(0, 1, 0, 1, -1, 1);

            nextFrameTime = GetTickCount() + FADEOUT_TIME / 256;

            return 0;

        case WM_PAINT:
            if (GetTickCount() > nextFrameTime)
                nextFrameTime += FADEOUT_TIME / 256;
                // Fade out the screen one more step
                glColor4f(0, 0, 0, (float)(255 - frames) / (256 - frames));
                glRectf(0, 0, 1, 1);
                if (frames == 256)
                    // Finished fading out, so validate the window rectangle
                    // (so Windows stops sending us paint messages)
                    ValidateRect(hWnd, NULL);

                    // Get rid of the existing render environment, as we will
                    // be creating a new one for the main window
                    delete g_pRenderEnvironment;

                    // Create the main window before destroying the fadeout
                    // window, so as not to allow the desktop to visibly
                    // flicker between them

            return 0;

    return DefWindowProc(hWnd, message, wParam, lParam);

I have tried the program on an nVIDIA GeForce 6800 and on an ATI Radeon 9600, but I would love to hear if it works (or fails) on other cards. :)

The full source code and binary are available here, with the source distributed under the BSD license. The source also demonstrates some parts of a lightweight, extensible framework for graphics applications that I’ve been developing for an engine I’m working on.

Some improvements that could be made to the code:
* Sometimes on ATI cards the taskbar isn’t affected by the fadeout, though it disappears a few seconds after the main window is created. You might be able to fix this by making the fadeout window “topmost,” though I haven’t gotten around to trying it.
* Some useful work, like loading resources, could be done in the background while the fadeout is occurring. Currently the program just enters a busy wait between frames: since the window is not validated, Windows spams us with WM_PAINT messages, which are ignored until it’s time for the next fadeout frame. This could be done with a timer instead.

14 Replies

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bladder 101 Apr 05, 2006 at 14:29

I like it, I like it a lot. Thanks for sharing this.

Works perfectly on a gf4 ti 4200.

monjardin 102 Apr 05, 2006 at 17:28

Works great with a Mobile Intel 915GM Express on this laptop. Looks sexy, I like it! :yes:

Were transparent windows supported prior to Windows 2000/XP? I’m just wondering if this would fail on Windows 98, but that may not matter much anymore… :closedeye

Reedbeta 168 Apr 05, 2006 at 17:36


Were transparent windows supported prior to Windows 2000/XP? I’m just wondering if this would fail on Windows 98, but that may not matter much anymore… :closedeye

It’s only transparent in the sense that it fails to paint itself or establish a background brush, so I think it should still work on Win98. I know XP has some fancy features for alpha-blended windows and stuff, but I’m not using that :)

geon 101 Apr 06, 2006 at 15:29

Great idea, works fine here too.

Still, there is a really akward color artifact visible. The colors don’t fade to black linearly. It looks more like when you move your head in front of an old, low quality LCD screen.

I think this might look better if the number of fading frames was lower, so the integer math would get some more precission to play with.

roel 101 Apr 06, 2006 at 16:14

very sexy. on my ati 9600 the taskbar remains visible indeed.

Blaxill 101 Apr 06, 2006 at 20:07

I really like this, nice work!

davepermen 101 Apr 09, 2006 at 20:13

works great. only the always-on-top friend-icons from msgplus have some issue while blending..

haw about fading back once you quit your app? :D

MLeoDaalder 101 Apr 10, 2006 at 10:16

Very nice!

I might use this in my programs in the future.

It works on my ATI Radeon 9200SE. Though I think I might have to reset my refresh rate now, I’m getting headaches now just looking at my screen (started the moment I pressed Escape).

But I don’t think it’s something to do with your program.
Well, it might, since this only happens to some fullscreen programs.

Francois_Hamel 101 Apr 15, 2006 at 23:12

I really like it, makes your spinning cube application look real polished :)

thanks for the tip

JeGX 101 Apr 16, 2006 at 18:44

Really cool Reedbeta :yes:

Works fine on my gf7800gt (winxp sp2 - forceware 84.21) and on my X700pro (winxp sp2 - catalyst 6.3).

angel_prks 101 Jun 25, 2010 at 03:53

Hello Everyone,

Can I have a copy of the source code of this? I want to try it too. Please

Reedbeta 168 Jun 25, 2010 at 04:11

The full source and binary for this are here. But it should be noted this doesn’t work anymore on Vista/Win7, only in XP.

angel_prks 101 Jun 25, 2010 at 04:59

Ahhh…. Ok. Thank you for this. Ill just try it anyway…:)

vrnunes 102 Jun 25, 2010 at 13:17

That is a neat feature. I used to do that in the DOS days, fading out the text-mode palette before switching to ModeX! =)

Oh, but now I *need* to do that again, heheh. Thanks for bringing this again!