An Establishing Shot that includes a wild planet-scale or even galaxy-scale zoom — for example, showing Earth from space and then zooming in through the atmosphere to a single room/street, or zooming through galaxies to Earth.
Often used to convey a message like this: "The universe is big, and on this Insignificant Little Blue Planet, there is a totally unremarkable spot where..."
Steven Johnson called this "The Long Zoom" in a pre-release article on Spore, referring to it as the "defining view" of our era.
It is extremely common in documentaries about space, often zooming from the scale of entire galaxies being pixels big, until reach the scale of measly people. In a historical context - in films before the mid 2000's, when Google Earth became available, seeing this sort of zoom was a real novelty.
Subtrope of Epic Tracking Shot.
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A Guinness commercial in which the transition from cosmic back to everyday scale is achieved by a galaxy turning into a swirl of froth on a glass of Guinness.
The first half of a 1980s British Telecom commercial was a zoom out, from a man telephoning from an office in central London to the entire western hemisphere. The second half was a zoom back in, to the call's recipient in central Manhattan.
The Tenchi Muyo!: Ryo Oh Ki OVA series uses a stepped zoom out from Earth in the opening titles.
A variety of this trope occurs in Kamichu!. After Yurie invokes her first spell, the "camera" zooms out from the roof she's standing on until we see almost all of Japan. Then there is a zoom-in way further to the south, where Yurie appears to have caused a gust of wind which turns into a full-blown hurricane later on. Not bad for a beginning god who thought that nothing was happening at first.
A variant of this is often used in Starship Operators when panning from one ship to another - appropriate, as most space battles take place beyond visual range.
To be more precise, it starts with a single galaxy, then zooms out until a hundred galaxies are but a single pinprick in a screen filled with them. And then it blows them all up.
It also inverts the trope for its final episode: Zooming out past astronomical levels in order to fit the final robot on screen
The Haruhi-chan shorts combine this with Camera Abuse to hilarious effect: the camera in orbit over Earth zooms down through the atmosphere and straight into Haruhi's unsuspecting face, knocking her out and breaking the lens.
A less extreme version occurs in the first episode of Scrapped Princess: after the opening credits, the viewer sees an upside-down physical map of east Asia, then zooms in on Korea.
Not quite cosmic, but in a similar vein to the aforementioned Guinness commercial: In the First Comics adaptation of Michael Moorcock's Elric: The Sailor on the Seas of Fate there is a scene in which Elric and the captain of the ship that sails the eponymous seas are having a discussion in his cabin. On a nearby table is a glass globe containing a model ship, on which the viewpoint zooms in and through a porthole to reveal Elric and the captain still engaged in their discussion.
Most famously employed, more for an instructional effect than a dramatic one, in the classic educational films Cosmic Zoom (1968), Powers of Ten (1977) and the IMAX "Cosmic Voyage" (1996).
xkcd parodied the film (and indirectly, the trope) here.
Done in the opening and closing of Burn After Reading, giving the sense of an omniscient viewer, in this case, the CIA.
...which is funny when you think about it, as by the end of the movie they really had no idea what the hell just happened.
The opening of Contact, combined with an aural equivalent. As the camera went further back, the sound of TV and radio transmissions play in the soundtrack, becoming older, fewer and fainter, until there was total silence. It eventually pulls out to the protagonist's pupil.
Men In Black ends with a Zoom Out, revealing that our entire galaxy is contained in a marble played by really, really humongous creatures.
William Shatner actually wanted to do this at the beginning of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but because Industrial Light and Magic weren't available to do the film's special effects and they had to settle for a smaller (and not as good) company, they weren't able to put it into the film.
Superman Returns started with the destruction of Krypton and took the viewer on a trip through space all the way to Earth. Then we cut to a scene on Earth just in time to witness Superman's ship re-entering the atmosphere.
Crank combined this with the Google Maps logo in the bottom corner.
The last episode of Walking With Beasts ended by zooming out from a museum in London into outer space.
Used in the opening of the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, zooming in on New York, then Central Park and finally the museum.
Disturbed's RockumentaryDecade of Disturbed starts like this, interwoven with the band's hits fading in and out.
An early draft of the novel version of 2001: A Space Odyssey had one of the characters narrating a film which was very like Powers of Ten. The chapter can be found in the book The Lost Worlds of 2001.
Live Action TV
Battlestar Galactica in the Season 3 finale was another variation, the shot zooming out from a battle to show the entire Galaxy before zooming back in at a nearby area to show how close the fleet were to Earth, though given the sizes involved they could be right next to it and never have found it without help.
Doctor Who began the episodes "Rose", "The Christmas Invasion", "The Runaway Bride" and "The Eleventh Hour" this way.
The How I Met Your Mother episode "Three Days of Snow" has a zoom out from Ted and Barney to a view of a huge nor'easter bearing down on the east coast.
Drive would often start a scene high enough to show the entire USA (complete with superimposed map labels), then close in on our current location. It would also sometimes back up into the sky a bit and refocus on another team's location hundreds of kilometers away, to establish the distance.
Also done in the season 5 finale, when the guys have Howard's wedding on the roof of their building so that it gets photographed by the Google Earth satellite.
Veteran football show Match of the Day does this to introduce a game, zooming in from "geostationary orbit over Britain" to "Goodyear Blimp cruising over the stadium in question" in a second or so.
The first season of Dead Like Me has this as visual Bookends. The first thing you see is the Earth from orbit level which then zooms in. The final (non-credits) shot is essentially the same in reverse.
The first season of Suburgatory is bookended this way. The pilot began with a zoom away from Lower Manhattan then back down to somewhere in Westchester or southeastern Connecticut, and the last shot of the season finale reversed from that latter scene out to the satellite view.
One episode of the physics-documentary series Curiosity took this to the absolute limit, zooming in on a cup of coffee right down to the subatomic level, and then zooming out again until the entire universe was revealed.
Stargate Atlantis uses this in the opening episode of season 5. The Atlantis team have infiltrated the Michael facility where the kidnapped Teyla will soon be taken to deliver her baby, but a boobytrap triggers and it collapses on top of them. We zoom out from the wreckage all the way into space past planets, stars, and nebulas, until we arrive at Michael's cruiser hovering in orbit over a planet several systems away.
The 4XReal-Time Strategy game Sins of a Solar Empire take this to a rather awe-inspiring level. You can zoom in to a single fighter frigate or zoom out to see entire solar systems. There comes a certain point when the scout ships you've sent out has explored the entire game map and you zoom out to witness your own empire and those of your enemies locked in conflict. And at some point you'll realize that you're playing a "Small Random Map" and that the "Huge Random Map" is seven times bigger. And playing that "small" map will take hours. The Gamespot review of the game makes a point to warn the reader of playing for hours on end.
Happens at the end of Kane's Wrath. Once LEGION interfaces with the Tacitus, the view zooms out of Earth rapidly while Scrin writing flashes on the screen.
The seven worlds of Super Mario Galaxy 2 are actually all based on this trope. The first world in the game takes place in Earth orbit, the second near the inner Solar System, the third inside a nebula, the fourth outside the Milky Way, the fifth between several galaxies, the sixth near a black hole, and the seventh in orbit around a bizarre planet with star-shaped continents. Inside what appears to be in an alternate universe.
One The Adventures of John and Dave strip shows us that our galaxy is on a wrestler's codpiece. A more distant and even more confusing variant has the camera zoom into John's moustache until it arrives in Mordor.
The Troll arc ends by zooming out of Alternia's galaxy and then zooming into Earth.
One of the bonus features in Unicorn Jelly is a powers of ten map that zooms out from a closeup of a couple of characters to an overview of the entire multiverse.
The many YouTube videos involving zoom out to display comparative planetary and stellar body sizes. They form an unusual case because they often have to use side pans in conjunction with a pan out in order to fit things in e.g..
The entire intro shot of Mr. Bug Goes to Town uses this majestically, zooming out from a God's eye view of Earth, into the skylines of New York, all the way down to the measly inches high houses of the bugs.
The "Rite of Spring" sequence in Fantasia opens with an Astronomic Zoom from distant space to a primordial Earth. It's easily the most well-animated example on this list.
Invader Zim has a zoom-in on Earth in the first episode, as well as a few in later episodes (such as "Zim Eats Waffles").
Looney Tunes short The Mouse-merized Cat starts with a view of Planet Earth and slowly zooms in on a mousehole in a cheese shop, where a mouse greets the audience with "I thought you'd never get here."
Two Couch Gags in The Simpsons did variants of this. One was a zoom out until galaxies turned into atoms, and then it zoomed out further from-sub atomic back to Homer on the couch. The other was an evolution gag where proto-Homer the bacteria evolved into Homer on the couch (All the while zooming out a little), and even shows Moe going backwards since he was walking the other way. The first one was actually based on the educational film Powers of Ten.
Lamp Shaded by Homer's impressed "woooow" after the first one
Pixar's WALL•E starts with multiple cuts of outer space before eventually focusing in on a highly polluted Earth, thus establishing not only setting but story.
Futurama liked to use this, sometimes to indicate the distance between Earth and some other planet/nebula/God/whatever, and once to show the universe being sucked into a featureless void.
Parodied on Family Guy, where it's revealed that all of existence (or at least the Family Guy universe, anyway) is just a speck on a lamp in Adam West's bedroom.
Rock-A-Doodle has possibly the most ludicrous example, going from orbit to the the main character's uvula in a rather short period of time.
Averted in The Land Before Time, which instead starts out underwater and panning up to the surface revealing a prehistoric landscape. In fact, the film was originally going to have its opening credits be shown in outer space (a concept that later resurfaced in Rock A Doodle, as mentioned above), slowly moving toward a newly-formed Earth, and centering on its surface as it gradually changes from a volcanic landscape of the Precambrian era, to an endless ocean of the Paleozoic era, and finally a prehistoric swamp of the Mesozoic era, but this was changed to the final version as mentioned earlier because the writers thought it looked too much like the first part of the Rite of Spring segment from Fantasia, again mentioned above.
Happens in the Adventure Time episode "The Real You". When Finn puts on a pair of mind-enhancing glasses, the camera zooms in on his cells, then to molecules, and atoms, and it transitions from there to galaxies, then the solar system, zooming past the sun to Ooo, and zooming back in on Finn, as a way to establish just how much the glasses let him understand everything. When the glasses are removed later in the episode, the zoom is reversed. Oh, and the shot of the planet from space is interesting.
The computer graphics card benchmark utility 3D Mark 2001 had a zoom (with obvious cuts) from an orbital view to the human scale, finally cutting to a nice mountain forest landscape that was a 3D prowess at the time.
Google Earth is well enough known for this that it's part of an alternate name for the trope.
The American Museum of Natural History presents: The Entire Visible Universe. A zoom-out from the Tibet to the edges of the Universe and back!
Here is an interactive one that goes all the way from superstrings and quantum foam to the static hiss outside the theoretical boundaries of the universe.
The 1977 film Powers of Ten does this to the scale of the universe before zooming in to an atom. Video here.
Astronauts don't usually get to experience this. Taking off their windows usually face up and they are busy with launch - whether you can see the earth recede depends on the orientation of the spacecraft during launch and if you can free yourself up to pay attention. On reentry the heat shield is facing Earth and the heat of reentry blocks the view.