"Anybody hear that? It's an... It's an impact tremor, that's what it is... I'm fairly alarmed here."Whenever there's an earthquake or a particularly large Monster of the Week coming, this will often be demonstrated subtly (or not so subtly) by showing a small object (like a lamp, or a small pile of coins) vibrating, then jumping around as the vibrations get stronger (or the monster gets closer). Alternatively, this can be done with ripples in a pool of water. Sometimes the camera starts shaking (and possibly the people, too), for added emphasis. Made easier in console video games by the vibrating "rumble" motors built-in to most controllers. See also Wormsign.
— Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
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- A GE "ecoimagination" promo uses a non-monstrous variant, when a happy young elephant dances through a research facility and makes the growth-medium in a petri dish ripple.
Films — Animation
- In The Lion King, the stampede is signaled by a group of pebbles beginning to shake.
Films — Live-Action
- The film version of Jurassic Park has a much-parodied scene where ripples in a glass of water foretold the arrival of the Tyrannosaurus rex... except at the end. To be fair, they were probably a bit distracted by the velociraptors trying to eat them to notice that the ground is shaking a little.
"It's no Graboid...it's somethin' more dangerous!"
- The first movie runs on this all the way long.
- Subverted delightfully in Tremors 2: Aftershocks, with sheets of metal instead of water. As the movement gets more violent, and the heroes assume the monster just out of view has to be huge to be making it, so they point their guns higher and higher... until a little beast about half their size hops into view. What's even better is that the camera shot is set up so that the audience fully expects it as well, waiting for the giant inserted-by-special-effects monster to come lumbering around the corner of the building.
- Also subverted when the approaching rumbles turned out to be Burt Gummer arriving in a heavy truck loaded with weaponry.
- In the 1998 American Godzilla, GINO is making cars shake with each step during its first foray in New York... but no longer later in the movie.
- In Godzilla (2014), Joe and Sandra Brody are rather worried about the earthquake that seems to have hit the Janjira nuclear plant. Then Joe realizes that it can't be an earthquake because A) none of the other plants in the region are reporting tremors, B) the vibrations are too concentrated and regular for an earthquake, and C) the vibrations are slowly but surely increasing in strength.
- In Independence Day, the mother ship erases Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's footprints from the moon with this method (those bastards!), and the smaller city destroyers create vibrations strong enough to be mistaken as an earthquake by the characters.
- At the beginning of Star Trek VI, Captain Sulu's teacup rattles off the counter top in front of his captain's chair and shatters as his ship, the the Excelsior is buffeted by the fore-shockwave of the Praxis explosion.
- Done subtly (at first) in the second Ace Ventura movie. As the villain is indulging in a low-key Evil Gloating with a slight What Could Possibly Go Wrong?, everyone falls silent as they feel the house start to vibrate. At first, it's quiet, as if they could possibly be imagining the sound. But it gets louder, and louder, until a horde of animals bursts through the wall, followed by Ace on a flamingo in a Big Damn Heroes moment.
- The opening scene of Ian McKellen's Richard III. The king is eating a meal when everything on his table starts to vibrate (including a glass of red wine) whereupon an enemy tank bursts through the wall.
- Downfall. A vibrating water glass shows that the Russians are close enough to the centre of Berlin to start shelling it with artillery.
- Near the end of The Mist, the whole Jeep bounces before the appearance of the sky-scraper sized monster.
- The coach in Shaolin Soccer pauses to watch the water ripple in a cup on a trembling bench, to the sound of pounding in the distance. It's Mighty Steel Leg, repeatedly kicking a soccerball against a wall 50 meters away, hard enough to leave a deepening impact.
- In Jumanji, the book shelves are shaking, making a bust and some books fall, just as Alan yells "IT'S A STAMPEDE!" And then a rhinoceros comes crashing through the shelves.
- The Korean action epic Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon uses this trope, manifested first as a vibrating arrow and then as tremors in cups of tea, as the first sign of an approaching mounted Manchu invasion force.
- Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz. The SS guards see their chessboard vibrate. Is it artillery from the advancing Soviet army? A bombing raid? It's worse: a Bad Ass Russian trying to kick his way out of his cell!
- A very short version in Act of Valor. Terrorist financier Christo sees his table with Newton's Cradle start to vibrate a second before an explosion on his yacht tells him the US Navy have turned up for an unwelcome visit.
- In Smallville, Bride, a large bowl of soup starts to vibrate seconds before Doomsday crashes in.
- The X-Files, "Dreamland".
- In the pilot for V (2009), a vibrating glass of water (ala Jurassic Park) presages the arrival of a huge spaceship.
- Doctor Who:
- In the 1996 TV movie, when the TARDIS is sabotaged, the Doctor's tea not only vibrates but develops its own little whirlpool.
- Played with in "The Beast Below", where it's a plot point that the liquid in a glass of water isn't vibrating.
- The Jurassic Park bit was parodied in the Rashomon episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, with Uncle Phil standing in for the T-Rex.
- Became a Running Gag on Tremors: The Series, in that everyone would freeze in mid-argument and grab hold of anything breakable whenever El Blanco passed through town, making the ground vibrate. Soon as he'd passed by, conversations would resume as if nothing odd had happened. This even happened in the midst of a scene where someone was being held at gunpoint.
- Parodied in an episode of Scrubs when a very pregnant Jordan is summoned to the hospital.
- In season six finale of Supernatural, Dean and Bobby see seriously bad vibrations in a puddle. Dean even mentions Jurassic Park as a reaction to this.
- One of Bill Cosby's stand-up routines is "Buck Buck", describing a game by that name where groups of kids jump on each other and try not to fall down. Bill's team is good on defense, but the kids from the "rough part of town" claim to be even better, laughing off their offense from start to finish. Until:
"And the ground's tremblin'. *rumble* Trees fallin' over. *rumble* Buildings losing pieces of brick. *rumble* Parents taking kids off the street. *rumble* "Hey, hey, hey!" And these guys underneath us saying, "What's the ground doin' shakin', man? How come the ground's shakin'?" *rumble* "That's Fat Albert comin' for you." "Hey, hey, hey!" *rumble*
- Justified in Warhammer 40,000, where the Humongous Mecha put the emphasis on the humongous. If you don't feel the minor earthquakes these things cause with every footstep, you deserve what you get. Not to mention that in many Apocalypse games, when custom Titans are brought in, you're moving figures that are over 18" tall. Needless to say, things shake, even on the real tabletop.
- The Resident Evil series uses the controller vibration almost every time a boss approaches.
- The PlayStation port of Quake II likely cleverly used rumble when particularly large enemies were walking. Better yet, it was in stereo.
- In the Outland area of World of Warcraft, there are wandering demonic golems known as Fel Reavers. They are absolutely monstrous in scale, far larger than anything the player had encountered up to that point. Not only does your screen shake as they draw near, but you can hear their footsteps. Even more fearsome is their mechanical roar, which makes the screen shake violently, letting the player know that a massive death machine is very close. Luckily, their eyesight is terrible. Due to the way aggro works in the game, they'll only notice you if you're very close to them on the ground. You can fly a flying mount right through its face and it won't attack.
- Starcraft: Ghost's promo cinematic features an overconfident Marine captain leading a company to retake a Zerg-held refinery. Confident that the Zerg force is minimal to absent, he orders his troops forward en masse. He senses a deep rumble in the ground, pauses, and demands to know who had called for heavy armor support. When his lieutenant informs him that there are no tanks in the area, he realizes: that rumble is coming from the enemy.
Tychus: "Uh, guys, I hate to interrupt but... the natives are getting restless!"
- And in StarCraft II, when Raynor and Tychus show up to save General Warfield, a massive swarm of incoming Zerglings is heralded by rattling shell casings on the ground.
- The 2008 Turok game would hint that Mama Scarface, the Tyrannosaurus of the game, was nearby with slight tremors indicating her footsteps, as well as environmental effects; like small rocks and pebbles crumbling from around the title character, and the sounds of tree branches breaking. Occasionally, there would be the slight echo of her roaring. Would end up being Paranoia Fuel for some of the time, as she didn't appear immediately afterwards for most of these instances, just leaving the player to wander the jungle, expecting for an encounter, but for nothing to happen.
- Bungie likes to add these to the Warthog run sequences throughout Halo. Usually because something is exploding in frighteningly-close proximity to you.
- Slipspace Jumps, such as flood-controlled In Amber Clad into High Charity or Regret's Carrier over New Mombasa.
- Inverted In XCOM: Enemy Unknown; the arrival of the enormous "Temple Ship" sets off tremors around the globe.
XCOM HQ gets hit by a quake.Central Officer Bradford: "Tell me that was a coincidence."Tech: "Wish I could, Sir..."
- On Homestar Runner, in the Strong Bad Email "unnatural", the settings at Strong Bad and The Cheat's tea party (as well as Strong Bad and The Cheat themselves) jump around as we hear ominous footsteps, and then the giant Bubs arrives.
- Showed up in the Veggie Tales video "Dave and the Giant Pickle".
- In the last episodes of Code Lyoko, the Kolossus makes the Ice Replika and Ice Sector shake with each step... including the Skidbladnir, although this ship isn't even in contact with the ground. (Technically, it is tethered to the tower; physics are kind of messed up in Lyoko.)
- One Batman: The Animated Series episode has a glass of water vibrate to indicate a rampaging robot T. rex.
- An episode of Mike, Lu & Og has the natives marching to where Mike is to make her the "nose" of their First Day of Spring Festival. The next scene has Mike experiencing an Oh, Crap moment when she sees her coconut drink ripple Jurassic Park-style as the natives approach her.
- Invoked as a means for defenders of medieval castles to check if sappers were trying to tunnel through. Pans and cups of water would be placed on the ground in various places, and checked for ripples and vibrations.
- Some particularly large earthquakes are preceded by smaller earthquakes known as "foreshocks". These are the opposite of aftershocks, and can happen up to a year or so before the main event (as seen with the quakes that caused the devastating tsunamis in the Indian Ocean in 2004 and Japan in 2011).