"Can I get a letterbox format? ...Aww yeah, this is the director's cut!"A Camera Trick where, in order to show focus on a particular thing, two black bars will emerge from the top and bottom of the screen in order to bring about some drama by changing the aspect ratio, Letterbox-like. Often done with eyes in order to showcase the intense stare of our hero, who nine times out of ten is staring down his opponent, but not exclusively. Said bars are often accompanied by a nifty sound effect. Possibly originates from attempts by producers of TV to recreate the same intense effect that Sergio Leone achieved with his massive closeups in his Spaghetti Western films — which don't work so well in non-widescreen shots. Seen often in Animesque shows or other animated programs. See also Super Move Portrait Attack, Eye Take, One-Eyed Shot, Extreme Close-Up, and Iris Out. Not to be confused with Eye Scream.
— Bo-bobo, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl: This happens when Supergirl finds her cousin's corpse, and the screen zeroes in on her Death Glare.
- Scion: This happens right before a fight between Ethan and Exeter.
- There's a nice example in Teen Titans, during the famous Judas Contract storyline. In the first "book," we were seeing things through Terra's eyes, and towards the end of the issue, when Terra accidentally slips up a little (she basically beat up Changelingnote senseless during an exercise), she barely managed to cover it up with most of the Titans... but not with Raven.◊
- De cape et de crocs does it with Don Lope and Ermine as he accidentally insults her. Played like a western, with the background music suddenly stopping.
- Event Horizon: Played with to horrifying effect, where you get a wonderful close-up of Sam Neill's eye sockets after he has gouged his eyes out, while he bellows and rants like only a possessed Sam Neill can. Not exactly this trope, because of course the film is already in a letterbox, and possibly an homage to those old Spaghetti Westerns.
- The Lord of the Rings: Constantly done with Frodo's already-huge eyes, Sergio Leone-style.
- Done in Revenge of the Sith with General Grievous when he's threatening Obi Wan. Loses some impact in the pan-and-scan cut of the film, though—his eyes are spread wide apart compared to a human character, so the camera ends up centered on his forehead, with his actual eyes just off screen.
- The climax of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has quick shots of the three main characters' eyes just before the end of their Mêlée à Trois.
- Home on the Range does this during Buck's daydream of fighting a group of outlaws.
Live Action TV
- CSI: Miami occasionally does this to focus on the Miami skyline.
- Used occasionally in Super Sentai (and thus Power Rangers) as part of the Calling Your Attacks sequence. Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger and Power Rangers Ninja Storm do this with nearly every mecha finisher.
- Power Rangers RPM had a rare practical effects version where they cast light over the actor's eyes while the rest of them was incomplete shadow. As they would be morphed at the time, the light cast would be in the shape of their respective visors as a sort of inside-the-helmet view.
- The Tatort intro.
- Used in the Samurai Kirby mode of Kirby Super Star.
- The opening sequence of Super Smash Bros. does this in rapid succession with the main eight characters.
- The The Legend of Zelda Oracle games feature a closeup on Link's eyes in the opening sequence.
- The non-eye variation is used in all 3D games when Z-targeting.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker uses a fake 2.35:1 aspect ratio during cutscenes. In cutscenes that transition seamlessly to gameplay, the fake letterbox bars slide off the screen, revealing the eyedscreen effect.
- The sequence that plays before each cross-examination in the Ace Attorney series looks like this except with two sets of eyes, one from each lawyer, glaring at each other. In Investigations, this happens before every testimony/argument, so there are Eyedscreens even for people like Gumshoe, Larry Butz and Lauren Paups.
- A common breed of Super Move Portrait Attack in the Tales series.
- The Trauma Center series:
- In Under the Knife 2 before an operation, this happens with Derek, showing him move his hand closer to his glasses.
- Shown on the Wii Channel of New Blood with Markus, Valerie, and Elena.
- Done in the (brief) intro of Sonic Battle, with all the storyline characters.
- Persona 3 uses this sometimes when a Persona is about to hit a weak point with a spell or make a critical hit with a physical attack.
- The Bonus Boss does this before the fight, indicating how much trouble you're in.
- When fighting Strega or your fellow party members they do this on the first turn as they summon their persona.
- Persona 4 also does this. Similar to the Bonus Boss example above, you know you're in trouble when Adachi does this, revealing he has a Persona.
- Persona 5 "tears" strips of paper out of the screen to reveal characters' eyes both when they perform critical attacks with their persona and when they're having a particularly emotional moment in a cutscene.
- Used in Valkyria Chronicles to signify when a character's special power is activated.
- A staple of the cinema scenes in the Ninja Gaiden NES trilogy.
- Used in Dengeki Gakuen RPG: Cross of Venus, when you do Chain Bursts, and when the bosses activate their Hi-Ougi.
- Bang does this when he goes into Super Mode.
- When Ocelot and Big Boss are about to duel in Metal Gear Solid 3, as an homage to Sergio Leone.
- Harvest Moon DS/DS Cute uses these extensively in cut scenes.
- Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection has these in Kuma and Panda's endings. In Kuma's ending it showed this instance seconds before he pushes the button that opens a trap door under his visitor (in this instance, his owner Heihachi). Panda's has two; one when she opens the trap door under Kuma, and the second where Xiaoyu unwittingly opens the one under Panda.
- Mass Effect 3: Citadel - When Samantha Traynor meets her space-chess arch enemy, we suddenly get dramatic letterbox close-ups of their death glares, complete with musical stings. Then, if you take the Renegade option:
Shepard: Specialist?Traynor: Commander?Shepard: (close-up) Kick her ass.Traynor: Roger that.
Shepard: I'm only going to say this once, Traynor. (Close up) My shower is for winners.Traynor: Oh, that's cold. All right. She's going down.
- And if Shepard is romancing her, we get this bit:
- GuiltyGear XX #Reload at every pre-battle intro sequence where portraits of both opponents get cropped down to the area of their eyes.
- Done from time to time in the Floating Hands webtoons.
- Godzilla does this in the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny video.
- Happened near the end of the Weebl & Bob episode "Hentai" when we zoom in on the characters' eyes.
- Parodied in Bad Idea, where it's applied to a fetid zombie with a dislocated eyeball.
- Used in this installment of Avatar: The Abridged Series.
- Banananana Ninja uses this frequently. (Example)
- The Homestar Runner cartoon "Marshmallow's Last Stand" (no longer on the site) featured this, complete with the accompanying musical track from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
- "Go ahead...make my day." "Octorok!"
- Happens in RWBY, before (eventually) exploding a gigantic snake with his barehand.
- This installment of Least I Could Do.
- All the time in Digger. Once with a squash.
- In Keychain of Creation this is a visual cue that someone's Great Curse is acting up.
- Tower of God really took a liking to these shots in season two. See?◊
- Parodied in Paranatural, where Isaac does it himself, with a pair of black notebooks.
- Megas XLR, pictured above, does this all the frickin' time. Heck, you can't even get through the opening theme without being assaulted by this trope.
- And by "assaulted by this trope", we mean that most of the opening consists of this.
- The first episode of Invader Zim shows Dib's and Zim's eyes so as to express their confrontation.
- Kim Possible in "Car Alarm", with focus on Jim's and Tim's faces to emphasis their It's Personal statement.
- The 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series does this all the time, sometimes combining two characters' eye screens in one frame. It also has the zooming black bar effect during dramatic moments and virtually all commercial breaks.
- Samurai Jack glories in this. The title card itself is an Eyedscreen. This was parodied in the Duck Dodgers episode "Samurai Quack". When this happens to Dodgers (playing Jack), he notices the effect and actually tries to push out the black bars.
- Shows up in Sushi Pack from time to time.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Unfair Science Fair", Candace and her rival Wendy use this trope in emphasizing their competition.
- In "Doofapus", Both Doofenshmirtz and Perry have one before they fight each other.
- Skip to 1:30 in "this video" for an example in motion.
- Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi:
- Ami employs this trope in the episode "In The Cards", while staring down Yumi in a card game, mixed with her Inner Monologue.
- It is used again in "Spaced Out" to emphasize Yumi's intense stare.
- The Emperor's New School in "The Mystery of Micchu Pachu", Kuzco used this trope against an anteater skeleton which was actually an old man in a costume.
- World of Quest does this a lot in relation to Quest. Normally when he's complaining about how much he hates something. And seeing that he hates just about everything (except for Albert)...
- Occasionally shows up in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
- One occasion is notable for being done with the scenery - the character is looking through a slit in a door.
- Done at least once in the animated version of Lucky Luke, like every other western trope.
- Adventure Time "Ricardio the Heart Guy", This trick shows up when Finn says that Ricardio is "up to something."
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! Used when we first see Iron Man powering Up
- The Venture Bros. Phantom Limb in "Victor Echo November".
- Storm Hawks with Aerrow in "The Key".
- Brutally parodied in an episode of Yam Roll — the letterbox effect gets smaller and smaller until you can hardly tell what it's focusing on.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Used in Episode 7 "Dragonshy" when the Mane Cast is preparing for confront the dragon.
- Chief Thunderhooves of the buffalo tribe uses the effect several times in "Over a Barrel".
- In "Flight to the Finish", when Diamond Tiara gets the idea to shatter Scootaloo's confidence by mocking her flight problems, the screen shifts to focus on her eyes with Scootaloo's wings reflected in them.
- In Twilights Kingdom Part 2, Tirek gets this when he tells Discord You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
- Parodied to hell and back in an episode of Yin Yang Yo! where various characters do this when plotting something - then promptly note how cramped it is, take their hands out, and push the bars back to the ends of the screen. The bars get thinner and thinner to the point, by the end of the episode physically squishing Yin and Yang between them from the horizontal sides.
- In Gravity Falls, Dipper invokes this when confronting Rumble McSkirmish in "Fight Fighters", using two planks of wood.
- This was done in one action scene in Home on the Range.
- In the American Dad! episodes "Homeland Insecurity" and "Failure is Not a Factory-Installed Option", the show is interrupted by dramatic scenes of people getting a hold of Roger's golden turd, which had the black bars on the top and bottom to give it a cinematic feel.
- Pucca: Happens regularly in episodes where Tobe is the main antagonists. In one episode, the bars appeared on the left and right sides of the screen instead of top and bottom as usual and it's revealed Tobe's minions were responsible for that mistake. Tobe was upset for that.
- Played with in Rex The Runt. Bad Bob watches a standoff between a boxing coach and a group of unruly pigeons in the style of a spaghetti western, which is framed in widescreen, because he's watching through the letterbox of his front door.