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Impairment Shot
"Why is it that whenever they knock out the main character, they have to knock out the cameraman as well?"
Graham Stark, Unskippable

This is a camera trick used to indicate that the character whose POV we are seeing is drugged, poisoned, sick, injured, or otherwise incapacitated and is about to faint... or die. Frequently this shot precedes a Fade to Black that indicates the character has lost consciousness or an Iris Out as "everything goes black". Sound Effects may enhance the effect: we hear the impaired character's heavy, labored breathing, for example, or his pounding heartbeat. Wavering horns, woodwinds, and/or strings can further simulate disorientation or drowsiness.

Common variations include:

  • The blink-blink eye shaped shot that finally goes black as the character slides out of the waking world. Which is then reversed later when the POV character comes to again.
  • The shot wobbles wildly, then falls to the floor as the character gets dizzy and falls over.
  • The shot goes in and out of focus before losing focus entirely.
  • Seeing double (or more): A concerned person asks "How many fingers am I holding up?" and the injured person answers in a number larger than the one the person's actually holding up.
    • The drunken or drugged person tries to focus on something, only to see it circling before them in multiple overlapping images.
  • Using Jitter Cam, other odd or unusual camera movements and/or edit-cuts, or colored filters to produce a disorienting effect.
  • In the case of a Mechanical Lifeform, the tactical display may fuzz, wobble, blink, or otherwise fritz out before it diminishes to a single dot like an old cathode ray tube TV screen.
  • Video Games may use any of the above, sometimes combined with an Interface Screw, to indicate Standard Status Effects or as part of a scripted event to show that the player is severely injured, drugged, concussed, etc.

A method of Painting the Medium.

Compare Fever Dream Episode.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • In Volume 9 of Detective Conan, Ran was nearly drowned after being drugged. She assumed that her savior was Shinichi (It was him, as Conan, before the whole Improbable Antidote incident). This also occurs whenever anyone in the anime goes back and forth when they were being shrunk by Apotoxin or going back with Baigar. with funky colors and blurred outlines. The manga has a negative version of the outlines and is either black or white, besides when Shinichi first became Conan.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist "Body of the Sanctioned" — Ed gets the eye-shaped shot, looking at Al, just before he loses consciousness and wakes in the clutches of the Prophet.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!, Match of the Millennium - when Yugi's trying to concentrate just long enough to draw a card while the pressure of the shadow game overwhelms him.
  • Naruto does a manga version of this at one point, to indicate the extent to which Itachi is going blind. The target of his focus is little more than a darkened blur.

    Comic Books 

    Film 
  • In David Fincher's The Game, where Michael Douglas' character has been poisoned and is about to pass out, there's a shot just before he hits the ground that goes completely nutty, the camera shakes and the screen blurs with a yellow overexposed effect.
  • The entire opening shot of Point of No Return is blurred, out of focus, replicant, any or all of these back and forth to indicate the appearance of the world to the four drugged out derelicts robbing a pharmacy.
  • In Robocop, right after Murphy is brought back to life, his vision is initially badly pixellated and staticky, which gradually improves as technicians screw various systems into place. A similar Interface Screw happens when Directive 4 kicks in.
  • James Bond movies usually start with the POV of an random mook, dying by bullet shot, the screen being covered in red filter (blood).
  • In the first Home Alone, one of the thiefs gets hit in the head by a bucket of paint, and sees triple. His partner does the "how many fingers" routine, but neither of them can count to six.
    • This trick comes back in the second movie, after Marv is struck in the head by a brick.
      Harry: "How many fingers am I holdin' up, Marv?"
      Marv: "Hm-hmmmm, eight."
    • In the second, when Kevin slips on the ice, he hits his head hard enough for his vision to blur, and the camera spins for effect. By the time his head clears, he's in the clutches of the bandits.
  • The titular Terminators (all models) get dissolving HUDs and flickering static in their field of vision, right before it finally goes black.
  • The eye-shaped blink shot is used in Disney's Ratatouille as Remy attempts to wake a sleeping Linguini.
  • In Once upon a Time in Mexico, things move in and out of focus after Sands wakes up from being drugged, just before he's blinded.
  • Bella experiences the going-unconscious focus fade and then experiences the focus-fade-in as her consciousness returns in Twilight.
  • Anderton's eye replacement surgery in Minority Report features badly blurred and staggery POV shots, as he tries to navigate blindly around an unfamiliar room in a back-alley surgeon's quarters.
  • Trunchbull's Humiliation Conga in Matilda ends with her seeing double from being spun on a globe.
  • Used in the 1956 version of Around the World in Eighty Days, after Passepartout has been drugged with opium.
  • Used in Lon when Lon is walking out of the apartment building at the end and Stansfield shoots him in the back.
  • In the Roger Corman Fantastic Four, we see a point-of-view shot of Alicia being chloroformed. The fact that the character is BLIND appears to not have mattered to the filmmakers.
  • Norwegian zombie flick Dead Snow (Originally Dd Sn) features one of the victims waking up as the zombies are ripping out her intestines.
  • A version of this is done in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World where Scott slaps his hands over his eyes when he walks in on a half-naked Ramona and the screen goes dark.
  • In 9, 1 gets a blink-awake moment (but with a round eye, since he's a stitchpunk) when he wakes up and sees 2, dead on the floor after 7 disconnected his body from the Seamstresses tail.
  • The Covenant does a blink-awake when Caleb hits his head on the edge of the lap pool and nearly drowns.
  • Several, both from the P.O.V. Cam and external in Face/Off mostly as Castor!Archer tries to keep his Sanity Slippage from wearing his enemy's face from overwhelming him.
  • Flash Gordon: Flash gets an inverted one — his vision going from blurred to clear as Zarkov throws him a football in Ming's court.
  • In North by Northwest, Cary Grant's character is force-fed a bottle of whiskey and put behind the wheel of a car - as he makes a getaway we see the road from his seeing-double perspective, curving and going straight at the same time.
  • Happens twice in Notorious:
    • The first is early in the film. Alicia wakes up from a hangover to see a Dutch Angle shot of Grant, tilted sideways as he stands in the doorway. Then, as Grant approaches the bed, the camera turns until he is upside down.
    • The second is towards the end. Alicia, realizing that she is being poisoned, stands up and attempts to flee.
  • In The Hunger Games, the camera takes on Katniss's perspective many times as she runs through the woods. One scene has the camera swaying in and out of focus to represent Katniss hallucinating.
  • In The Incredibles, we get one from Mr. Incredible's POV: Mirage walks in on him as his vision and consciousness are taken out by the squishy black things that hit him upon setting off Syndrome's intruder alert.
  • A fairly early example in The Last Laugh (1924), when the hero wakes up hung over after a wedding party and all faces he sees are blurred and distorted.
  • Used in True Lies when Harry is drugged with a Truth Serum. A POV shot shows everything becoming blurry and the audio slowing down.

    Live Action TV 
  • Firefly, in "Out of Gas", where Mal has to repair the ship after being shot in the stomach. The whole episode has dark (because the ship's power is off), green and brown filters and a weird, off center camera.
  • Pushing Daisies used a sort of smoky Hit Flash in "Oh Oh Oh It's Magic" to show what it looks like to a dead person when Ned touches them a second time.
  • Cordelia gets the blurry version on Buffy the Vampire Slayer when she is cursed with blindness (the curse takes some time to ramp up).
  • Blurred vision, skewed sight, focus failure and every other possible variation Impairment Shot one could imagine someone sick might suffer occurs with predictable regularity to patients on House.
  • An odd, external-to-the-impaired version happens to Gary on Early Edition when an old T-man suckerpunches him. The shot goes out of focus as Gary slips unconscious to the ground.
  • Done briefly in the West Wing episode "Commencement," when Zoey's drink has been drugged, in a rare example of POV camera-trickery for that show.
  • In The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Allison From Palmdale", Cameron's processor begins to glitch out, and this is shown by first displaying things from her point-of-view, in traditional "Term-o-vision". A few moments later, once she begins to seriously glitch and forgets who she is, the head-up-display normally shown in her POV is gone. Shortly afterward, she starts confusing herself with a previous identity she'd assumed, because she no longer knows who "she" really is.
  • Parodied in the sketch from The Mitchell And Webb Situation where Mitchell is sick and trying to get some bed rest and Webb, in a very old-school Obviously Evil manner, keeps trying to poison him. At one point we see the room twisting and rocking wildly from Mitchell's point of view, and then in the Reveal Shot, Webb is sitting over him waving a magnifying glass over his eyes.
  • Done on Father Ted to show Jack's POV, although he's gone far far beyond "about to pass out".
  • There's a scene that uses this in the Doctor Who Made-for-TV Movie, apparently because the Doctor is still disoriented after regenerating, even though he seemed to be just fine when he was stealing some clothes to wear.
  • There's a very disturbing series of fade-to-black, fade-back-up Impairment Shots as a gathering crowd at a New York butcher's kills Jack Harkness over and over again to see him revive in the Torchwood: Miracle Day episode "Immortal Sins".
  • A very effective use in the pilot of Once Upon a Time when Prince Charming is mortally wounded protecting his baby and falls to the ground. We see from his point of view his child escaping just before his vision fades to black.
  • It's been suggested that the end of The Sopranos was one of these.
  • In the episode of Psych where Shawn is "barely poisoned", his POV is briefly shown out of focus.
  • A rather chillingly realistic one from Covert Affairs: Special Forces captain August Anderson sees a supposed team member, actually a mole, throw a pack of explosives under the team's humvee. Auggie races toward the humvee, frantically yelling a warning, but is too late; the bomb explodes, killing the rest of the team and throwing Auggie to the ground. After a brief shot of an obviously still-conscious Auggie, the camera cuts to black, though ambient sound keeps going, indicating Auggie hasn't passed out; -the explosion blinded him.
  • In the Supernatural episode "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" (S09, Ep01), when Castiel first hears the other angels an out of focus tilted shot of the surrounding forest is shown from Castiel's viewpoint.
  • Happens in Sherlock a few times. After being injected with a sedative, we are shown Sherlock's POV. His vision is also impaired after he finds out that Irene Adler is still alive. In season 3, he gets absolutely wasted and tries to solve a case, only for his Sherlock Scan to utterly fail. We are once again shown his POV with double-vision and confused subtitles.

    Video Games 
  • Happens near the beginning of BioShock—after getting the Electrobolt plasmid, you black out, fall over a railing and fade in and out of consciousness in time to see first a pair of Splicers and then a Little Sister and her companion about to try to harvest you.
    • Also, the screen appears blurry whenever your character is drunk.
    • Appropriately enough, the screen goes red, and veins appear across the camera whenever Jack gets hit with Fontaine's "Code Yellow" mind control command.
  • Fallout 3 has blood splatter on the screen if the player takes damage or is close to a messier opponent death. During withdrawal from a drug or after the player suffers from a crippled head or is otherwise low on health the screen will blur. Taking crippling damage to the head causes a concussion effect at random intervals, which includes bloom, blur, doubled vision, and an irritating high-pitch ringing sound. The Enclave Stun grenade causes the blink-blink cam.
  • When your character gets drunk in Fable and its sequel, the image on the screen is blurred and doubled, and all the sound is filtered to be off pitch and slowed down.
  • When you're very close to death in Left 4 Dead, the screen goes black and white until you get healed. Also, after taking some pills, your vision very briefly goes slightly black & white and blurry.
  • In Dishonored, this happens when you get poisoned by the Loyalists. It's quite subtle, with the screen occasionally going green-tinted and wavy, and the sound distorting.
  • In Mirror's Edge, the screen becomes desaturated according to how much remaining health Faith has. It also briefly flashes red whenever she takes damage.
  • Hitting a wall in Gran Turismo 4 in bumper cam will make the screen blurry for a second.
  • The mission "Boomshine Saigon" in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City starts with Tommy accidentally getting high on "boomshine" when Phil, heavily intoxicated by that stuff, blows his own arm. You must then drive him to a clinic... with the world blurry and the camera wobbling and shaking.
  • Flashbangs in Counter-Strike turn the entire screen white for 5 seconds.
    • Many FPS games use this technique for flashbangs. Some games with higher graphical limitations keep the scene at the moment of the flash burnt into the character's retinas (i.e. the player's screen) for a few seconds. Then it gradually fades back to being able to see properly. Apparently, that's what really happens.
    • Some flight games do this as well; a notable example was the Descent series' flash missiles, which whited out your screen for five seconds.
  • In Perfect Dark, this happens when you get knocked upside the head or injected with a dizzy-causing serum.
  • The LucasArts adventure game Full Throttle uses this after Ben crashes his bike in the beginning of the game.
  • The effects of Malaria in Far Cry 2 result in a yellow border with little cell-looking things and everything going out of focus. A similar effect happens if you sprint for too long.
  • The drunk effect in GTA IV are similar to those mentioned for Fable and Vice City above. Niko will occasionally also fall over.
  • Common occurrence at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II, when you're playing as Roxas.
  • In The Witcher, the screen gets progressively blurrier and sways lightly as Geralt gets drunker; this can also happen from taking hallucinogens such as fisstech and White Gull. When Geralt's health is critical, the colors desaturate.
  • Depending on which cannon you follow the Point Man from FEAR spend a good amount of time passing out and having to pick himself up again. By the end of extraction point he's coughing up blood
    • Nearby explosions and melee attacks will stun you and throw your aim off. The former also causes ear ringing.
  • Need for Speed 3 has a cheat code to make the screen look like you're driving under the influence. And a cymbal crash plays and the Variable Mix music cuts down to the bass when you crash.
    • Need for Speed: Shift takes this trope and runs with it. Driving at a car's top speed blurrs your vision, and a collision simulates the disorientation from the shock of impact.
    • Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (the 2010 game) takes this trope and runs with it on a Turbo. When you use the aforementioned (Racer-only) Turbo, the entire screen darken and things shift to grayscale as the car is forced to go beyond its maximum speed. Also, when the damage to your car reach critical level, things are gray, not unlike in some modern FPS.
  • Used in the start of the tutorial of Final Fantasy XII, to show that Reks is just waking from unconsciousness in the middle of battle. It's also used at the end of the tutorial, when Reks is dying.
  • Used several times in the opening sequence of Final Fantasy VI, as Terra tries to escape from Narshe. The screen blurs and pixelates out to demonstrate the combined effects of head trauma and magic-induced amnesia.
    • Final Fantasy IV does something similar, blurring the screen a couple of time to show Cecil's head spinning as he picks himself up after the events at Mist.
  • Used in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, when Samus wakes up from a month-long coma after the events of Norion. Made somewhat amusing by the Federation medical officer planting a hand right in her visor as she's coming to.
  • Half-Life and its sequels, being played from the First Person perspective throughout the entire game, uses this extensively.
  • FEAR 2 uses this when Becket wakes up in the hospital after being genetically engineered to have Alma's psychic powers (he even picks up and puts on his Cool Shades/Heads-Up Display).
  • There's a "blink-blink" version at the end of Tales of Monkey Island Episode Four, after Guybrush gets stabbed.
  • The Assassin's Creed series uses an Interface Screw to indicate that the player is losing synchronization with their ancestor's memories. As this occurs most often when at or near death, it has the intentional effect of also conveying the character's level of injury.
  • Assassin's Creed III features several sequences in which the character is suffering from a concussion (for example, when young Connor is waking up after a Tap on the Head), with screen blurring and staggering animations along with a glitched or missing UI. You conduct an entire combat in this condition late in the game.
  • Seen in Metal Gear Solid 3 once Naked Snake (Big Boss) is shot in the eye; from then on, if you enter first-person view that side of the screen is blacked out.
  • Used liberally by Call Of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of The Earth: your view is blurred whenever you're faced with something terrifying, the screen slowly goes dark as you're injured...
  • Many first person shooters, especially those with regenerating health, use a red filter that covers more of the screen the closer you get to death.
  • In the Die Hard 2 part of Die Hard Trilogy, the screen blurs when you get hit, and has a Near Death Experience-like effect when you die.
  • Used in Batman: Arkham Asylum when the screen seems to glitch and the game starts again from the beginning cinematic, to show when Batman is under the influence of Scarecrow's fear toxin. His coughing gives it away a bit, but it still sends many players into a panic.
    • In combat, inmates with stun rods will make the screen fill with static, and inmates with bats or pipes make you see double for a bit if they hit you.
    • The sequel, Batman: Arkham City, has the same effects in combat, and also some cutscenes when Batman's disease worsens.
  • One of the possible plug-in modifications for Team Fortress 2 is called "Drugged", where this is combined with Interface Screw to throw the player off balance. It's done well, because none of the player's controls are messed up, only their perception of the world (wildly flashing colors combined with a jittery camera). For new players experiencing this, it's often disorienting, more or less crippling them. Players who have had this result pop up a few times tend to have a little bit more control.
    • In the regular game itself, taking damage results in a brief red flash in the general direction where the attack originated, being on fire results in a red ring of flames surrounding one's HUD, and being covered with Jarate or Milk results in the HUD being tinted with yellow or white fluid respectively.
  • Saints Row: The Third has this after being used as a Trojan Prisoner to get into a sex club by having the Boss sold as a slave, with minor Interface Screw.
  • The Halo series does this a few times throughout the series when John 117 (AKA: Master Chief) comes out of unconsciousness, most notably near the beginning of Halo 2 and 3.
    • In fact, this happens in nearly every Halo game. Halo after falling from the drop pod, and in Halo 2 after the Pelican class gunship is shot down. This happens in other games too, but not after the first mission. It's after the second mission in Halo 3, and Halo 4 after falling into the gravity well, in addition to a later point in the game with more of an impairment shot, and with the HUD fizzing up also. This is even in Halo 3 ODST at the very first instance control is given to the player character.
  • This is done in Lollipop Chainsaw, at the beginning of Chapter 1. As Nick wakes up after being reduced to a head, his vision is blurred at first.
  • In Medal of Honor: Airborne, your character momentarily has blurred grayscale vision after being meleed.
  • Vanquish uses a pulsating blur and red filter at low health.
  • Max Payne experiences this in the third game after taking a sniper bullet to the arm at the beginning of Chapter 3, as well as in the drunken cutscenes.
  • In Blood, the bite from one of the spider species causes Caleb to become dizzy, which is represented by the viewpoint swaying down- and upwards, and the screen to become blurry.
  • Deus Ex: Being drunk or drugged makes the screen dark and ripply. In the latter case, the field-of-view is also greatly decreased.
  • In The Journeyman Project, after being hit with a poison dart, Gage periodically has blurred vision and flashbacks of the robot's "I've been expecting you" speech.

    Web Animation 
  • This happens in Red vs Blue at the start of the battle at Glacier when Agent Washinton wakes up.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • A vertigo weapon causes this in Batman: The Animated Series
    • In "Pretty Poison", Batman sees Poison Ivy in blurred multiples after she poisons him.
  • Kim Possible movie So The Drama, as Ron blacks out.
  • A variation occurs on a couple of Looney Tunes shorts, where Sylvester is trying to keep awake lest he get beaten up by another character. Every time he blinks, the assailant is standing a little bit closer, and the last blink is followed by a Hit Flash.
    • The "The Hypo-Chondri-Cat", Claude Cat experiences this when he wakes up from his nightmare by having the ceiling come into focus.
  • On a recent episode of King of the Hill, a pig Dale rents to hunt truffles eats something that is definitely ''not'' a truffle, and as it blacks out it sees Dale turning different colors.
  • The title character in Pinocchio gets sick from too much cigar smoke while playing pool and sees the eight ball all wavy and out of focus. It even seems to blink at him.
  • Hercules has the "How Many Fingers? do you see" bit, only it's how many horns Phil has. Herc answers six.
  • SWAT Kats uses the Impairment Shot in the episode when Turmoil threatens Megakat city with a vertigo weapon.
  • The Mayor experiences an unbroken series of Impairment Shots until he's rescued by The Powerpuff Girls in "The Bare Facts".
  • Jun's monster scent-hound Shirshu experiences this when Katara waterbends it a face full of perfume on Avatar: The Last Airbender .
    • In Season 2, we get one when Zuko goes into his Angst Coma.
    • And one for him in 'The Avatar State' (?) the view is blurred when Azula knocks Zuko to the floor and is about to attack him again, only for Iroh to intervene.
    • And another in Season 3, when Aang first wakes from his post-traumatic-injury coma.
    • One more in Season 3, as Combustion Man tries to take out the Gaang after having been brained by Sokka's boomerang.
  • In The Nightmare Before Christmas, this trope is used after Jack runs face-first into a candy-cane-striped pole.
    • Similarly used in Corpse Bride when Victor runs into a tree.
  • The "closing eyes" variant is used in the Simpsons episode "Lisa's Pony", when Homer, fatigued from over-work, falls asleep while driving and enters a Little Nemo-parodying dream.
    • In another episode, "Homer's Odyssey", there is a point-of-view shot of the kids looking down at an exhausted Homer. Maggie pokes at his eyes and the image is doubled for a moment.
  • In The Brave Little Toaster, Kirby's POV blinks open and gains focus as he wakes up after his freak-out by the waterfall.
  • Tom and Jerry have several shorts in which this occurs; almost always resulting from them getting drunk.
  • Danny Phantom: Happens once in Reign Storm, when Danny blacks out from exhaustion and energy loss.
  • In an episode of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Ben gets a faceful of dream dust, and his vision swirls, leaving him hallucinating Gwen as a monster.
  • Happens a few times in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, particularly in "Applebuck Season" where we get to see and hear Applejack's sleep-deprived and hearing-impaired perspective. Happens to Rarity when she passes out from shock (in time for a commercial break) in "Sweet and Elite"; we get her POV again when she comes to after the break.


Flashback EchoScene TransitionMister Sandman Sequence
In Camera EffectsCamera TricksAn Insert
Frame BreakPainting the MediumInfinite Canvas

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