"Mr. Spock, why aren't any small objects being displaced?!"
Is something big happening in the plot of your movie, TV show, or video game? Need a low-cost special effect to emphasize its importance? How about the All-Purpose Screen Shake? It's simple, cheap, conveys the meaning well, works with nearly any situation, and everybody's doing it!
It's so easy: All you need to do is shake the screen! It doesn't matter which way you do it - up and down, left and right, or all over the place - it all looks great! Oh, and it might help if you play some sort of a "rumble" sound effect in the background at the same time - otherwise, it just looks really weird.
If you're doing it for Live-Action TV
don't forget to get the actors to start flinging themselves around. In fact they are half the job. Subtlety and dignity are best ignored. Supposedly, the casts of the various Star Trek
series are very competitive concerning which cast is the best at the "Star Trek Shake". The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation
are allegedly the current champions.
Shaking the screen in live-action media is almost discredited
thanks to the fact that it's ugly and not believable
. Nowadays, live action sets can be put on a platform that shakes the entire thing, giving a renewed sense of realism to falling on your arse. However, this technique remains popular in animation and video games. If the controller supports vibration-feedback, expect it to shake too.
There is a version where the shaking is only used for exaggerated emphasis for something intensive happening that does not
have the power to physically make anything shake within the fictional world; it really is just the "screen" (viewpoint) shaking. This is related to Painting the Medium
Here are a few examples of situations where (apparently) it's appropriate to apply the Screen Shake (Read: blasphemous if you don't).
For what this simulates, see Jitter Cam
and Camera Abuse
Anime and Manga
- The scenes shot for the Show Within a Show of Galaxy Quest used the classic "Star Trek shake" as a homage to the original series. The set for the 'actual' Protector, by contrast, used an actual gimbal, which injured a few cast members during shooting.
- The first aversion of the trope in the Star Trek franchise, using gimbal sets instead, was on the bridge sets of Enterprise and Excelsior for Star Trek VI. Shatner's memoirs of making the films have an amusing anecdote of the gimbal knocking him off his feet during a take. The Shat saved himself from injury with a shoulder-roll, but his attempt at using the aftermath to flirt with an attractive female assistant who came to see if he was okay was spoiled when she expressed genuine concern he might have broken his hip in the fall.
- Done very subtly (and more believably) in the original Alien as the Nostromo gets turbulence descending through the atmosphere of the planetoid.
- That would be because aside from the screen shaking, the chairs the actors were sitting in were also hooked up to a paint mixer, so they were really shaking.
- The Millennium Falcon, trapped in the space worm's tummy in The Empire Strikes Back.
"Sir, it's possible this asteroid is not entirely stable."
- Also in The Empire Strikes Back, the crew of a Star Destroyer go off balance and throw themselves against the wall when all we hear is a sound effect as two Star Destroyer come close to colliding. Must be one stable camera on that bridge!
- Happened earlier, in Episode IV: When the first X-Wing group's proton torpedo hit the surface of the Death Star, there's a quick shot of Stormtroopers bouncing off the walls.
- Averted in The Mummy Returns - the actors shook a little on set at the start of the movie when the digsite starts to collapse, but the actual camera as-filmed didn't shake at all; the shakes were done in post-production.
- Mentioned in one of the making-of featurettes for 2012 regarding the early stages of the Biggest Goddamn Earthquake Ever. Emmerich specifically wanted to avoid this trope, so he had an entire suburban neighborhood built in segments atop a series of motion-control platforms to fling the actors around for real.
- Spaceballs: when the Winnebago runs out of gas, the heroes in the same cockpit are affected by different kind of shakes. Barf bounces rapidly up and down, while Lone Starr swings slowly from side to side.
- Pearl Harbor simulated the shock of a bomb impact by simply having the camera operator shake the camera. Watching the behind-the-scenes footage of the scenes with no visible explosions even lets you see the cameraman doing it.
- Used in the first Harry Potter movie when the Hogwarts letters flood into the Dursleys' living room.
- This is used to simulate the shockwave of an explosion during Mom and Dad Save the World. A making-of featurette included this remark from the director during the filming of the scene (paraphrased):
Director: [To camera filming him] Behold, our cutting-edge special-effects! [to cameraman filming the scene, as the latter shakes the dickens out of the camera] Annnnd shakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshakeshake...
- Close-ups of the drummer in the video for Lordi's "Hard Rock Hallelujah" feature this effect. In particular the drum roll at the end of the bridge goes nuts with it.
- Video games (especially 2D) tend to be more subtle with this, as the developers have a "camera" that can be programmed to the desired effect. For example, in Sonic 2, the Mystic Cave zone boss will shake the screen when digging through rock, but it only shakes the span of a few pixels.
- In Baldur's Gate 2, Critical Hits made the screen shake.
- Chrono Trigger uses it for certain boss monsters, such as the tyrannosaur.
- Used in World of Warcraft when near most very large mobile monsters or NPCs. The most notable example may be the infamous Fel Reavers, which at the time of their introduction were one of the largest mobs in the game, and aside from shaking the screen also periodically give a loud mechanical scream.
- This was, believe it or not, a good thing, mechanically at least: They were also serious Nightmare Fuel (the Reavers were level 70 elite mobs in a level 58-60 zone), and the quaking and scream served as a player's signal to be somewhere else.note
- Also happens when someone's pet walks by, if they're of a certain type. So you're standing next to the mailbox in Ironforge and the screen just starts shaking, with ominous large-monster footstep sounds... oh, nothing to worry about, it's just some giant slavering three-headed dog that someone tamed. One more piece of awesome rendered commonplace and meaningless by sheer frequency.
- This became so commonplace that it became annoying to many players, and so the shaking effect (but not the heavy, clanging footsteps that accompanied it) was removed.
- The original Warcraft strategy games, notably Warcraft III, used this on occasion. In number three this sometimes led to a Game-Breaking Bug where it wouldn't stop, rendering the game borderline unplayable if you were lucky and completely unplayable (the game thought it was still in a cutscene) if unlucky.
- Phantasy Star IV uses this to simulate an earthquake; nobody gets tossed around and nothing breaks (though to be fair, most of the buildings are already damaged) but it does scare the crap out of Gryz.
- In the Ace Attorney series, the screen shakes on many occasions. Usually it just means that someone is shouting.
- Very common trope in the Fighting Game genre, though rarely for more than short bursts. Older titles tended to use it sparingly (if at all), such as Street Fighter II mostly leaving it for Zangief's painful-looking throws. Titles since the mid-90s or so have used it more liberally, such as for hard hits and characters slamming into the ground.
- In Left 4 Dead, the screen shakes when a Tank is walking near you, which helps players judge its proximity.
- Touhou's Marisa Kirisame has her Master Spark, a giant freaking laser that causes the entire screen to shake - to the point that in EoSD, some enemies would fail to spawn while it was active. And when it gets used against you in Imperishable Night...
- Final Fantasy
- The starship-centered Nintendo DS RPG Infinite Space displays a view of your ship's bridge on the lower screen during combat. It shakes whenever your ship takes a hit. The screen also shakes for certain planet-side events that involve characters getting slapped or punched.
- Campy sci-fi third-person shooter Earth Defense Force 2017 is very prone to shaking the camera when anything nearby is exploding or crumbling, or if a large enemy is moving across the ground. Because it can get bad enough to ruin your aiming, there's an option in the pause menu to disable the camera shaking.
- The first two generations of Pokemon games employed this whenever something bad happened to one of your mons (reduced stats, gaining status ailments, taking damage).
- Cave Story once you finish off the Undead Core in the final part of the game, the screen shakes constently, representing the fall of the floating island.
- In Mega Man X2, the screen constantly shakes throughout Wheel Gator's stage, a unique to the Mega Man franchise. This is because the stage is set on a massive dinosaur tank moving through a city, with the stage shaking from the movement. Oddly enough, the screen stops shaking when you reach Wheel Gator's Boss Room, even though it's still seen moving through the city through a window in the background.
- In M.U.G.E.N, there's an entire state controller that's dedicated to making the screen shake. Useful for making strong attacks or to show a character's power.
- The fairly frequent earthquakes in Little Kings Story are accompanied by screen shake, as are, to a lesser extent, the footsteps of the Marble Dragon.
- The Looney Tunes "The Old Gray Hare" ends with a decrepit old Bugs Bunny actually burying decrepit old Elmer Fudd alive - then for good measure popping in to hand him a stick of lit dynamite. The "That's All, Folks!" end title card shakes with the explosion.
- Totally used and abused in Codename: Kids Next Door in many situations. The shaking's usually digitally added.
- Used frequently in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, for everything from high-velocity winged stunt ponies buzzing the camera to Rarity swooning in horror over the idea of being born with garish stripes.
- Taking place in a World of Ham, Johnny Test sometimes uses this whenever somebody yells.
- Most, if not all, Hanna-Barbera cartoons employed this effect, usually when a character falls or is hit on the noggin.