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Split-Screen Phone Call

Split Screen is one of those Camera Tricks that were never really popular... except for depicting people calling each other on the telephone, that is.

A common cartoon gag with this is where the shouting character's portion of screen expands and/or the timid character's portion shrinks. Very useful when the tide of the argument shifts, moving that diagonal back and forth showing who's in charge. It's also common for cartoon characters to reach across the screen split and directly interact with the person on the other end of the line. It is sometimes parodied when the split is removed and it is revealed that the characters are actually next to each other.

It can extend to more than just two screens, thanks to things like three-way calling and call waiting.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Martian Successor Nadesico features technology that can allow free-floating 'screens' to pop up just about anywhere, and it appears that the caller has some control over the size and positioning of their image, so multi-way conversations will oftem involve multiple screens literally jostling for attention, the winner being the character with the best 'Screen-Fu' (generally Ruri).

Comic Books
  • Frequently used in comics, usually with a jagged diagonal gutter between two triangular panels. Sometimes the phone cords will be positioned to suggest the two recievers are directly connected to each other.

Film
  • A famous movie example is Pillow Talk.
  • Pillow Talk's use of this trope was parodied in Down with Love. The phone scene between Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger used the Split Screen in a rather interesting way to imply that they were directly interacting.
  • One of the cell phone calls in Mean Girls splits the screen in five.
  • Also does the phone call in at the finish line hotel in Midnight Madness. Each team is on one of the four corners, and the gamesmaster caller is in the center.
  • The film version of Bye Bye Birdie naturally did a bit of this in "The Telephone Hour." The original Broadway production split the stage into over a dozen areas for that number.
  • There's one of these in Snatch. The director's DVD commentary reveals that in order to cut costs the two sides of the phone conversation between Cousin Avi and Doug the Head were shot at separate times on the same physical piece of film - which is why the timing is slightly off.
  • Ruthless People has this trope twice between Carol and Chief Benton; first discussing to arrest Sam Stone and again after Sam was released from jail.
  • Used in Run, Lola, Run when Manny and Lola talk on the phone.
  • Parodied in The Naked Gun 33 1/3. One end of the conversation is in a phone box, the other in an apartment. In the background, a hobo walks past the phone box only to cross the split screen line and find himself in the apartment, which he then proceeds to burgle.
  • Two times in When Harry Met Sally:
    • Sally calls Harry one night and the two of them chat while watching "Casablanca". The split-screen is set up so that they're each in their own bedroom, in their own bed, but it looks like they're sharing a bed.
    • A three-way set-up has Jess and Marie in bed together when Harry calls Jess and Sally calls Marie. When Harry and Sally tell their respective friends that they had sex the night before, Jess and Marie turn to each other and say in unison, "They did it!"
  • Parodied in Austin Powers when a normal split-screen call keeps adding new elements until there are eight split-screens and the original caller has moved on to something else.
    General: "And be sure to feed my goldfish."
    Fish flakes enter the goldfish's screen
    General: "Not too much."
    A net takes some fish flakes away
  • American Splendor: Used in a phone conversation between the main character and his love interest.
  • Suspense (1913): The Ur Example (and possibly the earliest surviving example of split screen in a film) shows a wife in one part of the screen, telephoning her husband (in another part of the screen), while a tramp attempts to break into the house (in a third part of the screen).

Live-Action TV
  • One Coupling episode did this with an answerphone. The entire episode was an object lesson on weird/cool stuff you can do with splitscreen.
  • The X-Files did one split screen between Agents Mulder and Scully, and then their boss Skinner joined in, too. It is played for laughs. Both Mulder and Scully lie about what they do, and only Skinner unashamedly admits that he's taking a bubble bath, which is what Mulder and Scully are doing as well. They were pampered by a Hollywood production as there was a movie being made, based on their case and there characters.
  • It's happened in Lizzie McGuire. I think that had a triple-split screen, and then quadruple when Lizzie's brother tried to listen in.
  • The season 4 finale of Doctor Who has one: it's a video conference. It was a standard shot of a video screen that was, in turn, showing a Split Screen Phone Call.
  • 24 does this a lot. According to the DVD extras for the first season, 24’s entire split-screen look was born of necessity when the editor realised the pilot involved a lot of phone calls. He was using a common computer editing setup that showed two separate takes running side-by-side and decided to apply that visual metaphor in the actual show.
  • The Middleman uses this a lot, to good effect.
  • Seinfeld had a few of these, and sometimes played with the concept with call waiting.
  • Commonly done on Top Gear when two presenters are in separate vehicles speaking to one another by radio or cell phone.
  • Taken to extremes on Glee, during a conference call between all the members of the Glee club that are in on Finn's Baby Trap.
  • This trope appears in one episode of Family Matters involving Steve, Laura, Maxine, Waldo, and Eddie.
  • The Roswell episode "I Married An Alien" is partly done as a Bewitched style sitcom; at one point there's a four-way split-screen as the real characters and the sitcom characters carry on separate phone conversations, until they get mixed up and start responding to the wrong conversation.
  • Used in the "Cheating" short shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which gave it a Bye Bye Birdie riff.
  • How I Met Your Mother uses this trope constantly and finds new ways to play with it. For example, one scene shows Lily talking to Marshall's mother and she hangs up. Marshall comes in, and they start talking about how they keep throwing away cookies that his mum sends them. Then they have a floor sex. And split screen shot fades it, revealing that the phone was not hanged up at all, and Mrs Eriksen was listening the whole time.
  • Angel. Played for Laughs in The Teaser of "Provider". A Victim of the Week is being chased by an unseen monster, stumbles in the rain, finds himself clasping an Angel Investigations flyer, rushes to a phone booth and begins to dial frantically. We then Split Screen to Team Angel staring at the phone waiting for a call — only for the screen to split again to show a pizza parlor cook picking up the phone. Apparently the wrong number was printed on the flyer.
  • JAG: 8th season episode “Persian Gulf” used it in a dramatic moment, when Mac speaks to Al-Qaeda terrorist Sadik Fahd.
  • A character on Parker Lewis Can't Lose actually pressed a "Split Screen" button to trigger this effect in one episode.
  • Used briefly in the fourth-season opener of Criminal Minds, with Garcia hurried checking in on Prentiss, Morgan, and JJ in the aftermath of a car bomb.

Music
  • The John Mayer song "Split Screen Sadness" references this trope, where a girlfriend tells her boyfriend over the phone some bad news.
  • Occurs in the music video for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper.
  • The Hipgnosis sleeve for 10cc's How Dare You! album uses this trope.

Video Games
  • Used when overhearing phone conversations in Ghost Trick. It's implied in-game that the protagonist, who has the ability to travel through phone lines, actually can see both ends of the conversation at once.
  • Episode 4 of Ambition has one of these between Yale and Helen.

Web Comics
  • Exaggerated and Played for Laughs in Neglected Characters, which features one...and then all of a sudden, Pikachu joins in, followed by more and more people trying to listen in or somehow joining in the conversation by mistake, frustrating the people originally calling.
  • N calls Black in episode 02 of Black Adventures, then reaches over the dividing line and drags Black into helping him save Hitler from the Allied Forces.
  • Waterworks: Urist McWorkman's radio conversation with his supervisor. At one point the supervisor does the classic gag of leaning across the jagged border to yell at Urist.

Web Original
  • "A Call To Arms", Chapter 1 of LG 15 The Resistance plays with this effect a lot (including a bit at the end where the two cameras meet).
  • This video by comedy group BriTANicK explains why it's scary to answer phone calls in movies. "Where was I? Where the hell did I go? Why was David Bowie there?"
  • Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse does this sometimes, with dolls demonstrating the ability to reach onto the opposite side of the screen.

Western Animation
  • Used all the time in Six Teen.
  • Done at least twice with Candace and Jeremy on Phineas and Ferb.
  • Super Mario World did the parody version with Yoshi and Oogtar. ("Yoshi hear Oogtar too good! Who need telephone?")
  • SpongeBob SquarePants also did the parody version with SpongeBob and Patrick.
    • Done again in another episode with SpongeBob and Sandy, the latter leans up to SpongeBob's side to yell at him.
  • The Simpsons:
    • It had a scene with tons of little screens as rumours spread about Michael Jackson coming to Springfield.
    • The whole town's worth split screens appear when there is a piece of gossip about Marge being attracted to Ned Flanders, when she published a novel that seemed to have characters based on her, Homer and Ned.
    • The episode "24 Minutes", a parody of 24, features many split screens. Martin even hurts himself when he manually closes his split screen.
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action has Bugs and Daffy do this when the former was planning to help the latter get his job back. And they even push one another.
  • Taken to extremes in one 1999 Arthur episode, where there was a 4—4 split! Obviously, 16 people were shown on the phone at once in a single scene. Each screen also faded to black as each caller hung up. When Binky Barnes ended up being the last guy talking, some Hilarity Ensued™.
  • The Merrie Melodies cartoon The Bear's Tale, has a split screen phone call scene between Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks who are both using payphones. It was a cartoon made by the Texan. And he really loved this trope. See for example Thugs With Dirty Mugs.
  • Shows up commonly on Jimmy Two-Shoes.
  • In The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr. Robotnik parodies this trope in a way that has to be seen to be believed.
  • "Oh, my gosh! My dog's found a chainsaw!!!"
  • Shows up on As Told by Ginger
  • Rocko's Modern Life once had the screen divide into a progressively larger number of subsections as more people joined in the call. By the time Rocko picked up the phone, he found himself greeted by enough people to fill a 4X4 grid.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures played with this and added a side helping of Fourth Wall Breaking. After Babs steps on some toes with her impersonations of her friends, Shirley and Fifi are talking on the phone in a split screen when Plucky calls Shirley on her other line, leading to a three way split; then Dizzy calls Plucky, and Calamity calls Dizzy, leaving the screen cut into five pieces. Fifi says they need to do something since they are now cramped inside these small slivers of the screen.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins and Him affect this in "Telephonies."
  • Parodied in this clip from American Dad!

Real Life
  • Check your local news channel


Split ScreenCamera TricksSplit-Screen Reaction
Short-Distance Phone CallPhone TropesStatus Cell Phone
Solve the Soup CansImageSource/OtherState Sec

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