Staggered Zoom

"Personal space, Dave..."
Instead of a standard zoom, use three or more shots, varying in distance but focused on the same point, cut together rapidly. Commonly used for shock value. Each cut is often accompanied by a sting. Common subjects are corpses and monsters, but it is not exclusively a horror technique.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The introduction of Boris Karloff's Monster in Frankenstein (1931) is done as three cuts rather than a zoom.
  • Filmmaker Akira Kurosawa used this as a stylistic device; he frequently began his films with a series of establishing shots that jumped in closer and closer to the characters he wanted to focus on.
  • Used by Quentin Tarantino in the first Kill Bill movie, when O-Ren Ishii and her bodyguards enter the restaurant.
  • Director Sogo Ishii, of Gojoe is very fond of this. He often does it in reverse: extreme close-up, close-up, medium shot, long shot.
  • A similar effect is used for the discovery of a dead farmer in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963).
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy used this as the camera zooms out past the Vogon ships at the beginning. Fifty-five times.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off uses this in the infamous museum scene of Cameron staring at A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
  • The introduction of Daniel Day-Lewis' character Bill "The Butcher" Cutting in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York follows this trope to a T. The overall effect is heightened by the addition of both a badass longcoat and an American eagle patterned glass eye.
  • Used in Casino Royale (2006) at the start of the airport chase sequence.
  • In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan this is used to pull back from the Reliant just before the Genesis Device detonates.
  • Pictured above: in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick combines this with Quieter Than Silence when the camera zooms in on HAL 9000's eye on the front of the space pod that he kills Frank Poole with, and the sound of Frank's breathing cuts off abruptly.
  • Steven Spielberg rarely uses this technique, but a notable exception occurs near the end of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial with the staggered zoom on Elliott's face, synched to the music, as he's about to hit the police roadblock. Spielberg was able to do this because he agreed to let John Williams record the score for the film's finale first, then edited the footage to fit.
  • The film of West Side Story does this, starting from an aerial view of most or all of New York City and cutting closer and closer in a series of jumps until it finally gets down to a single neighborhood of just a few blocks before the film cuts to street level. No stings in this one; it's eerily silent until the final cut when Jet Song starts.
  • Children of the Corn:
    • Used in the fourth film when June is running away from her house, and turns back to look at it. A staggered zoom then shows a scythe breaking through a window on her front door.
    • When Jamie sees one of the ghost children in the seventh film skipping in the asphalt in the middle of the night, the camera does a staggered zoom on the kid's face.
  • Friday the 13th
    • Used in Jason Lives when Jason puts on his mask, and we get a closeup on his one good eye just before the title screen.
    • A staggered zoom is used on Jason in The New Blood when the Final Girl Tina finally comes face to face with him.
    • When Rennie tries to run down Jason with car in Jason Takes Manhattan, a POV shot accompanied with a staggered zoom shows that she is once again seeing a vision of younger Jason.
  • The chilling last shot of Greed, where the film zooms out to show McTeague handcuffed to a corpse in the middle of a desert.
  • A staggered zoom onto Opanas's face in Earth, right before he says "there ain't no God" and turns the Orthodox priest away from his home, the morning after his son Vasyl's murder.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Part of NCIS's Signature Style.
  • Battlestar Galactica loved this.
  • In The Day After, this technique is used to pull back from Kansas City just before it is struck by an EMP from a warhead detonating high above. An additional effective touch is that the sound of the city's blaring air-raid sirens abruptly cut off during one of the jumps.
  • Threads also used a staggered zoom on Sheffield just before an EMP blast hit Northwest Europe.
  • Famously used in the intro to Hawaii Five-O.

    Music Video 
  • In Pepe Deluxé's "Super Sonic Sound System" video, every time the spokeswoman says the words, "Super! Sonic! Sound! System!", the camera zooms closer to her lips with each word.

    Video Games 
  • Eternal Darkness uses this early on when the heroine encounters her own dead body in a bathtub. Each cut only lasts a few frames, followed by a screamer.
  • Used in a trailer for Mass Effect 2, in order to show the relative size of the spaceship Shepard is viewing.
  • Used twice in Guacamelee!! First, a staggered zoom-out as the luchador flies into the gigantic Ominous Floating Castle to show that, holy crap, the thing means business. And then, a staggered zoom-in on the luchador himself during his Big Heroic Run towards the Final Boss to show that he means business.
  • Done in comic form in the "President Madagascar" strip, a Memetic Mutation of the flash game Pandemic II where the game can become Unwinnable if Madagascar closes its only seaport.
  • Used in Paper Mario whenever Gourmet Guy eats something really good. It starts with this, and then the camera spins around, and then it cuts to Gourmet Guy running and flying around the room.

    Web Comics 
  • Used here in Ears for Elves to show Tanna's feelings of being worthless because she can't shoot well and her sadness about being alone. Due to the medium, the speed of the cuts can't be shown, but the placement of the three panels on the page is equivalent.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Used in the end of the episode "Bart vs. Australia", when we are shown one stowaway Koala clinging on a helicopter.
    • Also happens in "Krusty Gets Busted" when Bart figures out that Sideshow Bob framed Krusty.
    • Used in "The Old Man and the Key", with the camera cutting closer to Homer's mouth as he tells Grampa he's "Never! Driving! Again! EVER!"
    • At the end of Season 7 premiere "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 2", Maggie is revealed to be the shooter, obviously by accident—but the episode ends with a Scare Chord and a staggered zoom into Maggie's face as her eyes dart back and forth.
  • Used a few times in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Dragonshy", zooming out from the mountaintop cave as Fluttershy explains her objection to facing a fully-grown dragon, each jump punctuating the list of things she finds terrifying about them.
    • In "Lesson Zero", we get a staggered zoom in on Rarity whenever she decries something as "The. Worst. Possible. Thing!" After the third time (when Twilight has to go face Princess Celestia), we get a normal zoom out afterward, with Rarity meekly stating "I really mean it this time!"
    • In "May the Best Pet Win", when Rainbow Dash announces the final contest will be a race through Ghastly Gorge, the camera pulls back to reveal the hazard-filled canyon. She even provides the sting sounds herself.
    • In "The Last Roundup" the camera zooms in on Pinkie Pie when the other girls decide to "bring out the big guns" (i.e. use her Motor Mouth tendencies to get Applejack to open up about why she ran away from home).
  • The ending of "The Remote" in The Amazing World of Gumball.
    "Daisy. Daisy... Daisy! Daisy!!! DAISY!!!"
  • Happens in the Spongebob Square Pants episode "Wet Painters" when SpongeBob sees a tiny spot of paint on Mr. Krabs' first dollar.
  • The Steven Universe episode "Keystone Motel" has a staggered zoom on Garnet to illustrate that she's still furious over Pearl's actions in the previous episode "Cry for Help".


Alternative Title(s):

Scary Staggered Zoom, Three Cut Zoom