main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
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.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

  • The introduction of 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.
  • 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 ET 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.
  • In Up this is how we find out that Carl's house is now surrounded by a massive construction project.
  • 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 childrenin the seventh film skipping in the asphalt in the middle of the night, camera does a staggered zoom on 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.

    Live Action TV 
  • Part of NCIS's Signature Style.
  • The 2000s 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 Deluxe'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.

    New Media 

    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.

  • 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 

Stairwell ChaseCamera TricksStop Trick
FilmImageSource/Live-Action FilmsThe Monolith

alternative title(s): Scary Staggered Zoom; Three Cut Zoom
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy