The camera lens zooms in on the subject, while the camera itself is physically moved away from it, or vice versa. This effectively changes the focal length of the lens without altering the image composition. This causes the image's depth information to either compress or stretch, making the image look like it's getting deeper or flatter, or to put it another way, objects in the foreground and background will appear to change in size relative to each other (the foreground may get larger or stay the same size while the background shrinks, or the foreground may shrink while the background gets larger or stays the same size).
Goes by many names, including optical compression, tracking zoom, dolly zoom, Hitchcock zoom, contra-zoom, trombone shot, and push-pull zoom.
Often used to tell the viewers that the character in the focus of the camera has just had an emotional shock, although it may not actually be shown on his/her face. Sometimes goes hand in hand with Oh, Crap
by Alfred Hitchcock in the movie Vertigo
as an Impairment Shot
to show the audience what the protagonist is experiencing every time his fear of heights kicks in. The opening scene can be seen here
displaying the effect about 55 seconds in.
Compare Whooshing Credits
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Films — Animated
- The Lion King, when Simba sees the wildebeest stampede charging right at him.
- A Goofy Movie, when Max learns his father is taking him on vacation.
- There are quite a few simulated trombone shots in the computer-generated Pixar movies, notably in The Incredibles.
- Ghost in the Shell used this technique digitally in 1995, when it was hailed as a major advance in 3D animation.
- Subtly used in How to Train Your Dragon, when Hiccup and Astrid see the Red Death for the first time.
- Used in Kung Fu Panda 2 when Po and the Five see Master Thundering Rhino's hammer in the spot where he was killed.
- A subtle version occurs in Ratatouille when Remy watches an inspiring speech from Gousteau on a TV.
Films — Live-Action
- Michael Jackson's moment of transformation in the Thriller video.
- A few instances show up in Kalafina's Magia video, along with Forced Perspective and Rack Focus (although the direction is so generally odd that everything might just be due to the director fiddling around).
- A few instances in Serenity's The Chevalier video, with some shots on the lead singer Georg and also on the special guest, Aylin (lead singer of Sirenia)
- Used in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Foil" video while ranting about Illuminati conspiracies
Live Action TV
- The Babylon 5 episode "Severed Dreams" features such a shot at a dramatic moment when a major character comes to a major realization: Sheridan discovers that the Earth Alliance is coming to seize control of the station.
- FTL jumps in the new Battlestar Galactica.
- Veronica Mars features one at the end of season 2, when Veronica figures out exactly what's going on.
- Used in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Aliens are affecting the crews' sleep, preventing them from getting real rest. At one point Captain Picard sees the turbolift ceiling experience the Vertigo Effect, showing how his perceptions are being affected.
- Mr. Bean in Room 426 has one of these, when the title character realizes he's just consumed a bunch of rotten oysters.
- In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle Lois inadvertently infects Malcolm with mononucleosis. As Malcolm is heading to the couch to lay down, Hal shoos him away saying he has to be quarantined from the healthy family members. Cue Malcolm looking down the hall towards Lois in her bed with the vertigo shot. It's definitely an Oh, Crap moment for poor Malcolm.
- Used in an episode of Casualty many years ago when Brenda Fricker's character realises that she has told a girl's parents that she has survived an explosion when, in fact, there has been a mixup and she is actually dead.
- Psych in their Hitchcock homage.
- To excellent effect in White Collar, to display Mozzie's extreme emotional distress on entering the federal building for the first time.
- A scene in the Doctor Who episode "The Eleventh Hour" is shot from the Doctor's point of view, as he scans the Leadworth village green for inconsistencies. Eventually, he hones in on a disguised Prisoner Zero, whose background and shadow stretches out behind him in classic Vertigo style. Particularly odd example, as it's not shot on conventional film - rather, it's a series of snapshots slung together.
- Also happens at a vital moment in "The Unicorn and the Wasp".
- And earlier that season, Played for Laughs in "Partners in Crime".
- There's a rare documentary example in David Attenborough's First Life. A piece to camera by Attenborough finishes by changing from a telephoto shot to wide angle simultaneous with the camera helicopter flying forward and ascending, causing the coastline on which Attenborough is standing to expand dramatically.
- Used a lot in Top Gear with head-on shots of speeding cars.
- Used in episode 7 of MythQuest during a Big "NO!".
- How I Met Your Mother:
- Used in the season 1 episode "Betty Full of Turkey", when Lily finds out the typical size of an Eriksen newborn.
- Used in the season 2 episode "Something Blue", when Barney thinks that Ted got Robin pregnant.
- This effect is used to zoom in on Roman's horrified face when he and Niko get kidnapped in Grand Theft Auto IV.
- Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 uses this effect to simulate a feeling of temporal displacement in scenes where time paradoxes can and will occur, going back and forth faster and faster as the paradox comes closer to happening, such as whenever the Soul Reaver's past and present versions of one another meet.
- Instead of zooming in or out, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess uses this for its camera controls.
- Rock Band likes these. Really, really likes them.
- Done in a cutscene in the original Tomb Raider. Tomb Raider Anniversary also uses this effect whenever Lara looks down while hanging from a ledge.
- Used interestingly in a cutscene from a fan-made level: the camera enters a large room, then uses the Vertigo Effect before it begins to pan around, giving the impression that the room has doubled in size.
- Used in the intro cinematic to Half-Life 2, when you first enter the train.
- Used in one of the early hallways in Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
- Used in Mass Effect when sprinting. Even if you're out of combat, i.e. you cannot sprint, holding the sprint button will cause this effect without actually making you go faster.
- It also accompanies the Bullet Time effect (except when zoomed into a scope, for obvious reasons). In Mass Effect 2, this was mostly power-driven, but it occurs at several plot-mandated moments of Mass Effect 3, such as the final round of the Boss Battle on Rannoch, where the Reaper leeeeeans in and stares Shepard down, and it turns into a quickdraw contest between Shep's markerlight and the Reaper's Frickin' Laser Beam.
- Used frequently in Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, as a bit of visual jargon representing the use of psychic powers.
- In Echo Chamber, this combines with Oh, Crap and Say My Name after Tom runs into his Psycho Ex-Girlfriend. Or it would, if that weren't an outtake.
- One entry for the Internet Raytracing Competition uses this effect to show off how MC Escher's famous "Waterfall" print works.
- Red vs. Blue was able to do this after switching to Halo3, using the camera in theater mode. Previous games had a zoom feature, but it always switched to a scope of some kind. The camera in Halo3's Theater mode zooms seamlessly (although very quickly, making it a bit hard to control). One of the first times it was used was in Part II of Relocation, when Caboose sneaks up on Simmons.
- The Vertigo shot (and quite a bit of Hitchcock's oeuvre) is parodied on Sylvester And Tweety Mysteries with Sylvester in the place of the main character, and since it's Looney Tunes, the shot is exaggerated to the point of hilarity.
- In one of Batman: The Animated Series's many Hitchcock-inspired scenes, Batman gets hit with the Vertigo Effect while under the influence of Scarecrow's nerve toxin.
- There's a episode that's actually called "Vertigo" that focuses on a gadget of some kind that can temporarily induce this effect in people's vision.
- The Simpsons: In the segment, "Hungry are the Damned" from the first Treehouse of Horror, this kind of shot is used when Lisa first sees the flying saucer.
- Also used in "Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily" when the social worker announces to Bart, Lisa, and Maggie that they're being taken to "a FOSTER HOOOOOOME!"
- And on "Principal Charming", when Skinner climbs a bell tower, a shot directly lifted from Vertigo.
- And in "Lisa's Substitute" when Lisa sees that Miss Hoover is back and Mr. Bergstrom is no longer teaching.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Equestria Games, when Spike first sees how big the crowd is at the stadium, the camera pushes in on him panicking.
- This shot is done in the South Park episode "Pinkeye" on Kyle when he discovers Chef has turned into a zombie.
- Also used in "1%" when Cartman sees his doll Clyde Frog nailed to a tree.