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Camera Tricks

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This is an assortment of things the camera can do in visual media. You can probably think of a few like slow motion, stop motion, split screen, and forced perspective, but there are hundreds of effects. Look at our list below, and be amazed at what your fellow Tropers have noticed being done with cameras. And if you notice one we've missed, we encourage you to edit this page and add it to our collection of wisdom.

Compare Photography and Illustration and Various Video Game Views. See also Formats, Lighting Tropes, and Montages.


  • Adrenaline Time - Use of regular speed and high speed or slow speed filming in the same scene
  • Alone in a Crowd- Standing while a crowd passes around you
  • Aspect Ratio Switch - Intentionally changing aspect ratios, for example from 4:3 to 16:9
  • Astronomic Zoom - A very long shot covering a huge change of area, for example, focusing on a house, then zooming into a blade of grass, or showing the earth, then zooming out to other planets or galaxies
  • Back Blocking - When a person's back fills up most or all of the screen
  • Background Body Part - Framing a character to look like they have an unusual body part, such as horns.
  • Background Halo - Placing a silhouette of light around (or above) a person's head
  • Between My Legs - A shot taken between someone's legs
  • Binocular Shot - A shot appearing to be through binoculars
  • Bullet Time - Camera moves around the scene as the image is in slow motion
  • Camera Abuse - Shaking or apparent damage to the camera
  • Camera Sniper - Subject of an image appears as if in the sights of a sniper rifle
  • Chroma Key - Using a solid color background (like blue or green screen) in the background to allow other visuals to show in place of the screen behind the person(s) or thing(s)
  • Circular Drive - Drive or move objects or people in a circle around the camera to make it look like there are lots more things than there actually are
  • Closeup on Head - Extreme close up on head, often followed by a backup reveal showing an unusual view behind it
  • Color Wash - Oversaturation of colors or a change of palette as an effect
  • Compartment Shot - view of a container being opened from inside the container
  • Cucoloris - Use of a flat opaque object with holes in it for light diffusion
  • Cue the Billiard Shot - close up of someone shooting pool
  • Crystal Clear Picture - Fixing the de-sync between In-Universe screens and the camera to avoid Raster Vision.
  • Demonic Head Shake - A person's head moves in an unusual or very fast speed
  • Desolation Shot - View of abandoned city or other ruined or otherwise trashed area
  • Discretion Shot - Something implied but not actually shown
  • Door Focus - The camera lingers on a door because it's going to be reopened after a Beat.
  • Double Vision - Someone playing two or more roles so they can appear to be in two or more places at once.
  • "Down Here!" Shot - Looking down at someone small
  • Driving a Desk - Sitting at a stationary object while the appearance of motion occurs behind them
  • Drugs Causing Slow-Motion - Slow-motion effects used to simulate the distorted perspective of someone under the influence of drugs.
  • Dutch Angle - Shots taken from a slanted/tilted camera angle
  • Eat the Camera - Camera zooms into someone's mouth
  • Epic Tracking Shot - camera movement that defies typical expectations, with unusual complexity, length or "impossible" movement
  • Extreme Close-Up - cameras zoom up to the face of the character in focus, sometimes zooming right in their eyes
  • Eyedscreen - Specialized focus on something, by using black bars on the area of the screen above and below it
  • Face Framed in Shadow - A face half-covered by shadow,
  • False Camera Effects - A shot that looks as if it had been filmed on a set with an actual camera using an unusual lens or other camera trick.
  • Fake Video Camera View - Video appears to be through the viewfinder of a camera as if we were watching someone the camera is recording
  • Filming for Easy Dub- Making sure the character's mouth can't be seen so potentially different dialogue can be dubbed in later
  • Fish-Eye Lens - extremely wide-angle lens used to produce a sense of disorientation
  • Fly-at-the-Camera Ending - Something in the shot decides to start flying, and comes straight at the camera
  • Flyaway Shot - Camera slowly zooms out and gives an aerial view of the setting
  • Forced Perspective - exploitation of the camera's 2-D vision so that close objects appear larger and distant objects appear smaller
  • Gaussian Girl - Person shot through a soft-focus filter, a piece of translucent plastic, or blurry material such as vaseline smeared on the lens
  • "The Graduate" Homage Shot - Person looking through a window at a wedding banging on the glass and calling the name of the bride or groom
  • Grasp the Sun - Character who is about to attempt some superhuman feat reaches out towards a celestial object with their hand, as if to grasp it
  • Half-Empty Two-Shot - A shot of one character is composed asymmetrically, as if the character is in a two-shot with an invisible second character
  • Hand of Death - Horror film-style view of a hand or a pair of hands, and possibly the murder weapon itself
  • Hat-and-Coat Shot - Let the audience know that the story is over and it is time to grab your hat and coat and go home
  • Hollywood Darkness - A character switches off the last light in the room, a vaguely bluish weak light switches on
  • Holy Backlight - A character is lit from behind by a blinding light, usually making the figure indistinct
  • Huddle Shot - characters form a huddle; the camera POV switches, looking directly upward at the characters' heads
  • In-Camera Effects - Special effects produced by altering the camera or its parts, such as black-and-white in a color camera
  • Impairment Shot - Camera trick used to indicate that the character whose POV we are seeing is drugged, poisoned, sick, injured, or otherwise incapacitated
  • An Insert - Close-up shot of hands, a document, a murder weapon, and so on
  • Insert Cameo - An Insert of the creator's hand (or, rarely, some other body part), usually standing in for that of one of the regular actors
  • In-Universe Camera - camera actually present in the "world" of the story
  • Juxtaposed Halves Shot - Juxtaposing half the face or body of two characters in the middle or putting them beside each other and showing only half of each person
  • Kuleshov Effect - A single dull facial expression taking on deeper meanings based on context
  • Lens Flare - Glare causing a chain of circles, on an imaginary line from the object through the center of the frame
  • Low-Angle Empty World Shot - Shot intended to make a crowded or busy area look deserted
  • Matte Shot - Filming in front of a painting, most often used to portray a non-existent vista
  • Medium Two-Shot - A two-character shot that frames their heads and torsos.
  • Melting-Film Effect - Appearing as if the film being watched is melting
  • Menacing Hand Shot - Framing shot meant to dramatically show that one character means to threaten or attack another
  • Mood Lighting - Use of filters or digital post-processing to change the tint of the film
  • Mouthscreen - A person's mouth and lips are pretty much all showing on the screen
  • Motion Blur - Indicate that something is moving really fast by showing it as just a blur
  • Nostril Shot - Close-up shot taken from a low position upward toward the actors, so as to flaunt their nostrils
  • One-Eyed Shot - One-Eyed Shot is a camera trick where a person's eye is shown onscreen
  • The Oner - One very long, uninterrupted camera shot
  • Orbital Kiss - Two characters kiss, and the camera rotates a full 360 degrees around them as this happens
  • Orbital Shot - One subject around whom the camera circles, so as to provide a rotating view from all sides
  • Over the Shoulder - A dialog speaker's shoulder is shot in a way that frames their interlocutor's head.
  • Overcrank - Frame rate at which the film is being shot is higher than normal, so that when played back at a normal speed the action is in slow motion
  • Paddleball Shot - Playing with 3D effects by making people and objects appear to reach out from the screen at the audience
  • "Pan from the Sky" Beginning - The view pans down from the sky at the beginning of an episode or movie.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending - Used at the end of an episode or movie, wherein the view pans up to the sky upon conclusion of a story arc
  • Picture-Perfect Presentation - Focus at a picture of a location or scene, then the photo dissolves into a view of the identical spot
  • Plummet Perspective - Someone is hanging on a ledge when an unimportant object falls, the camera moves into position to show it falling hundreds of feet
  • Puzzle Pan - When a video game has a complex puzzle to solve, the game's camera will frequently pan around the screen, silently tracing the correct route
  • Rack Focus - Changing the point of focus from one character or object in frame, to another character or object that is closer to or more distant from the camera
  • Raster Vision - Flicker caused by the mismatch between the framerate the video being recorded is at and the framerate of a TV set or other video onscreen
  • Red Filter of Doom - Where everything shifts to a basically white-red-black spectrum, is often used to facilitate a change in mood
  • Reveal Shot - A partial view of a scene expands to show something else, which significantly changes the situation
  • Roundabout Shot - Character (or several) would spin around; while they are doing this, said character(s) is/are shown in close-up
  • Round Table Shot - Character focused in at a table when the camera rotates left or right to the next character
  • Sci-Fi Flyby - Using an establishing shot to show a cool ship
  • Scream Discretion Shot - Something horrible is visited upon a character but the viewer doesn't see it directly
  • Screen Shake - Shake the screen to emphasize what is happening
  • Second-Person Attack - Someone attacks the victim through the POV of that victim
  • Shadow Discretion Shot - Alluding to something bad or unpleasant by showing it in shadow
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam - Using the camera to represent the POV of some fast-moving object or creature
  • Shot/Reverse Shot - Repeated Over the Shoulder shots interrupted by the occasional Medium Two-Shot
  • Skyward Scream - Camera is placed directly over the actor, pointing down, while the actor looks up into the camera or at the sky overhead and screams
  • Slow-Motion Drop - character receives some shocking news, causing them to drop something, and we follow its fall in slow motion
  • Slow-Motion Fall - A person falling backwards (or forwards) in slow-motion
  • Slow-Motion Pass-By - Two persons/vehicles pass by each other in opposite directions and the video is slowed down
  • Snowy Screen of Death - Screens giving a visual feed have gone full of static
  • Social Semi-Circle - Characters sit in an awkward semi-circle around a table so as to avoid anyone sitting with their backs to the camera/audience
  • Split Screen - Showing two or more people in different locations onscreen at the same time
  • Split-Screen Phone Call - Both people on a phone call are shown simultaneously
  • Split-Screen Reaction - To show the reactions of all involved in some event, the screen is split into sections
  • "Spread Wings" Frame Shot - A character is framed so it appears to sprout wings
  • Stairwell Chase - Someone is being chased up or down a flight of stairs
  • Staggered Zoom - Three or more shots, varying in distance but focused on the same point, cut together rapidly
  • Stalker Shot - The camera reveals someone stalking another character without their knowledge
  • Stop Motion - Animate models, one frame at a time
  • Stop Trick - Stop the camera, change or add something to the shot, and start it again with everything else in the same positions
  • Symbolic Serene Submersion - Visual metaphor where a person is passively submerged in an ocean, pool, or other body of water for symbolic reasons
  • Talking Heads
  • Three Cameras
  • Time Lapse
  • Tracking Shot
  • Traitor Shot
  • Transformation Discretion Shot
  • Trunk Shot
  • Undercrank
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting
  • Unreveal Angle
  • Vertigo Effect
  • Visible Boom Mic
  • Walk and Talk
  • Warm Place, Warm Lighting - Using an unnatural orange or yellow Color Wash to denote a setting's heat
  • Whip Pan
  • Widescreen Shot

Various kinds of "Cams"

Standard shot mechanics and terms

  • Depth of Field: The span of distance along the shot axis in which objects will be in focus.
  • Dolly: Moving the camera toward or away from the subject (z-axis).
  • Focal Length: The degree of magnification in a camera lens.
  • Motion Parallax: Emulating the distance/perception of movement dichotomy (farther=slower) through layers.
  • Pan: Horizontally rotating the camera to get a grasp of the panorama.
  • Tilt: Vertically rotating the camera.
  • Truck: Horizontally moving the camera without rotating it.
  • Zoom: Changing the Focal Length of the camera.


Other camera tricks

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    Camera Chase 
In a documentary or news program, the narrator walks briskly towards the camera for no good reason to convey a sense of "dynamic energy" or some such rubbish. Often parodied by having the announcer hit his head on the camera. May also include instances where the reporter/narrator walks toward the camera, not briskly, but kind of slowly as if to impart a sense of intimacy.

    Framed Subject 
The camera is positioned so that the subject, usually a person, is framed by something in the background such as a window or a doorway.

This has a psychological effect on the viewer and is intended to provoke a sympathetic response.

Can be used anywhere but watch for it in news interviews and commercials.

This may be part of a larger trope, using blocking and camera position to influence the viewer. See:

  • Dutch Angle
  • Half-Empty Two-Shot
  • Hitler Cam
  • Vertigo Effect

    Head Cam 
The Head Cam is a helmet with a snakelike appendage that holds a miniature video camera in front of the wearer's face. The wearer is always in focus and centered in the camera's view while their background goes bouncing and jiggling behind. Perspective can be exaggerated by the extreme wide-angle or fisheye lens necessary to get the entire face in the shot at such close range.

The Head Cam is often seen in reality TV shows like The Mole and Fear Factor. Peter Gabriel also used such a camera on his Secret World Live tour for the song "Digging in the Dirt" (you can see it in action on the DVD from this tour).

Similar to the Facecam, except the Face Cam isn't mounted in a helmet.

Refers to moving the camera vertically without changing the angle at which it points (that would be a Tilt). Usage: "pedestal up," "pedestal down".

The name is a reference to the spring or gas counterbalanced stand to which a studio camera is mounted (they can also be power adjustable). This same move can be renamed according to the equipment used, i.e. "boom up", "crane up", etc.

    Split Diopter
Notice the blur line in the middle.

A diopter is a filter that works similar to a magnifying glass, making a lens focus closer. A split diopter has it on only one side, meaning that one side focuses close and the other farther away. This allows objects at different distances from the camera (usually on the left and right side of the screen) to be in focus simultaneously. (Compare Rack Focus where only one part is in focus at a given time.)

Used to great effect in The Thing (1982), for example, where dark sets disguised the blurred region in the middle of the split shot. Sometimes used by first-time directors as a way to "show off" their technical skills.

Although it can be, and often is, used as a special effect, a scene as simple as two characters conversing might call for a split diopter (or a tilt/shift lens, which provides a similar effect by allowing the focal plane to be tilted so it is no longer parallel to the film) if the characters are not at the same distance from the camera. Of course, many shots are staged with the characters equally distant from the camera precisely because no special optics are needed.

    Split Edit 
When the video and audio transitions between scenes are not matched up. For instance, a character is describing a place or person. Hard Cut (or dissolve, or whatever) to the featured person or place, while the description continues in voice over. Conversely, a character sets out on a journey, and the roar of a landing jet rudely fades in before the cut to the inevitable Landing Gear Shot. Used to tighten continuity between shots. Also known as an L Cut or a J Cut, from the physical shape of the cut on a film strip (where audio is below video).

Many times used in interviews, cutting to the subject before the question is finished, to show reactions. Often very useful, as the reporter's side of the interview is often shot well after the interview is over — field crews seldom carry more than one camera.

See also Transition Track.

Wet-for-dry is a term in the film industry for a special effect wherein an actor or prop is filmed in a water-filled tank, then imposed onto the film most often via Chroma Key or similar technology. The purpose of this is either to facilitate Slow Motion or to create the image of a supernatural creature not entirely bound by gravity. Filming in water works most effectively on hair and other long, flexible appendages, so expect this effect to take full advantage of such.

The opposite of wet-for-dry is dry-for-wet, where a subject filmed on a stage is imposed onto a water backdrop to avoid having to film underwater, thus making it possible for actors to do a scene while also being able to, for instance, breathe.

Alternative Title(s): Dry For Wet, Camera Tropes, L Cut, J Cut, Camera Chase, Framed Subject, Pedestal, Split Diopter, Head Cam, Wet For Dry, Split Edit