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"Can I get a letterbox format? ...Aww yeah, this is the director's cut!"
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A Camera Trick where, in order to show focus on a particular thing, two black bars will emerge from the top and bottom of the screen in order to bring about some drama by changing the aspect ratio, Letterbox-like. Often done with eyes in order to showcase the intense stare of our hero, who, nine times out of ten is staring down his opponent, but not exclusively. Said bars are often accompanied by a nifty sound effect. Possibly originates from attempts by producers of TV to recreate the same intense effect that Sergio Leone achieved with his massive closeups in his Spaghetti Western films — which don't work so well in non-widescreen shots.

Sometimes, an element of the scene, such as part of the character being zoomed in one, might "pop out" of the letterboxing and end up going over the black bars. This effect creates the illusion of a 3-D picture; see Frame Break.

Seen often in Animesque shows or other animated programs. See also Aspect Ratio Switch, Extreme Close-Up, Eye Cam, Eye Take, Iris Out, One-Eyed Shot, and Super Move Portrait Attack. Not to be confused with Eye Scream.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Asian Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy:
    • The screen briefly focuses on Yaya's glare with a letterbox right before she punches Probe skyward in episode 3.
    • After Gopal hits BoBoiBoy Thunderstorm in the back of the head with a frying pan, the latter sharply turns his head and glares at him, the sound of a drawn sword accompanying the black bars from the top and bottom about his eyes.
  • Mechamato: When Amato shoots a Mechazooka blast towards the bad robot infiltrating Pian's house, a zigzag-shaped letterbox closes around his eyes before he deflects the shot, and then MechaBot is frightened to recognise him as the fearsome Janitoor.

    Comic Books 
  • Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl: This happens when Supergirl finds her cousin's corpse, and the screen zeroes in on her Death Glare.
  • Scion: This happens right before a fight between Ethan and Exeter.
  • There's a nice example in Teen Titans, during the famous Judas Contract storyline. In the first "book," we were seeing things through Terra's eyes, and towards the end of the issue, when Terra accidentally slips up a little (she basically beat Changelingnote  senseless during an exercise), she barely managed to cover it up with most of the Titans... but not with Raven.
  • De Cape et de Crocs does it with Don Lope and Ermine as he accidentally insults her. Played like a western, with the background music suddenly stopping.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Peter is ignoring the teacher, and thinking about the killer of Uncle Ben. Things get more and more near his face, up to a full Eyedscreen.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Casino has the moment where the protagonist observes dice being rolled in a gambling scene, which alternates between close-up on the dice and his eyes. He's making an observation that the game is being rigged with loaded dice.
  • Following in the footsteps of The Dark Knight in 2008, many films invert this for their IMAX releases by including select scenes in a taller aspect ratio (between 1.44:1 and 1.90:1) while the general release is in a more standard aspect ratio (generally around 2.35:1) for the whole film. Generally the "opened up" versions are used on home video, but this is not always the case.
  • Event Horizon: Played with to horrifying effect, where you get a wonderful close-up of Sam Neill's eye sockets after he has gouged his eyes out, while he bellows and rants like only a possessed Sam Neill can. Not exactly this trope, because of course the film is already in a letterbox, and possibly an homage to those old Spaghetti Westerns.
  • The Wuxia movie, The Invincible Fist, constantly use this shot right before huge action sequences. Whenever the camera focuses on the eyes of named characters - either the protagonist, the Co-Dragons, or the main villain, that's an indication that shit's about to get real in the next scene.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Constantly done with Frodo's already-huge eyes, Sergio Leone-style.
  • Pitch Black has the camera closing up on the eyes of Riddick and John, in a dimly-lit cave, to and forth rapidly moments before they decide to duke it out.
  • Done in Revenge of the Sith with General Grievous when he's threatening Obi Wan. Loses some impact in the pan-and-scan cut of the film, though—his eyes are spread wide apart compared to a human character, so the camera ends up centered on his forehead, with his actual eyes just off screen.
  • The climax of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has quick shots of the three main characters' eyes just before the end of their Mêlée à Trois.
  • A couple of brief shots in Kill Bill, during the Bride's running duel against the Crazy 88.
  • The Witches (1990): This effect happens frequently during the witches' meeting: not as a camera trick, but Luke is hiding behind a folding screen, peering through a horizontal gap, and only his eyes are visible.
  • Variation: Instead of zooming in on the eyes with black letterbox cropping, The Boston Strangler kept the shot stationary and used a black zoom-in crop of the shot to Tony Curtis's eyes to hint at a sort of Jekyll and Hyde switch whenever his character was about to murder someone.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An In-Universe version in Black Sails when Blackbeard is introduced, as a mildly-spoken man sitting with his back to the camera and the men who have turned up with drawn swords to have a word with him. As the tension increases we get a shot of his eyes reflected in the mirror strip on his writing desk, before his Face-Revealing Turn.
  • Played for Laughs beautifully in Brooklyn Nine-Nine to hide the fact that Jake is high and accidentally said his internal monologue out loud in "The Big House, Part 2."
  • CSI: Miami occasionally does this to focus on the Miami skyline.
  • Dark Angel: Used in-universe by Logan in his broadcasts as Eyes Only. Also doubles as a way to avoid facial recognition identifying him.
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver used this when John is going to detonate a sign saying 2020 in the Season 7 finale. This was because John claims it was a bad year.
  • It's used between Nori and the Stranger in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power when Nori tries to calm him down, and the camera shows close-ups only of their eyes while they stare at each other, to conjure that she is gaining slowly his trust.
  • Used occasionally in Super Sentai (and thus Power Rangers) as part of the Calling Your Attacks sequence.
    • Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger and Power Rangers Ninja Storm do this with nearly every mecha finisher.
    • Power Rangers RPM had a rare practical effects version where they cast light over the actor's eyes while the rest of them was incomplete shadow. As they would be morphed at the time, the light cast would be in the shape of their respective visors as a sort of inside-the-helmet view.
  • The Tatort intro.
  • Odd Squad:
    • Used in "Bad Lemonade" just before Oscar and Odd Todd face off.
    • "Olive and Otto in Shmumberland" has this happening to the factory worker just before he defeats Dr. Soup by eating his chowder ammo.
    • Otis and Evil Ninja both get these in "The Ninja Situation" before they battle against each other for the MacGuffin-inator.

    Video Games 
  • The sequence that plays before each cross-examination in the Ace Attorney series looks like this except with two sets of eyes, one from each lawyer, glaring at each other. In Investigations, this happens before every testimony/argument, so there are Eyedscreens even for people like Gumshoe, Larry Butz and Lauren Paups.
  • Bang does this when he goes into Super Mode.
  • Used in Dengeki Gakuen RPG: Cross of Venus, when you do Chain Bursts, and when the bosses activate their Hi-Ougi.
  • Fire Emblem has this happen in Fire Emblem: Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates as the Critical Hit indicator, but without the black bars on either side. Fire Emblem Warriors recreates it.
  • Guilty Gear XX #Reload at every pre-battle intro sequence where portraits of both opponents get cropped down to the area of their eyes.
  • Harvest Moon DS/DS Cute uses these extensively in cut scenes.
  • Used in the Samurai Kirby mode of Kirby Super Star.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games feature a closeup on Link's eyes in the opening sequence.
    • The non-eye variation is used in all 3D games when Z-targeting.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker uses a fake 2.35:1 aspect ratio during cutscenes. In cutscenes that transition seamlessly to gameplay, the fake letterbox bars slide off the screen, revealing the eyedscreen effect.
    • Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. The character icons in the game's selection menu focus on the characters' faces, specifically their eyes. Those with smaller faces have their whole faces visible in the icon bar, but normal-sized and large characters only have their eyes visible with this effect.
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • Citadel — When Samantha Traynor meets her space-chess arch enemy, we suddenly get dramatic letterbox close-ups of their death glares, complete with musical stings. Then, if you take the Renegade option:
      Shepard: Specialist?
      Traynor: Commander?
      Shepard: [close-up] Kick her ass.
      Traynor: Roger that.
    • And if Shepard is romancing her, we get this bit:
      Shepard: I'm only going to say this once, Traynor. [close-up] My shower is for winners.
      Traynor: Oh, that's cold. All right. She's going down.
  • When Ocelot and Big Boss are about to duel in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, as an homage to Sergio Leone.
  • Miitopia: Miis will get these the first time they use a skill or personality quirk.
  • The opening sequence of Super Smash Bros. 64 does this in rapid succession with the main eight characters.
  • A common breed of Super Move Portrait Attack in the Tales series.
  • The Trauma Center series:
    • In Under the Knife 2 before an operation, this happens with Derek, showing him move his hand closer to his glasses.
    • Shown on the Wii Channel of New Blood with Markus, Valerie, and Elena.
  • A staple of the cinema scenes in the Ninja Gaiden NES trilogy.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 3 uses this sometimes when a Persona is about to hit a weak point with a spell or make a critical hit with a physical attack.
      • The Superboss does this before the fight, indicating how much trouble you're in.
      • When fighting Strega or your fellow party members they do this on the first turn as they summon their persona.
    • Persona 4 also does this. You know you're in trouble when Adachi does this, revealing he has a Persona.
    • Persona 5 "tears" strips of paper out of the screen to reveal characters' eyes both when they perform critical attacks with their persona and when they're having a particularly emotional moment in a cutscene.
      • The Legacy Boss Battle DLC in Royal against the previous two protagonists use their original versions under the same conditions.
  • Done in the (brief) intro of Sonic Battle, with all the storyline characters.
  • Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection has these in Kuma and Panda's endings. In Kuma's ending it showed this instance seconds before he pushes the button that opens a trap door under his visitor (in this instance, his owner Heihachi). Panda's has two; one when she opens the trap door under Kuma, and the second where Xiaoyu unwittingly opens the one under Panda.
  • Used in Valkyria Chronicles to signify when a character's special power is activated.
  • Zone 66: The opening cinematic starts off as a very narrow rectangle of the actual footage, with black bars taking up a full two-thirds of the screen.

    Web Animation 


    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Megas XLR, pictured above, does this all the frickin' time. Heck, you can't even get through the opening theme without being assaulted by this trope.
    • And by "assaulted by this trope", we mean that most of the opening consists of this.
  • Atomic Betty uses this at least once an episode. Often, the series would fit multiple of such shots into a single frame and then follow up with fights contained within each one in order to maximize the amount of action per scene.
  • The first episode of Invader Zim shows Dib's and Zim's eyes so as to express their confrontation.
  • Kim Possible in "Car Alarm", with focus on Jim's and Tim's faces to emphasis their It's Personal statement.
  • The 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series does this all the time, sometimes combining two characters' eye screens in one frame. It also has the zooming black bar effect during dramatic moments and virtually all commercial breaks.
  • Samurai Jack glories in this. The title card itself is an Eyedscreen. This was parodied in the Duck Dodgers episode "Samurai Quack". When this happens to Dodgers (playing Jack), he notices the effect and actually tries to push out the black bars.
  • Fanboy and Chum Chum:
    • In "Pick a Nose", both Fanboy and Chum Chum have one.
    • Seen on Boog in "Fanboy in the Plastic Bubble" as he prepares "the H-bop".
    • Used for an entire scene in "A Very Brrr-y Icemas" as the boys are confronting Yo and Lupe.
  • Shows up in Sushi Pack from time to time.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Unfair Science Fair", Candace and her rival Wendy use this trope in emphasizing their competition.
    • In "Doofapus", Both Doofenshmirtz and Perry have one before they fight each other.
    • Skip to 1:30 in "this video" for an example in motion.
  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi:
    • Ami employs this trope in the episode "In The Cards", while staring down Yumi in a card game, mixed with her Inner Monologue.
    • It is used again in "Spaced Out" to emphasize Yumi's intense stare.
  • The Emperor's New School in "The Mystery of Micchu Pachu", Kuzco used this trope against an anteater skeleton which was actually an old man in a costume.
  • World of Quest does this a lot in relation to Quest. Normally when he's complaining about how much he hates something. And seeing that he hates just about everything (except for Albert)...
  • Occasionally shows up in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
    • One occasion is notable for being done with the scenery - the character is looking through a slit in a door.
  • Done at least once in the animated version of Lucky Luke, like every other western trope.
  • Adventure Time "Ricardio the Heart Guy", This trick shows up when Finn says that Ricardio is "up to something."
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes: Used when we first see Iron Man powering Up
  • The Venture Brothers Phantom Limb in "Victor Echo November".
  • Storm Hawks with Aerrow in "The Key".
  • Brutally parodied in an episode of Yam Roll — the letterbox effect gets smaller and smaller until you can hardly tell what it's focusing on.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Used in Episode 7 "Dragonshy" when the Mane Cast is preparing for confront the dragon.
    • Chief Thunderhooves of the buffalo tribe uses the effect several times in "Over a Barrel".
    • In "Flight to the Finish", when Diamond Tiara gets the idea to shatter Scootaloo's confidence by mocking her flight problems, the screen shifts to focus on her eyes with Scootaloo's wings reflected in them.
    • In "Twilight's Kingdom – Part 2", Tirek gets this when he tells Discord You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
    • In "Slice of Life", a slanted one over Bon Bon's eyes concludes her big revelation to Lyra.
  • Parodied to hell and back in an episode of Yin Yang Yo! where various characters do this when plotting something - then promptly note how cramped it is, take their hands out, and push the bars back to the ends of the screen. The bars get thinner and thinner to the point, by the end of the episode physically squishing Yin and Yang between them from the horizontal sides.
  • In Gravity Falls, Dipper invokes this when confronting Rumble McSkirmish in "Fight Fighters", using two planks of wood.
  • This was done in one action scene in Home on the Range.
  • In the American Dad! episodes "Homeland Insecurity" and "Failure is Not a Factory-Installed Option", the show is interrupted by dramatic scenes of people getting a hold of Roger's golden turd, which had the black bars on the top and bottom to give it a cinematic feel.
  • Pucca: Happens regularly in episodes where Tobe is the main antagonists. In one episode, the bars appeared on the left and right sides of the screen instead of top and bottom as usual and it's revealed Tobe's minions were responsible for that mistake. Tobe was upset for that.
  • Played with in Rex the Runt. Bad Bob watches a standoff between a boxing coach and a group of unruly pigeons in the style of a spaghetti western, which is framed in widescreen, because he's watching through the letterbox of his front door.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants does this in "The Fish Bowl" after Patrick knocks over the bucket of sand SpongeBob was counting, causing SpongeBob to lose his patience.
  • The Loud House Has this happen twice in "Selfie Improvement" both times being Lori.
  • Done in the Wander over Yonder episode "The Matchmaker" when Sylvia uses a fight with Something-the-So-and-So to distract Wander from delivering a love letter to Dominator, but he immediately snaps out seconds later and politely declines it.
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: When Lt. Pug decides to face his nemesis in "Howl Noon," the scene is presented in letterbox widescreen, but then switches box to the normal aspect ratio when Cadpig (who is chained to Pug) pulls them underground to hide.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Used in "Racing on Sunshine" when the camera does a closeup on Mitchell's eyes during the race.
  • Kamp Koral: In "Hill-Fu", before Bubble Bass fights Sandy, two black bars appear from the screen to highlight him glaring at Sandy, and the same then happens with Sandy glaring at him.
  • Molly of Denali: In "First Fish," during Grandpa Nat's retelling of his first catch, the camera narrows on his younger self's eyes while squaring off with a giant fanged salmon.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Letterbox Eyes Closeup


They Will PAY!

Lola Loud after she found out that Lana had disguised as her and took her place in the "Miss Prim & Perfect" pageant show.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / Eyedscreen

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