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False Camera Effects

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It should go without saying that most Camera Tricks don't have any logical reason to exist if there isn't a camera to speak of. Yet sometimes, drawn or computer-generated mediums like animation or comics will include 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, in order to emulate the effect.

In addition to giving the moment a special emphasis, when well done the result looks enough like the corresponding live-action film moment that the viewer is not likely to consciously notice it. Alternatively, it can be used for a film-within-the-film, such as an out-of-focus effect to show amateur film-making, or scratch effects to indicate old film. Admittedly, this has become easier in recent years with the advent of computer-assisted and -generated animation, but the stylistic technique first appeared years ago, when such distortions and effects had to be meticulously created by hand.

This can also be used in comics, as the page image illustrates.

Common types of False Camera Effects include lens flares, Fish-Eye Lens shots, wide-angle shots, simulated scanning lines, the Vertigo Effect, and Rack Focus. If the action bumps or shakes the "camera", it's Camera Abuse. Ominous Visual Glitch can be related. Most often, these effects are replicated because of The Coconut Effect: for instance, we think of swirling multiple exposures as being "what inebriation looks like", even if eyes don't work that way.

There are a few exceptions, however, where false camera effects can be used to add realism by better replicating the eye's mechanisms than standard perspective effects:

  • "False" Fish Eye Lens shots use a type of drawn perspective that replicates the curved shape of the retina and the curved lens of the eye. While much more complicated than linear perspective, it creates a better sense of depth and scale, and allows a more immersive field of view.
  • Gaussian and bloom effects and a single pair of overlapping exposures for a drugged or concussed character- these replicate impaired ability to focus the eye's lens, contract the pupil, and synchronize one's eyes.
  • The depth of field effect depicted in the page image, with or without double vision effects. note 

See also Retraux and Interface Screw.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The first episode of Ah! My Goddess (the newer one) had scan lines scroll across a television that was depicted, as if the frame rate of the TV didn't match the frame rate of the "film".
  • Azumanga Daioh had a promotional short available for download, Azumanga Web Daioh. It's presented as a video project made by one of the characters using a hand-held cam.
  • Baccano! has a scene in which water droplets splatter the camera lens.
  • In Black Lagoon, there are impact shudders at points of the chase between Revy and Roberta.
  • Den-noh Coil often used very subdued Jitter Cam effects when a horror element presented itself.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) uses a false-focus effect so often you don't even realize that animation isn't supposed to work that way.
  • Ghost in the Shell (1995) gives us a lot of horizontal Lens Flare effects, especially from red warning lights.
  • As a love letter to the process of film creation and as a bit of a framing device, all of Goodbye, Eri is told through a camera lens, which includes blurring, camera movement, and distortion in a set frame width.
  • Most of the Non-Indicative First Episode of Haruhi Suzumiya consists of a fake amateur science fiction movie filmed on a camcorder by the main characters, including jump cuts with non-matching sound, characters appearing out of frame, production crew wandering into frame, and the whole thing appearing in 4:3 aspect ratio, where the rest of the series is in 16:9. The animators even added the slightly grainy quality of many lower-cost camcorders, and out-of-focus shots. Even later on in the series, there would be the occasional Fish-Eye Lens shot. The producers even used cheap-sound synthesized music to create the effect of a cheap high school background music production.
  • Episode 20 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has a scene where Fujiwara is taking a picture of Iino with a filter. There is a slight delay between Iino moving her face and the filter lining up to simulate the app calculating where her facial features are.
  • Episode 1 of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha includes a brief sequence of Nanoha running that is made to look like it was filmed with a hand-held camera. There are also water droplets on the camera during Nanoha and Fate's final battle.
  • Manabi Straight! loves to use fish-eye lenses.
  • In episode 6 of Midori Days there is a moment when Shiori is speaking about her mother in heaven; it's presented using a pseudo-Fish-Eye Lens, shot from above down into Shioiri's face.
  • Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit uses this in episode one. When one character dives into a river to save another and goes under, the camera pans across the river, only to suddenly stop and whip back as the character surfaces, having skipped over her.
  • "Yura Yura" the last opening for the original Naruto series uses this.
  • The Pet Girl of Sakurasou anime adaptation has several uses of the Fish-Eye Lens in its third episode.
  • Satoshi Kon enjoyed using effects in Paranoia Agent. His Author Avatar lampshades it somewhat in Paprika. Both the show and the movie employed shaky-cam, false focus and depth of field shifts.
  • Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase does it but not with the camera itself, instead a spotlight and microphone are visible during some scenes.
  • Episode 1 of The Vision of Escaflowne includes Lens Flares in outdoor shots when Hitomi is practicing track and field.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: A mock Lens Flare often appears during shots that happen to face the sun.
  • The beginning of the Lamput episode "Fracture" shows a montage of times that the docs caught Lamput, all of which ultimately culminates in Lamput fracturing the one bone in his skeleton as the plot point of the episode. The montage is depicted in Deliberate Monochrome with film grain.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: There are scan lines in the beginning of the intro of The Little Detective.
  • In Pleasant Goat Fun Class: Sports are Fun episode 4, a prehistoric Wolffy is seen learning how to copy the movements of a frog to swim away from predators faster. This part of the episode features fake film grain effects.

    Comic Books 
  • In the ElfQuest story Recognition there are two instances in which two adjacent panels show the same view, but one has the foreground blurred, the other the background, simulating a changed focus of a camera. [1]

    Films — Animation 
  • Children Who Chase Lost Voices: There is a Jitter Cam effect during certain action sequences, as well as a ridiculous amount of attention paid to shifts in lighting within scenes.
  • Near the end of The Incredibles, there is a brief Jitter Cam shot as the Parr family runs from the limo into their house.
  • In The Lion King (1994) a Rack Focus is simulated during the "Circle of Life" sequence (the shot with the ants and the zebras). There is also a simulated Tracking Zoom when Simba sees the wilderbeest stampede.
  • In Pinocchio: When Cleo the fish watches Pinocchio as he is made to dance using his strings, he is seen distorted by the water in her fish bowl.
  • In the Pixar film WALL•E, when the title character disturbs a pile of shopping carts, as he runs past the camera point-of-view, there is a brief moment when the image goes out of focus, then quickly back in again.
  • Toy Story 4: The whole thing was made to look like it was shot with actual cameras, not computers. Spherical lenses, Anamorphic lenses, split diopters, you name it. An explanation can be found here.
  • In Turning Red, there is frequent use of a Lens Flare when bright lights are involved.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Babylon 5, the CGI shots of the titular space station during the first year used Lens Flare to add realism.
  • The new Battlestar Galactica has this by the truckloads. Nearly every scene "shot" in space has at least one shot with fake camera effects added to make it seem as though a real cameraman was trying to keep up with the action. Cue the Shaky Cam, Lens Flare, focus adjustments, and various zooming levels as though scanning for objects to pay attention to. And this is a time when CGI itself already looks very lifelike on its own. Best of all is when debris from an explosion seems to hit the camera and break it, in a completely CG shot.
  • The most famous non-anime example would have to be Firefly, which used Lens Flare effects and shaky-cam in the CGI-only shots to provide added realism and contribute to the Used Future feel.

    Video Games 
  • Some common effects include:
    • Lens Flare, appearing in pretty much every video game since the first Unreal.
    • Distortion or grain filters, often found in horror games to enhance the atmosphere.
    • Blood, water, or cracking effects on the "lens" of the non-existent camera.
    • Motion Blur, to give the impression that the camera can't keep up with the action on-screen.
    • Bouncing, swaying, or otherwise unsteady camera motions to make it appear the shot was done with a handheld camera.
    • Focus effects, including blurring background when focusing on the foreground (see page image) or vice-versa, and shots that look like they take a few seconds to focus on the subject entirely.
  • Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. Looking at monsters (or down when in high areas) make the vision blurry until it's nearly impossible to see anything. (The character still controls normally, however.)
  • In the beginning of BioShock when you are swimming through the ocean, there are little water drops on the screen, as if you were looking through a wet camera lens, when in fact you are seeing what the protagonist sees. So unless he is wearing glasses, it makes no sense.
    • But damn, it was nifty.
  • Bulletstorm uses the same 'water on the screen' effect as Bioshock, for the same reason.
  • James Bond: Everything or Nothing uses a blurred fadeout when Katya uses a tranquilizer dart on Bond.
  • In Fallout 4, when switching from a brightly-lit environment to a dark one, the scene goes extra-dark for just long enough to notice before fading back to a more normal brightness, simulating the eye's (or an auto-balancing camera's) adjustment to changes in the light level.
  • Friday the 13th: The Game tries to capture an 80s Slasher Movie vibe which include VHS static whenever Jason teleports nears one of the counselors.
  • In the GameCube remake of Resident Evil if you go into the holding cell where Chris or Jill was imprisoned in the underground lab the Fixed Camera is grainy, angled from one of the corners on the ceiling, and has a fish-eye distortion effect as if you're looking at a surveilance camera feed on your tv.
  • In the Kamen Rider fighting game Climax Heroes, the Showa Kamen Ridersnote  have a special ability that adds a pale sepia tint and film grain to the screen, making it look like a Japanese TV show from the 70s. The effect lasts until they land a special which point the game pauses and a Narrator gives a short expository speech about the attack, just like in the Showa-era shows.
  • Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days includes things like compression artifacts to make the action look like it was shot by a crummy handheld camera or cellphone.
  • If you outfit your character in Killing Floor 2 with eyeglasses, a gas mask, or the like, a glare-on-dust effect is visible when you look toward bright lights. Note that these items are otherwise meant to be purely cosmetic.
  • Killzone 2 uses false TV effects. The menu screens mimic the pop, picture shake, and chroma-separation effects of poor-quality SDTVs. Quite strange to see on an LCD at first.
  • In Left 4 Dead, not only is there film grain added, but there's even a slider in the options menu to control how much grain you see.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker dims the image whenever the normal third-person camera is pointed directly at the sun, presumably to emulate the effect of a bright light on the image on a digital camera. This effect does not appear when the Telescope, the Picto Box, or bare first-person view is used.
  • Lost Odyssey uses the focus effect during cutscenes, often taking a moment to focus on the subject or deliberately blurring the background.
  • When dropping the vehicle in the first Mass Effect, the camera would use a zoom effect like it was trying to get the perfect zoom on it.
  • The Metal Gear games had several.
    • In Metal Gear Solid, the camera lens will freeze over in the coldest area of the game (the permafrost stages, such as Vulcan Raven's boss fight room). This is repeated in The Twin Snakes and 4 with more visible, realistic frost spirals.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, looking around in First Person View when outside can give you a lens flare which shifts, brightens and vanishes as you turn your gaze towards and away from the sun - and changes the background noise to make it sound like it was shot through a SteadiCam. The game also animates water dribbling down the camera lens if you get it wet, and even fogging up if you take it from a wet environment to a dry one.
    • If Snake gets hit in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, the camera gets noisy every time he's struck.
  • One of the best examples occurs in the Metroid Prime Trilogy. When the environment is very bright, you'll sometimes see a ghostly reflection of Samus' face on the screen. There are a few other effects, too — the screen fogs up when near sources of steam, and raindrops dot the screen if you look up in rainy areas. These are all justified because the protagonist really is supposed to be viewing the world through a piece of glass (she wears a helmet).
  • Mirror's Edge uses depth of field and motion blurring to give the users a sense of height, distance and speed. The end result can give people with fear of heights a real adrenaline shock.
  • Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent has an intentionally low framerate to match the cartoons it is based on.
  • Some of the Scenery Porn-tastic cutscenes in Ōkami use Lens Flare to show off how shiny the place is now that you've cleaned it up.
  • Outlast plays with this trope. The standard first-person view appears normal, with little to no camera effects. However, the player character has a handheld video camera with optional night vision. Anything viewed through the camera has a grain filter, plus a green tint when in night vision mode. The REC and battery life are also displayed when viewing through the camera. And lastly, you drop the camera at one point, and the lens is cracked and distorted by the time you find it again.
  • Both Penumbra episodes give off a strong effect if the character looks too long on the monsters around him. Used in gameplay, too, because eventually he'll panic and give himself away.
  • Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse utilizes film grain in order to better resemble an 70's detective flick.
  • Silent Hill 2 adds film grain which makes the movie look more like a J-Horror film. You can disable it in the options menu, but the atmosphere suffers.
  • Summoning Yuri Kozukata onto the field in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate brings with her the visual film-grain effects from her home series Fatal Frame until she despawns.
  • First-person horror game The Tape uses grain and distortion filters to give the player the feeling they are watching a well worn VHS Found Footage tape, through night vision no less. The filters can be adjusted for intensity or turned off entirely, but that sort of defeats the purpose of the game in the first place.
  • In the Thief series, there is at least one point in Deadly Shadows used False Camera Effects, right after the mission 'Killing Time'.

    Web Animation 
  • Used extensively in the more recent episodes of Banana-nana-Ninja! Lens flares and blur effects are common.


    Western Animation 
  • All nine episodes of the first season of Arcane have multiple instances of this, to the point where it's easy to forget it's animated.
  • At the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Joker's Favor", when the Joker threatens Charlie Collin's family by phone, we see the camera "blurries" on Charlie inside his house while his wife and son scene outside the house "focus" on them, then when he hangs the phone, the focus is on Charlie again. This is Emphasis by Focus, showing the audience that Charlie has to occult the peril he faces from his family, visually showing the Dramatic Irony.
  • The DC Showcase: The Spectre animated short used a lot of fake frame errors to give it the feel of a 70s thriller.
  • Family Guy: In "Brian & Stewie", when eating Jenny Craig bars, the camera at first focuses on Brian, but then blurs him and focuses on Stewie.
  • Infinity Train has a subtle film grain effect at all times. A few episodes showcase additional techniques, such as Book 3's "The Campfire Car" making use of Rack Focus.
  • The episode "Mysterious Mysteries" in Invader Zim had some supposed camcorder footage of the title character. It included the camera being dropped and it swtiching to static at the end.
  • The pilot for Moral Orel used fake Jitter Cam for dramatic moments, mainly when Bloberta was alone.
  • In the Sym-Bionic Titan episode "Under the Three Moons", when we see Kristin practicing her martial arts, there's a shot in which the "camera" appears to shake.
  • In the Tex Avery short The Magical Maestro, after the third use of the "rabbits on his hands" gag, a hairline suddenly appears on the bottom left of the screen, as if the filmreel was having problems at that point of the cartoon. After about 30 seconds of this, the opera singer (and the music) abruptly stops to pull it out and throw it away before continuing as if nothing happened. The studio eventually put red stickers on the film cans telling projectionists about the gag so they wouldn't try to clear the hair out of the film gate.
  • In an episode of Wakfu, the camera is hit by a cannonball and cracked.