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In-Universe Camera

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There to record Mario's adventure... but who's the one recording him?

In most movies, shows, video games, etc., the camera is assumed to not be actually present; one might say it exists outside the Fourth Wall.

An In-Universe Camera, as the name suggests, is actually present in the "world" of the story: Characters may notice and talk to it, it may get bumped or shaken by the environment, and may even be seen in a reflection. This frequently makes it a target for Camera Abuse, and works rather well with a Jitter Cam.

It's also a favorite device of the Documentary Episode, where another character is assigned a role of operating the camera, or a Mockumentary, which parodies the documentary genre. May lead to a Left It In situation, if a character explicity asks for something to be "edited out" (but it's, of course, left in, since you the viewer are watching it).

When the camera is meant to represent the "eyes" of a character, it's a P.O.V. Cam. If the cameraman is an amateur and the plot is about what happened to them, it's a Found Footage Film.

See also Show Within a Show. For a gameplay mechanic that frequently uses this trope, see First-Person Snapshooter.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • All visuals shown in Flag comes from video recordings made by one of two reporter main characters, the camera on the Mini-Mecha, or in-universe Stock Footage.
  • YuYu Hakusho is revealed to be composed of the case footage from Yusuke's time as a spirit detective. Considering some of the things we're shown throughout the series, including internal monologues, flashbacks, everyone's life before Yusuke even died, musical scores, and multiple camera angles, this footage must have been put through a lot of pre- and post-production.
  • Hyouka provides an in-universe example as Oreki's solution to a Locked Room Mystery presented in a student film, though he was actually wrong.

    Comic Books 
  • Sensational Wonder Woman: Man's World Womanger is mostly from the perspective of being through the lens of Myndi Mayer's iPhone camera.

    Films — Animated 
  • Surf's Up is done as a Mockumentary about surfing penguins. The characters interact with the crew, and on several occasions the cameras are attacked by natives.
  • Wreck-It Ralph:
    • The action inside Hero's Duty is displayed to the player by a camera robot that travels with the soldiers and simulates the first person perspective for the player. Naturally, it suffers Camera Abuse as its lens breaks when Ralph uses the robot as a shield against a Cy-bug.
    • Likewise, we do see the camera guy who is doing the live footage of racer introductions in Sugar Rush that appears on the jumbotron adjacent to the spectator's stands.
  • The fake Hilarious Outtakes in A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 2.
    • One of the special features of the Monsters, Inc. DVD is a camera fly-by of each of the film's sets. During the fly-by of the Monsters Inc. building you can briefly see the camera (operated by Those Two Guys Smithy and Needleman) reflected in the restroom mirrors. Mike also waves at the camera as it goes by on the door storage area.
  • In Cars, a security guard tells the cameraman shooting the scene where the instant replay of the Dinoco 200 race is shown to get out.
  • In Incredibles 2, Elastigirl wears a camera to capture a superhero viewpoint as part of the plan to build support for legalizing superheroics. She realizes something suspicious is going on when she reviews the tapes and notices a screen displaying her camera feed in Screenslaver's lair.
  • In Turning Red, Mei uses a camcorder to record her and her friends plan to raise the funds for concert tickets and to record them dancing.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Blair Witch Project is a famous example, and almost epitomizes the trope.
  • Cloverfield
  • [REC], its sequels, and the American remake Quarantine (2008)
  • Cannibal Holocaust
  • All of $la$her$ was shot from the view of a single cameraman on a murder game show. The camera was a character, one who followed the action for the studio and broadcast audience, but couldn't be harmed due to electrical collars on all the contestants and slashers.
  • The film 84 Charlie MoPic is explained in-world as the contents of a can of undeveloped film that came back from an LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol) mission that had a combat cameraman attached.
  • Chronicle is shot through multiple in universe cameras. Most of it is from a camera owned by Andrew, a main character who almost obsessively documents his life, but it also includes the camera of Casey, a video blogger. In the last part of the movie, it switches between many different cameras, including security cameras, cable news, police video, and even camera phones.
  • Diary of the Dead
  • Eternals: When Kingo joins the Eternals on their mission, he has Karun film an Eternals documentary as they go. Several shots are seen through one of his cameras.
  • Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum: There are multiple cameras set up throughout the asylum, so the Found Footage comes from multiple different angles.
  • Hungerford is viewed through Cowen's camera.
  • Paranormal Activity, its sequels, and the straight-to-video Asylum ripoff, Paranormal Entity.
  • Indie art film Guy is told entirely from the perspective of an unnamed filmmaker's camera as she documents the day-to-day life of a total stranger.
  • The Truman Show has scenes that demonstrate the number and variety of hidden cameras capturing Truman's life.
  • The Troll Hunter.
  • The indie film Killer Flick, in which the main characters are a quartet of filmmakers who exist within the fictional world of the exploitation film that they are creating. The cameraman "One Eye" is usually shooting the footage that we see, but sometimes he appears in frame as well.
  • Hellzapoppin': The protagonists address the cameraman throughout the picture. They shout at him to turn on the sound, to fix the broken reel, to rewind the previous footage or to follow them rather than focus on an attractive girl in a swimsuit.
  • Often happens on Mel Brooks's films for Breaking the Fourth Wall jokes.
    • Twice in High Anxiety the camera crew accidentally breaks through the set during a dolly shot, causing the actors to turn toward the camera. In the second example, you can hear the crew arguing about it.
    • In Spaceballs, Dark Helmet hits a camera operator during the Schwarz ring battle, and promptly blames Lonestar.
    • In Robin Hood: Men in Tights, as Maid Marian is taking a bath, the camera zooms to the stained glass window of her bathroom then cuts away to inside. She hears a window breaking and looks over to a camera half-away through the window. The camera slowly backs out.
  • The horror film The Den is shown entirely from the perspective of a webcam, a cellphone camera, and a Go-Pro.
  • Unfriended is shown entirely through the screen of the main character Blaire, except for the unexplained final shot.
  • In Lovely Molly, several parts of the movie is footage from Molly's camera as she tries to document the fact that her father's ghost is haunting her.
  • In Nerve, most of the challenges are represented by footage shot by Watchers on their phones.
  • Searching and its thematic sequel Missing (2023) have a slight variation on this idea, where they exclusively use shots from computer and phone screens, with virtually all traditional footage from webcams and phone cameras.
  • Early on in Shredder Orpheus, an EBN cameraman films Eurydice's dancing and Orpheus's attempt to stop the filming, which is seen through the camera's lens. Hades, Persephone, and the EBN producer are later seen reviewing the footage as they debate whether to force Eurydice to join the network.

    Live Action TV 
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The camera is an actual robot, "Cambot", and we see the show through his perspective. We only see him in the opening "Robot Roll Call", and he's actually looking into a mirror to show himself. That's why his name is backwards. There's also the external camera, Rocket Number Nine, which is basically its own satellite which is remote-controlled by Cambot.
    • Deep 13's cameras were remote controlled in Season One, with the respective sound effects. By the next season, they were operated by Jerry and Sylvia, the Mads' mole men neighbors.
  • The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Manifest Destiny" was filmed almost entirely from this point of view.
  • The Sanctuary episode "Instinct": The first-person camera is held by the cameraman of the reporter who gets tangled up with the Sanctuary team while they're pursuing a giant insect.
  • The camera used by the documentary crew in The Office.
    • The show seldom explicitly refers to the presence of cameramen, though. So seldom, in fact, that when the camera crew is actually discussed or referred to onscreen, it can be a little jarring.
  • The kinos in Stargate Universe are floating, remote control camera balls. They frequently are the camera for parts of most episodes and are the only cameras in the kino webisodes, as the name might suggest.
  • The Supernatural episode "Ghostfacers" was seen almost entirely through the lens of a few cheap cameras, carried by the Ghostfacers themselves.
  • Arrested Development is on the fence. While it's never explicitly stated to be a mockumentary, the camera acts like it's a person carrying a camera- it jumps, shudders, looks through keyholes and under doors. It also gets thrown out of a court in accordance with rules banning televised trials. So while it doesn't say so, it does this quite a lot. However, if this trope is actually in effect, some serious Fridge Logic ensues about just how personal the Bluths are willing to get in this "documentary."
  • Star Trek: The Original Series's two-part episode "The Menagerie" uses footage shot for the original pilot, "The Cage", as evidence in Spock's trial. Kirk wants to know the origin, since "No ship makes record tapes in such detail." Commodore Mendez later comments that "this is a trial, not a theater."
  • The "Why Are You Here?" episode of The Hitchhiker centers around the filming of an episode of the in-universe show "Nighthawks" (also called "Why Are You Here?"). The only time we don't see the camera's perspective is at the end, with the Hitchhiker giving the ending remarks.
  • The Community episode Pillows And Blankets does this, with the premise that the cameras came from a Guinness World Record crew that were intending to document the largest pillow or blanket fort, who instead would document the pillow fight that resulted when Troy and Abed built rival blanket and pillow forts that could not expand without encountering each other. It was done in a Mockumentary in the style of Ken Burns Civil War documentary, portraying the pillow fight as if it were an actual war.
  • Fleabag: At the end of the penultimate episode, the title character forces a Sexy Discretion Shot by reaching out and physically tilting the camera away. Although she is a constant Fourth-Wall Observer, up to that point it's not clear whether she's actually aware of the camera, or merely of a viewing audience on the other side.

  • The backglass for America's Most Haunted shows the four ghost hunters from the POV of a camcorder viewfinder.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Isaac Asimov's Robots: Whenever Det Baley connects to Data Central (the players), the camera's perspective changes to be from his pocket computer so he's looking directly at the audience.

  • Several of Tsukipro's series feature a "School Revolution" episode, where the Idol Singer main characters visit a school to film a variety program, and end up having supernatural adventures, which they then have to hide from the cameras. They always feature a camera on-stage, that the idols interact with, the image from which is projected to the back of the set.

    Video Games 
  • Halo: Combat Evolved has a scene shot from the perspective of a soldier's helmet camera, when they discover the Flood.
  • In Super Mario 64, the camera is actually controlled by a Lakitu member of a news crew following Mario around the castle. Notably, if you enter a room with a mirror, the camera-carrying Lakitu is reflected in the mirror.
  • In the first Resident Evil, there's a scene from a S.T.A.R.S. member's shoulder camera before he gets devoured.
  • The basic mechanic of Suda51's Michigan: Report From Hell is that the player is a cameraman, attempting to film the events that unfold. The story progresses differently depending on what the player films.
  • In Star Wars Droidworks, Holocam-E, AKA 'Cammy' is true to her name, as she is both a hover droid and a video camera in one, monitoring your droid's movements during missions. Her droid type is actually a staple of the Old Republic technology.
  • In Paranormal, your character is attempting to document the haunting that's infested his house. Active play is from the POV of your camcorder; during the downtime between nights of filming, closed-circuit camera footage is shown.
  • Kat explains early in Endless Ocean that she sends down an remote-guided minisub to record your dives, which justifies the third-person view and how the camera will occasionally brush kelp and fish aside. You can never see it when in first-person, though.
  • Your cameraman in The Devil Inside can and will be attacked by zombies.
  • Third person shooter Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days has a weird, not properly explained example. The game's camera emulates a handheld camera from start to end, as if the protagonist's actions are being constantly recorded by a cameraman that follows them around and that even has their camera taken away at one point in the game by a soldier. Yet, this cameraman character is never properly acknowledged, even if they do exist in-universe, to an extent.
  • If you allow Diana Allers to give interviews with Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 3, the camera viewpoint will switch to her hovering auto-cam until the interview wraps.

  • In El Goonish Shive, most of the "Catnip" storyline is from cameras Tedd set up to record Grace's transformations. Also most of the appearances of Carol Brown, the news reporter, are portrayed as footage from her cameraman's camera.

    Web Original 
  • KateModern loves this, as characters frequently kick or drop the camera.
  • In Pure Pwnage, the camera is being controlled by Kyle, a character in his own right, with some notable exceptions for dramatic effect.
  • "The Sky Young Skit Show" is a rather humorous example of this. The skits are about three friends hanging around in L.A., in which one is never shown or named, as he is the designated cameraman, leading the titular character to say in a recent episode: "What are you? You're just like, a camera...and a hand...And why are you following me?" The interesting part about it is that in previous episodes, the characters interact as if the camera is not even there, causing the whole episode "Sky Discusses Faces" to get REALLY confusing.
  • Billy's webcam in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog serves as the camera during the blog segments of the episodes.
  • Every episode of World's Greatest Adventures, is supposedly a video Talltales and his unseen assistant create themselves to 'promote' Talltales's latest 'heroics'.
  • Anything to do with The Slender Man Mythos on youtube. Marble Hornets started it all, followed by Tribe Twelve , Everyman HYBRID and others.
  • The Joker Blogs: The first few entries consist of the title character's recorded therapy sessions with Dr Harleen Quinzel. After he escapes, he steals Dr Arkham's camera so he can keep making entries, and later uses Jack Ryder's. This is phased out after the first season.
  • Although the point of a vlog is to address the audience through the camera, Tobuscus takes it a step further by addressing the camera as the audience and introing every entry by asking the audience what they are doing in whatever ridiculous place he chooses.
    "Audience? What are you doing in front of a steamroller, audience? That's precarious!"

    Western Animation 
  • The episode "Wild Cards" of Justice League, where the Joker set these up all over Las Vegas—along with twenty-six bombs. They played it pretty loose just to keep things going, though.
  • Sometimes invoked in Birdz, what with lead character Eddie sometimes filming his family in his aspirations to become a filmmaker.
  • Duckman's Documentary Episode, "American Dicks", is done entirely from the perspective of a cameraman filming Duckman's investigation as part of the Show Within a Show's Milestone Celebration, hence lots and lots of Jitter Cam. At one point near the end, the cameraman sets the camera down on the ground and attempts to join an offscreen brawl, only to get thrown out almost immediately. He flies into his camera, causing it to slide across the floor in circles until he picks it back up.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "No Free Rides" begins with SpongeBob taking his drivers test. As he drives towards the camera, the narrator's voice grows louder and more alarmed until SpongeBob hits the camera. The next shot shows the narrator, who acted as his own camera man, down on the ground.
  • In the episode "Irregarding Steve" of American Dad!, Steve and Roger run away to New York City. After the commercial break, we get a number of sweeping shots of the New York skyline, followed by a view from the ground. Then a bus comes right at the camera, and it cuts to Roger in a hotel room telling Steve that some guy with a camera was just run over.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Character Recorded Video, Camera Cam


Simmons' hand signals

During their training mission against Felix, Simmons tries communicating with Grif using hand signals, but they quickly become nonsense.

How well does it match the trope?

4.79 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / HandSignals

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