Whenever a character talks to another over a video link, often a Video Phone, each is able to see the other party on his monitor but no camera of any sort is shown. Both parties will look directly at the screen showing their conversation partner on the other end, but neither party will appear to be breaking eye contact with their partner by doing so. This suggests that the actual screen one is looking at (or something directly behind it) is also recording one's own end of a conversation, which is viewable on their partner's monitor.
A variation also exists where one of the parties may see the other party actually holding the device he is using to chat. This would require a camera crew following the characters around to set up cameras for their conversations, but of course no such crew exists and the camera is never seen.
This might become a Discredited Trope in the near future, as we are staring to see technology where the camera is installed beneath the screen. (Previously, this wasn't possible since the screen would block too much light and render the camera useless.)
- Bakugan: Dan and his friends chat over the Internet and no webcam is ever seen.
- In Spider-Man comics, the earliest versions of the Spider-Slayer robots worked this way. The robots, piloted remotely by J. Jonah Jameson, would seem to have no technological need to project JJJ's face onto a TV screen mounted on the robot's "head," but that's exactly what they do.
- 1408 averts the trope; the cam is visible when the main character starts a video chat.
- Austin Powers: Dr. Evil tends to do this a lot. He has typical villain ultimatums with various world leaders through closed circuit televisions, yet there are no cameras that would allow him to see anything.
- Ghost in the Machine: The virtual killer is shown travelling through cyberspace, until he stops to observe his victims through a computer screen or similar interface as if it were a glass window.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Hexfield Viewscreen
- Lexx: 790's eyes and mouth are screens, cameras, and speakers.
- Star Trek's viewscreens, in all the show's incarnations, seem to work this way.
- On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Ronald D. Moore hatched a plan to replace the tired old viewscreens with a "holocommunicator". This was eventually deemed a failure, as it was glaringly obvious that the 'effect' was two actors in a room. Trek holograms have always been cleaner than Star Wars holograms, so flickering or static wouldn't be keeping in canon. They even tried surrounding the holographic actor in blue light (so as to appear to be transmitting from a different room), but the actor confusingly looks like a ghost(!).
- This was strangely played both straight and averted nearly every time video communication was used on Firefly. Every other ship besides Serenity seems to have a dual camera/screen, but the heroes have to stare into a little camera lens when they speak. The effects department apparently thought the trope was being played straight because they had to be told, repeatedly, not to add a button beep/touch tone when Mal brushed dust off the camera lens with his thumb during one scene.
- Taken to somewhat silly extremes in The Big Bang Theory, where everyone uses Skype. People on screen will turn their heads to look at the person they are addressing, which means on their end they would be looking at the wall.
- Journey into Space: In Journey to the Moon / Operation Luna, this seems to be the case with the televiewer of the Luna.
- Any of the screens in the Half-Life universe seem capable of this, particularly the Combine screens of Half-Life 2.
- Portal 2: Wheatley appears to be able to see through several of the video screens dotting various parts of the facility. In fact, there are a couple of parts where he reacts in pain to any of them being damaged. He later becomes jumpy whenever a flying cube almost hits them.
- The members of the Think Tank in the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Old World Blues each have three mounted screens displaying their eyes and mouth separately, and are capable of seeing through their "eye screens".
- Danny Phantom videochats with Sam and Tucker with no visible webcam.
- In an episode of The Fairly Oddparents named "Information Stupor Highway", Crocker uses a spyware program to see what's happening in Timmy Turner's room. How does the program do it? By filming the room through the monitor of Timmy's computer.
- The Comm Links in Atomic Betty.
- The variation often occurs on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Krang in the Technodrome is talking to Shredder, who has a small handheld Comm Link. Krang has a huge wall-sized screen in front of him, yet his face fills the entire screen on Shredder's Comm Links. Meanwhile, on Krang's screen, Shredder is shown holding the communicator in his hand!
- The variation also occurs in Kim Possible, who is sometimes shown to use the Kimmunicator to call Ron on a regular cell phone. However, the Kimmunicator will show Ron holding the phone up to his ear.
- The Save Ums: The Adventure Screen.
- My Life as a Teenage Robot: A television extends out of Jenny's chest that Mrs. Wakeman communicates to her with and can see through.
- The Venture Bros. plays this straight quite frequently. The most obvious example is the two-way wrist communicator watches worn by the Ventures; they have nothing that looks like a camera, but at least they tend to display faces at a believable angle and distance.
* In "The Lepidopterists", the trope is exploited by The Monarch. He contacts Jonas Venture, Jr. by video screen to announce he is attacking in his flying cocoon. Jonas shoots the cocoon with a death ray, and it is destroyed on the screen. It turns out that The Monarch was actually sitting on a soundstage in front of a TV camera, and the destroyed cocoon was a miniature on a string. The Monarch had installed a backdoor into Jonas's communication system so that he could use the attempt on his life as a bureaucratic loophole.
- Averted and exaggerated in PAW Patrol. On one hand, people are communicating with each other via smartphones, which will likely have cameras built into them. On the other hand, when one of the pups contacts Ryder via their Star Trek-style combadge pup tag they should just be getting an audio link, but somehow still have two-way Video Phone capability even though they should be staring at thin air.
- SSTV (Slow Scanning Television) was a method of image translation used in amateur radio practice before cheap cameras were available. It required only one light sensor instead of a proper camera and used a TV screen [CRT] for scanning. It was more or less a shadow puppet theater for a light-gun controller.
- Many modern laptops (and some desktop monitors) have a built-in webcam and microphone just above the screen. The distance between screen and webcam is quite small, so it isn't always obvious that neither party in a video chat is actually looking at the camera.
- In 2006, Apple patented a way to achieve this by embedding microscopic cameras between the display's pixels. However, this design has never been implemented in hardware so far.
- The trope might be influenced by the real life fact that early TV cameras used CRTs (in the same way that a microphone and a loudspeaker are essentially the same thing used differently), something that the audience at large probably didn't know, but people in the industry probably would.
- Teleprompters display a script on a glass pane in front of a camera lens, so a person can read the script while looking directly into the camera.
- Photo booths, where you can get passport photos of yourself, often have the camera appear directly behind the screen. This is done by placing the camera behind a half-silvered mirror, and the actual screen is seen reflected in that.
- During the 1980s a computer magazine published a program to turn the BBC Micro's screen into a camera. After manually entering the the hexadecimal code, readers who thought this trope was in play were likely to receive a rapid reality check.