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Screens Are Cameras

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It even works on old-timey phones without any screens!

Archer switched the screen back to normal view so Mayweather could see where the hell they were going.
Farce Contact, a Star Trek: Enterprise parody
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Whenever a character talks to another over 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.

This trope can be exaggerated by displaying the characters actually holding the device he is using to chat (as seen in the image above). This would require a non-existent third person camera to be setup In-Universe.

Closely related to Computer Equals Monitor. Sub-Trope of Hollywood Webcam.

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Becoming a Discredited Trope as video calls become commonplace and are no longer futuristic technology, so a typical viewer expects that video transmissions require a camera to capture the image.


Examples

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    Anime 
  • Bakugan: Dan and his friends chat over the Internet and no webcam is ever seen.

    Comic Books 
  • In Spider-Man, the earliest versions of the Spider-Slayer robots work this way. The robots would seem to have no technological need to project the face of whoever remotely controls them onto a TV screen mounted on the robot's "head", but that's exactly what they do.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • The Telescreens in 1984 receive and transmit simultaneously and are a big part of how Big Brother watches the people of Oceania. Even the Thought Police secretly recording the protagonists is done by a telescreen hidden behind a picture on the wall, rather than a smaller hidden camera.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Taken to somewhat silly extremes in The Big Bang Theory, in which 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.
  • Firefly: This is strangely both played straight and averted nearly every time that video communication is used. 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.
  • 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. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Ronald D. Moore hatches a plan to replace the tired old viewscreens with a "holocommunicator". This was eventually deemed a failure by the showrunners, 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 Hologram Projection Imperfections 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(!).
  • An episode of Surprise Sur Prise has this as one of their pranks. A television show is showing off new tech with which they talk with random people through the television, although they flub with the first two people because they use the same background. The third person is the prank's mark, being caught in her home. The TV show ends the call, then cuts to commercial, who notice that the mark is slightly distracted and tells her to pay attention.

    Radio 
  • Journey into Space: In Journey to the Moon/Operation Luna, this seems to be the case with the televiewer of the Luna.

    Video Games 
  • 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".
  • Five Nights at Freddy's 2: You can brighten up rooms with your flashlight through your monitor.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • In just about every video chat scene in Melody, both participants are making perfect eye contact.

    Web Video 
  • Unbox Therapy covered the world's first smartphone with under-screen camera, the ZTE Axon 20 5G, in a video dated 21 September, 2020.
  • Linus Tech Tips: "Is Samsung Trying to Impress Me?? — Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Early Look" talks about the titular phone having a camera hidden under the folding screen. Instead of using a "notch" or a "hole punch" to get the screen around the camera, it covers the camera with more screen. The catch is the circle over the camera has a pixel density much lower than the rest of the screen, and the camera sees some grid-like light artifacting with lights in the frame.

    Western Animation 
  • Danny Phantom: Danny videochats with Sam and Tucker with no visible webcam.
  • The Fairly OddParents: In "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 variation often occurs in Kim Possible. Kim 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.
  • 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.
  • Zig-zagged in PAW Patrol (which provides the page image). On one hand, most of the characters communicate with each other via smartphones, which have cameras built into them. On the other hand, when any of the pups contact Ryder with their Star Trek-style 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.
  • In The Save-Ums!, the Adventure Screen acts like this between the Save-Ums and whomever is calling them. Interestingly, in the first episode, Winston is shown using a telephone to talk to the Save-Ums. However, this does not occur in any subsequent episode.
  • The variation also occurs in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987). 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 main characters of Totally Spies! communicate with their boss, Jerry, through a Comm Links device disguised as a makeup compact. In the field, the compact projects a tiny hologram of Jerry as a form of a 3D Video Phone, even though Jerry has only a computer screen on his end which doesn't contain any device to capture a hologram of himself, much less a camera. He only sees a 2D image of the girls on his screen, but somehow in one instance the hologram of Jerry actually ducks down as one of the girls begins to close the lid of the compact on him at the end of a call.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • 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.
    • Exploited in "The Lepidopterists". The Monarch contacts Jonas Venture, Jr. by video screen to announce that 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 is actually sitting on a soundstage in front of a TV camera, and the destroyed cocoon is a miniature on a string. The Monarch has installed a backdoor into Jonas's communication system so that he can use the attempt on his life as a bureaucratic loophole.

    Real Life 
  • 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 by Apple so far. However, as noted below, ZTE actually beat Apple to the market with the world's first smartphone with an under-screen camera, in 2020.
  • 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 hexadecimal code, readers who thought this trope was in play were likely to receive a rapid reality check.
  • Starting early in The New '20s, smartphones came out with cameras hidden under the screen, even if image quality sometimes suffers in consequence. The first to get one is the ZTE Axon 20 5G in 2020. Samsung was second to market with the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G in 2021. Before such technologies a number of models instead of using a notch for the front camera would have it in a punched hole in the screen and integrated on it.


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