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Snowy Screen of Death

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How do you know that a perimeter has been breached or that the bodycam-equipped soldiers you've sent in the alien hive have met a messy end? The screens that were giving you a visual feed have gone full of static, meaning that the cameras have been disabled or shredded, like their wearers. For maximum effect, a wall of monitor screens will go snowy one by one, until the entire bank of screens is filled with static.

This effect was the precursor to the infamous Blue Screen of Death, and was itself an outgrowth of the dead telephone line and the radio receiving only the static of a carrier wave with no signal.

See also Camera Abuse for cases where the camera is visibly hit or shaken, Static Screw for cases where this happens in a video game, and We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties for cases where somebody cuts off the camera signal. Related to Insecurity Camera, in which malfunctioning cameras are ignored. Often goes together with Death by Transceiver.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, when Clyde's Cool Starship, the Hestia, is slowly being taken over by the Book of Darkness, half the screens in the Holographic Terminal of The Bridge showing the damaged areas of the ship are shown to be in static. Clyde's transmission to Gil Graham also gets cut off in static as he salutes his friend.
  • Paranoia Agent: When the black blob submerges the TV studio in the last episode.
  • End of Evangelion: When JSSDF is taking over the NERV HQ, they blow up all the outpost stations around it with artillery. This results in turning every CCTV screen at the The Bridge into static.
  • Averted in Dragon Ball: The camera of the news crew remains intact, showing us that they vanished without a trace and left their clothes behind, one of the first clues heralding the arrival of the arc's villain.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Kusanagi gets the Snowy Screen of Death when the hotel maidbot whose vision she had hacked into gets killed by a stray bullet.

  • Alien:
    • In Alien, the monitor screen shows static when the connection to Dallas breaks off as he is attacked by the monster.
    • In Aliens, each crew member's helmet camera and vital signs are hooked to a screen and any time somebody dies, their screen goes static.
    • Happens repeatedly in one scene in Alien: Resurrection, as the Space Marines get picked off one by one.
  • The China Syndrome ends with one of these, right before it goes to Silent Credits.
  • Code Red: the Rubicon Conspiracy has bad video transmissions from the first team, but inexplicably, the readout at the command center of the EKGs of the soldiers goes to snow when it loses the last signal.
  • The Expendables: When Barney shoots the camera in the customs office.
  • Fail Safe: The President is on the phone, having ordered a nuclear strike on New York in order to prevent the Russians from launching their own nuclear attack following an accidental bombing of Moscow. The audience hears the squeal caused by the phone on the other end of the line melting.
  • The Hidden: The opening scene is a bank robbery as seen from a security camera. The last thing the robber does before leaving the building is shoot his shotgun at the camera, resulting in the Snowy Screen of Death.
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008): when General Ross's soldiers try to take on the Abomination.
  • Iron Man has this occur a few times. First when the door to Tony and Yinsen's workshop in the 10 Rings' base is rigged with a bomb. Just as somebody opens it looking for the two, the bomb detonates and takes out one of their remote cameras. We then see the screen for that camera show static, and the boss dispatches more men. Another instance plays this with Obidiah's suit: after Tony rips out a critical piece, static accompanies the HUD shutting down.
  • Lockout: When the negotiator sent to the SM-1 orbital prison gets shot in the head, the camera concealed in his glasses abruptly stops transmitting, and the screen at the other end goes full of static.
  • In Mom and Dad, one of these is prominently featured every time a parent is about to kill their own children, except in Brent's case.
  • Weird variation in Pitch Black, where the monsters are blind and navigate by echolocation. When the movie screen shifts from conventional footage to static in which ghostly figures can be seen, we're "seeing" via the creatures' sonar. Still paired with death, as they're invariably stalking some poor loser when this happens.
  • Predator 2. The Predator massacres the special forces team sent to capture him, but when this trope is shown in Mission Control (where they naturally conclude that everyone is dead) it turns out the last member of the team had merely pulled off his Hazmat Suit helmet (with attached camera) so he could see better.
  • Star Trek:
  • Star Wars:
    • Auditory example in The Empire Strikes Back: "Imperial troops have entered the base, Imperial troops have entered—" *kshhzzt*
      • Also from ESB, a three-dimensional example: the bridge of one of the Star Destroyers is taken out by an asteroid strike while Darth Vader (aboard the flagship) is hosting a video conference. The miniature hologram of the stricken ship's captain flickers and fades out.
    • The Phantom Menace: "A communications disruption could mean only one thing: invasion." - Governor Sio Bibble.
  • Sunshine: Kaneda's helmet cam as he is vaporized by the sun hitting the ship's shield.
  • When The Truman Show finally goes off-air, the channel shows static. It might have made more sense to show the channel logo or commercials, but the static tells us "it's over" better.
  • In Turning Red, when Mei accidentally knocks over the camcorder, the recording changes to static.
  • Happens in the movie version of Watchmen.

  • One of the X-Wing novels had a scene where a security expert was tracking a target by which cams he shot out. Also, X-Wings and other fighters in various media have a tendency to get interrupted in mid-transition by something (up to and including the fighter) blowing up.
    • Tycho Celchu was at the Imperial academy calling his family on Alderaan for his birthday when the transmission suddenly dissolved into static then went out completely. He later found out it was because the planet had been completely destroyed, which marked the end of his Imperial service.
  • The title of the novel Snow Crash refers to this phenomenon. The plot revolves around a Brown Note hidden in some static.
  • In Robert Sawyer's novel FlashForward (the basis for the unsuccessful TV series), all video recording devices show only static for the entire two minutes and 37 seconds of the first blackout, when all of humanity is unconscious. Sawyer has said this is meant to be confirmation of the observer effect.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Doctor Who
    • In "The Stolen Earth" when Harriet Jones is killed by the Daleks her feed turns to static. Justified in that there was a psychic link driving the video-conference.
    • In "Orphan 55" as the Dregs go on a rampage through the resort, the monitors in the security room are shown going snowy one by one. The last monitor shows a crowd of people crammed onto a teleport platform which isn't working. When that screen goes out, it's obvious what's happened to them.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Season two episode, And Now For A Word: A brief battle takes place outside the station. Twice, stray shots from the battle strike exterior cameras, producing this trope. A much-less catastrophic instance, meant more to drive the point the station was receiving collateral damage.
    • Season two finale, The Fall Of Night: A minor character had spent the entire season trying to find the ship that caused the death of his commander. The last shot of the season is the gun camera footage, indicating that he found it.
    • In the third season, ISN starts reporting on things the government doesn't want out, including the shock troops storming the studio. The sound of gunfire is heard, and several explosions, then the transmission is cut, while on the station, the crowd that had been watching it looks at each other uncertainly.
    • Also in season three, the station starts picking up transmissions they determine to be coming from the station—a number of day into the future. Some investigation confirms this to be a potential future (brought through an unstable time vortex) unless they travel through time to fill in some gaps in history. The message repeats over and over and always ends with static, implying the command center just got blown to bits.
  • In the 2009 BBC adaptation of The Day of the Triffids, the flash of light that blinds most of mankind also causes a loss of TV signal, and TV technicians watch with rising alarm as all the screens go full of static.
  • In Falling Skies a digital form of snow is shown during the title screen. An artist's rendition of a digital video stream getting weaker, (and being picked up with more errors) and then finally cutting out. [1]
  • An early episode of Farscape shows D'Argo in the midst of a Hyper Rage and is looking for something—anything—to destroy. He fixates on a repair drone, then we see D'Argo from the drone's perspective as he punches out its lights. Cue static.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Best Of Both Worlds: Part II", at the Battle of Wolf 359, Admiral Hanson's communication to the Enterprise is very distorted. Once his ship is destroyed by the Borg it freezes and then dissolves into static.
    Hanson: The fight does not go well, Enterprise. We're attempting to withdraw and regroup. Rendezvous with fleet...

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Metroid Prime
    • Some enemies cause your visor to do this when they are close.
    • In Echoes, you see this happening on the visual log at the G.F.S. Tyr.
    • If your visor is drowned in static and then blips out, then congratulations, you've just killed Samus.
  • In the intro of Tekken 4, Kazuya is beating up a bunch of Mishima Commandos with camera attachments, while his father, Heihachi, watches incredulously from a chopper viewscreen (and with good reason, considering that he last saw his son when he threw him into a friggin' volcano, minutes before eruption). After using the camera on the last goon to declare his intention to 'Take it all back', Kazuya smashes his fist through the camera (and presumably the guy's head), causing the screen in Heihachi's helicopter to turn to static.
  • In The World Ends with You, the perspectives of characters who get "erased" are shown as a gray static-filled screen.
  • In Mass Effect 3's Omega DLC, this happens on Petrovsky's screen when either Aria or Shepard shoots the camera that had been recording their discussion of where Aria's secret bunker is.
  • Mechwarrior: In Mechwarrior 4, 5, and Online, your radar and other cockpit displays will briefly become filled with static any time your mech is hit by a PPC.
  • Perhaps the climax of EarthBound's final boss counts. There's no in-story feed, but the whole thing is such a fourth-wall-breaking Mind Screw that the static, snow, and final cutout has a similar effect. Also, the static is blood red.
  • When your territory is being invaded in Saints Row, a Saint will call you and ask for your help. More often than not, they'll be shot while talking to you and somehow hang up.
  • An audio version happens in Silent Hill as a form of monster radar: the sound of static on your radio means there's something nearby. Enjoy the Paranoia Fuel! Also happens visually to some extent in later games.
    • This was inverted to an extent in Silent Hill: Homecoming for an extra dose of Paranoia Fuel: just when you thought you were safe when the radio was silent, the Order Soldiers who are human and thus don't trigger the radio start showing up...
  • The briefing of the last GDI mission in the first Command & Conquer: A GDI spy with a camera has infiltrated the temple of Nod, is seen, his camera goes out in the ensuing attack.
    • This also how Seth's death is handled in the Nintendo 64 port.
  • Space Hulk showed the Marine you currently controlled in a large central window, with the other members of the team in small windows above. If/when one of them dies, their screen shows static.
  • In the ending to Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Zack's DMW, a battle mechanic that works off of Zack's memories of his friends, begins replacing scenes of his friends with snowy static, until the battle is over, and an image Aerith, followed by the entire screen, disappears into static...
  • When Snake is killed in Metal Gear Solid 4 the game's video fades to static.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, this happens to the protagonist's demonica suit if he is killed in battle.
  • Whenever the player dies or transitions between levels in Mondo Agency, the screen shows a heavily pixellated static.
  • The Suffering and its sequel. The cameras are in on the scares. Sometimes they will only work until the proganist checks out the feed and sees something scary. Then static.
  • In Distorted Travesty, whenever you run low on health this effect occurs, along with the music and sound effects becoming slower/lower pitched. It's surprisingly unintrusive, especially compared with other games Critical Annoyance.
  • In Slender, the game's Big Bad, Slender Man, appears as a man with impossibly thin arms and legs, in a suit. The strange thing about him, however, is that his face is entirely white and nondescript. Looking at its face will cause the screen to start to fill up with static until you cannot see anything. After your screen fills with static, you will catch a few glimpses of a closeup of Slender Man, and you will experience a bowel-cleansingly horrifying Game Over. This is actually a carryover from the Web Original videos in The Slender Man Mythos. An important sign that Slendy is somewhere nearby is that video equipment (and Slendy stories tend to be shown with a video camera as a Framing Device) starts malfunctioning in a snowy kind of way.
  • Feral Chaos' EX Burst in Dissidia Duodecim ends this way.
  • Used to show short skips in time in Michigan: Report From Hell.
  • Occurs with the player's HUD in Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter if you wander out of bounds. If you continue, you fail the mission.
  • Die in The Wonderful 101, and this happens, with the screen and Gamepad switching off like a TV set.
  • Happens a few times in The Journeyman Project Pegasus Prime and Legacy of Time. Examples including when Dr. Sinclair taps the lens of his video log camera, and when Genghis Kahn punches you in the face, as you're actually watching the feed from a camera on a screen inside the Jumpsuit.
  • Used a great deal in System Shock. Static blips flicker whenever you take damage - red from attacks, green from poisoning, and blue while in cyberspace. If any of these get too concentrated, you either die, get kicked out of cyberspace, or respawn (if you've first activated the machine for the level you're on). The manual states that the static is a by-product of the cyberspace implant you have surgically grafted into your head.
    • A somewhat justified example appears late in the game. The V-mails you get are all recorded from satellite cameras orbiting Citadel Station; The last one fills up with static when Citadel Station self-destructs, and the blast takes the camera with it.
  • At the end of Ripper, the good ending shows the Ripper's face turning to static, then the camera pans out to two monitors containing this static, which then subsequently turn off. Also played straight in the bad ending, where the Ripper's VR goggles turn to static, shut down, then as he/her removes them, a monitor stands out showing Jake Quinlan's death and the words "Program Terminated".
  • In the first game of the Star Control saga, having a ship destroyed would have the image of the ship's captain replaced by static. This was changed by the screen turning off in the second one.
  • In Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, the HUD suffers from interference when Rex is low on health, and cuts out in static when he is killed.
  • A variation occurs in Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location. After the final night, as the TV cuts to static at the end of the final episode of 'The Immortal and the Restless', you hear the sound of scraping metal. It's Ennard, somehow having escaped the restaurant and presumably out to kill.
  • Dogma from The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth's Repentance DLC is a more literal example than most, as it is made of TV static and tries to murder Isaac.

    Web Comics 
  • This Sluggy Freelance strip has the camera cut to static due to the transmitter being destroyed in an attack.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Pandora disappears in a flash of light which is accompanied by what appears to be an EMP frying the camera and causing the signal to gradually cut to static over a couple seconds.
  • In Sinfest, this happens to the Devil himself in this strip with the drone carrying the camera being blown up.
  • xkcd: The screens showing static in Signal Lost and Ten-Day Forecast involve the camera crashing into a star and the world ending respectively.

    Western Animation 
  • The first appearance of Shego in Kim Possible (episode broadcast order notwithstanding) is on a security camera which she destroys, then there's a moment of static.
  • In Transformers: Animated, during a Robot War (no, not the usual robot war... Soundwave tried to start an automaton revolt.) a newscaster's camera bot goes out of control. We see the reporter running, from closer and closer. The reporter turns back in horror, and... static.
    • Incidentally, anytime afterwards that a reporter is needed, they use the reporter-bot.
  • In the Regular Show episode "Power Tower", the gang watches a video of a bodybuilder attempting a Dangerous Forbidden Technique. He slips up and suddenly explodes; the screen goes briefly to static, then a test pattern.
  • South Park, in the episode Death (Season 1, Episode 6). As Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny escape from the one and only grim reaper down a street, an episode of Terrance and Phillip airs on a TV store. The gang and Death then stop to watch. It then gets interrupted by a technical difficulties screen and an announcement saying "We interrupt this program to bring you loud static", followed by... well, that. This angers Death, who kills Kenny as a result.
  • Young Justice (2010)
    • A variation occurs in "Terror" during a mass breakout at Belle Reve—the monitors go all snowy because a villain with Super Strength rips a Sentry Gun off its pedestal and throws it through the wall into the control room with the monitors!
    • In the following episode "Homefront", Robin is reviewing security camera footage of an attack on Mount Justice to find out what happened, but every shot of the rest of the team ends in a snowy screen after Stuff Blowing Up.
      Robin: That's it—all four are dead. (horrified look from Artemis) I meant the cameras! I'm sure the others are OK...

    Real Life 
  • As often mentioned to students in science classes across the globe, while most of the static on snowy screens originates from radio waves produced on Earth, a sizeable chunk of it is the Cosmic Microwave Background, the echo of the Universe's epoch of recombination. In a sense, you aren't looking at a snowy screen of death per se; rather, you're looking at the ancient afterglow of the universe when it was much younger!
  • The switch from analog to digital looked like this. Doubles as an End of an Age of sorts.
  • This is becoming increasingly unlikely as technology marches on. To reduce the annoyance factor of static, most modern TVs are designed to show either a solid color or "No Signal" message if the signal cuts out. Of course, if you were watching something important (like a CCTV security camera), the switch to a blank screen would be just as shocking as the switch to static would have been.
  • Not a camera screen, but radar screens tend to do something very similar when sufficiently powerful jammers/ECM start coming online. Similar to the trope, unless the jammer is somehow knocked out, the radar emplacement is going to die very soon as a result of a bomb/anti-radiation missile down the feedhorn.

Alternative Title(s): Static Screen Of Death, Static Screen