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Split Screen

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Somehow, I don't think they're in the same city
Oftentimes, a director or writer will have a scene in mind, say a dialog, or a big event, where there's two or more important points he wants to get across at the same time, but unfortunately, are happening in two different places, or at such an angle that you can't get both at once. One solution is to just alternate between showing the two, while another is simply to use a Split Screen to show both at the same time.

This way, you have your cake and eat it too: You can have your explosion and the reactions to it all in one shot, or you can see both sides of a telephone conversation. Alternatively, you can use it to show only loosely related events that happen to be going on at the same time, such as in 24 or the Metal Gear Solid 4 example below.

It's also a very common device in multiplayer console video games, particularly first or third person shooters, allowing each player to get their own view. GoldenEye (1997) on the Nintendo 64 was one of the earlier and most successful implementations of this in a genre which, up to then, had relied mostly on linked systems for multiplayer.

See also: Split-Screen Reaction



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  • A staple of television from the Golden Age onward has been commercials where two consumers are shown in split-screen, one that uses the inferior Brand X and the other that uses the advertised product. At least as common is the parodied version where the actors are actually side by side on a set that is split vertically into two visually distinct halves to give the illusion of a split screen. Such a commercial often ends with the user of the advertised product handing it across the "split" to the other person.

    Anime & Manga 

    Fan Works 
  • Lampshaded, of course, in Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Movie. Kaiba leaps up on top of his dragon monster to give a speech, but Yami Yugi just shouts that he can't hear Kaiba at that distance. Once the split screen shows up, Kaiba asks "There, is this better?" to which Yami Yugi responds, "Oh, a split screen. Yeah, that's much better."

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 2007 movie The Tracey Fragments uses split screens to a nauseating degree in order to portray the fragmented memory and the mental instability of the title character. Every single scene in the hour-and-a-half movie is composed of split screens. And unlike conventional 24-style split screens, this movie's split screens seem manic and almost random, they come in all shapes and sizes, float in and out of the shot, cover and overlap each other, appear in the middle of each other, etc. In one particular shot, there are 14 screens on simultaneously, and for the majority of the film, there are always 2-4 on screen.
  • In Jackie Brown, split screen is used when Jackie (Pam Grier) steals a gun from Max's (Robert Forster) car in order to protect herself from Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson). The split screen shows that Max discovers that his gun is missing from the glove compartment at the same moment that Jackie uses it to threaten Ordell. Jim Smith's book Tarantino (Virgin Film Guides) describes this as "a non-gimmicky and entirely story appropriate use of split screen - which might be a first".
  • Tarantino uses it again in Kill Bill, showing the Bride lying unconscious in the hospital and Elle Driver heading to her room disguised as a nurse in order to kill her.
  • Ang Lee's Hulk went into split screen on several occasions in an attempt to mimic the style of the comic books the movie was based on.
  • Run Lola Run did these not only for Split-Screen Phone Call, but also to capture plot critical parallel actions. These also served as extended wipes, with Lola's split screen appearing from screen right, then later wiping all the way across to the left.
  • An entire movie, Wicked, Wicked (1973), was filmed in "Duo-Vision" (split screen).
  • Used brilliantly in Requiem for a Dream in a love scene between Marion and Harry.
  • The 1963 movie A New Kind of Love used vertical split-screen to underscore parallels between a fashion show (attended by the female lead) and a simultaneously happening burlesque show (attended by the male lead). Then it used horizontal split-screen to show in one frame the male lead peacefully sleeping, and in another frame, the female lead tossing and turning with frustration. The implications of Paul Newman being on the top (of the shot) have got to be purely intentional.
  • Used throughout the film Conversations with Other Women. One part of the screen usually shows the female lead, and the other the male lead (and sometimes other characters); the split screen is also sometimes used to show different periods. Only the last shot doesn't make use of a split screen, showing the two main characters together...even though we've been showed that they were apart. It's all very well-done though, and not gimmicky.
  • Lampshaded in Airplane II: The Sequel. When President Reagan is talking to the Commissioner, he says to go use this trope and it happens.
  • Director Brian De Palma uses split screens in many of his movies, including Sisters, Carrie, Phantom of the Paradise.
  • Used extensively in the documentary about Woodstock, in an effort to get as much of the action from the three-day festival onscreen as possible.
  • Suspense (1913), the possible Ur-Example, shows a wife attempting to call her husband while a tramp (in a third portion of the screen)is seen trying to break into the house.
  • Taken to a comical level of absurdity at the end of The Last Remake of Beau Geste, when Beau and Digby Geste do their Pinky Swear grip, over a distance of hundreds of miles, while cuddled up with their respective lovers - Digby and Isabel on the lawn of their Big Fancy House, and Beau and Flavia on the beach at the French Riviera.
  • Wildly experimental Soviet film Man with a Movie Camera uses this over and over again. Mismatched shots of trolley cars in the streets, a shot of a man lifting weights that cuts out the middle part of his body, a shot of a city square where the screen splits in two and the two sides rotate in opposite directions.
  • Used seamlessly in Dead Ringers to turn Jeremy Irons into identical twins.
  • In the whole movie Timecode, the screen is split into four parts, representing four 90-minute simultaneous takes.
  • Amateur short film Multiple SIDosis takes this to extremes, with twelve windows at once establishing the One-Man Band song, as performer Sid Leverents plays different instruments and provides background vocals.
  • The Storming the Castle scene in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), enabling the focus to remain on the subsequent Chase Scene between our heroes and the Big Bad.
  • Used several times in Napoléon, such as the pillow fight scene when the screen splits in nine, but most notably in the famous Triptych sequence.
  • A Place To Stand: This short film, a visual collage of life in 1967 Ontario, made heavy use of constantly shifting, changing split screens, sometimes fitting as many as 15 images on the screen. The film actually packs an hour and a half of footage into a 17-minute short. Besides the constantly shifting, irregularly shaped frames that make up the split screen, frames sometimes move around the screen. For example, a little frame showing a farmer on his tractor moves clear across the screen from left to right. Chapman's revolutionary use of split screen has been called the "Multi-dynamic image technique."
  • Down with Love uses this technique during a montage of Catcher Block ducking out of meeting up with Barbara Novak. One side of the screen shows Barbara waiting for him while Catcher is shown hooking up with a series of stewardesses. By the third one Barbara is so annoyed that the line dividing their screens is shaped like a lightning bolt. Later in the movie there's another split screen sequence where Catch, now pretending to be "Zip Martin", calls Barbara to arrange dinner. Their actions throughout the scene, combined with the alignment of the splitscreen, makes it look like they're having sex.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spooks and 24 both had this effect as a signature of their styles.
  • CSI: Miami has started using those for lab sequences.
  • Coupling and Malcolm in the Middle have both had episodes using this throughout, bar framing sequences at the beginning and end.
  • Sanctuary uses this quite frequently to compress sequences instead of using a montage. The split-screen method is somewhat similar to that used in Ang Lee's Hulk (mentioned above), which gives these sequences a (possibly unintentional) comic book vibe.
  • It was a recurring element in That '70s Show.
  • University Challenge sits the teams next to each other, but shows them one above the other in the broadcast via split-screen so both can be seen on screen at once (though from 1985-87 they were actually seated one on top of another). A few teams have played with this, such as an all-male team at the bottom who kept looking up at the all-female team on top as if they could see up their skirts, or a team at the top who threw paper balls from their desks which would "disappear" into thin air on TV. The Young Ones episode "Bambi" lampooned it by seating the teams one on top of another back when the real show was still using split-screen, which Vyvyan exploited by kicking the contestant's head below him.
  • Used on Top Gear, when two presenters (in separate cars) are on the phone to each other (if a Hard Cut from one to the other is not used instead)
  • The Amazing Race started using split screens in season 14 to segue between scenes.
  • The Price Is Right has a split screen that is very memorable among fans. From when the hour-long format became permanent in November 1975 to sometime in 1996, when a contestant spun the Showcase Showdown wheel, a split screen would show as the wheel slowed down with a headshot of the contestant inside of an arrow graphic that pointed to the wheel on the left side, and the wheel on the right.
    • During Game Show Marathon in June 2006, R. Brian DiPirro brought the arrow graphic back, but it wasn't a true split screen. It was an arrow-shaped picture-in-picture shot. When he became Price's permanent director in March 2009, he brought this shot back for bonus spins.
    • The split screen returned in November 2007, but it's just a generic one now. However, since Season 38 began, if there's a spinoff, they do a triple split, with the spinning contestant on the left, the wheel in the middle, and the contestant in the lead on the right.
  • Get Smart has screen split into three parts - see episode with an airplane in season 4.
  • The Modern Family episode "The Late Show" opens with a three-way split-screen
  • On the M*A*S*H episode, "There's Nothing Like A Nurse", Frank and Margaret have a phone conversation shown in split-screen.
  • Nine: Nine Time Travels is about a guy who acquires magic time-travel incense sticks, and uses them to go back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Each stick sends him back in time exactly 20 years, down to the minute, and for only 30 minutes, until the stick burns down and he travels forward exactly 20 years, down to the minute. Events in the present-day (2012-13) timeline often mirror the past (1992-93) timeline, with split screens used to show what is happening in the present along with what is happening 20 years in the past.
  • This has always been used during the "Speed-Up" round on Wheel of Fortune: contestants in the top half, puzzle on the bottom half (although early on, the reverse was true). Toss-Up puzzles use an identical split-screen, although they did not in their first season of use.
  • Parodied in Sledge Hammer!, when Hammer calls a pipe-smoking British cop for information; the cloud of smoke spills into the American half of the split screen from six thousand miles away note . This leads to Hammer and Doreau coughing and spluttering uncontrollably.
  • Supernatural. Used twice in "The Girl With The Dungeons And Dragons Tattoo" when Charlie Bradbury turns up for work, showing both her and the security guard watching her arrive. The first time, she's happily listening to the music on her headphones, the second time she's tense because she's infiltrating the Big Bad's office, so there's Sinister Surveillance involved in the security guard's attentions (it's also used to show Sam and Dean waiting in a van as Mission Control).
  • The 1975 revival of the game show You Don't Say! used a split screen when the celebrities gave clues and the contestants responding to them. Also effected in the bonus round with the contestants giving clues and the celebrities responding.
  • On Press Your Luck, when it was down to the final spin of the final player with spins still remaining, a split screen on the big board would show both that player and the player who would either be the winner if they whammied out, or who was in the lead if the player taking the spin wasn't in the lead. If they picked up an additional spin, then the split screen would continue into the next spin. Otherwise, the split screen would slide away to show only the contestant who had won. Also, the spinning contestant whammied, no whammy animation would be played; they would just clear away the split screen and go directly to the winner.

    Music Videos 
  • The video for Patti La Belle and Michael McDonald's duet "On My Own" is almost entirely split screen as the two singers are in different locations.
  • The concert sequences of the Joe Cocker concert film, Mad Dogs And Englishmen are split screen, with two or three different shots going on simultaneously.
  • The video for Luther Vandross' Any Love has a split screen section contrasting the singer's flamboyant adored stage presence with the lonely man behind the scenes. The song is sometimes interpreted as a hint that the singer was closeted, and the video can be seen as further evidence of this.
  • Semisonic's music video for their song 'Closing Time' is two continuous takes placed next to each other playing in split-screen.
  • Metallica's concert video, S&M2, makes use of the split screen on three songs.

    Puppet Shows 

  • The theatrical equivalent of this is "split scene", where two scenes are shown at once, sometimes with the spotlight alternating between the two.

    Theme Parks 
  • At Universal Studios:
    • The pre-shows for the defunct Earthquake: The Big One used three split screens to show the "destruction" of Los Angeles by an earthquake.
    • The former Twister...Ride it Out attraction used the split screen format entirely throughout its first pre-show, showing different scenes on each one.

    Video Games 
  • Almost goes without saying, but many multiplayer video games (particularly set-top games, which often lack networking capabilities) use a split screen.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 used this very well in two different scenes. The first occurs when you play Snake and fight off a horde of Gekkos, while Raiden keeps Vamp busy in a sword duel. While the Gekkos demand your full attention and you're unable to take more than a few peeks at Raiden's half of the screen, it works extremely well in evoking the feeling that you're playing the game with another player. A second instance occurs later in the game when Snake is crawling through the infamous microwave corridor. This time the controls are extremely simple which allows you to take a good look at the action in the upper half of the screen, which shows Snake's allies getting completely ripped apart while they are trying to buy him a minute or two more to reach his goal.
  • A rare example in Fahrenheit (a.k.a. Indigo Prophecy). Split screens were used usually whenever there was a scene where the main character had to do something quickly before a villain found them.
  • Along with this, Heavy Rain utilises these extensively (both games being made the same company), especially for tense scenes.
  • The bonus chapter of Cadenza 2: Kiss of Death uses one when a cop calls the chapter's main character to report an apparent kidnapping, again when the kidnap victim's mother mentions finding blood in his room and when the "victim" tells how he faked the kidnapping to get away from his criminal mother.
  • Cadenza 3: Havana Nights uses one when the Havana police enter Club Diamante while the falsely-accused main character is escaping from it.
  • The Love Boat uses one when Ronald shows up in a rowboat off Cabo San Lucas and asks Jenny to leave the ship.

    Web Comics 
  • Imitated in comics, like in this Loserz strip. (Although here, we're rather talking about panels.)

    Web Videos 
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, done twice with Billy/Horrible and Penny singing in duet. In "My Eyes", they were just on opposite sides of a convenient wall. "So They Say" uses a more conventional version of this.
  • The Music Video Show uses this every episode.

    Western Animation 
  • Cartoons often subvert this, especially the phone call variant, by having a character reach across the divide.
  • South Park did this in "Spookyfish", deliberately showing the split screen line between Cartman and Evil Cartman.
  • Yin Yang Yo! tends to use this for the twins' combat scenes so viewers can see what's happening to both of them at once.
  • Split screen is used in Danny Phantom episode "Identity Crisis" where Danny, having split himself—one fun, one super — goes about their given tasks at the same time.
  • The Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special has a sequence where Po and his father are working in the kitchen for the holidays where the screen is progressively diced into smaller squares like a vegetable until it is seemingly swept into the pot.
  • The Wander over Yonder episode "The Breakfast" uses a split screen to show how Wander (on the left hand side of the screen) and Lord Hater (on the right) go about their morning routines.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender utilises this for the main cast, with a combination of Split-Screen Reaction and Split-Screen Phone Call (For voice communications with each other). It makes sense, as it is a show with many scenes where they are piloting mechanical lions that can combine into a Humongous Mecha, and the use of split-screens is a good way to show the character's faces all at the same time. The animators like to have fun with this trope too, having the "Panels" slide into the scene at different times, sometimes with another one sliding in between them whenever a character who was previously quiet suddenly talks.
  • Used for dramatic effect in the Steven Universe-episode "Change Your Mind". When White Diamond pulls Steven's gem out of his stomach, the screen splits through the middle. One half shows the first-person perspective of the now gem-less Steven. The other is completely dark until the gem forms another, pink Steven, whose perspective takes up that half.


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