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Split Screen

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Oftentimes, a director or writer will have a scene in mind, say a dialog, or a big event, where there are 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.

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 that, up to then, had relied mostly on linked systems for multiplayer.

Super-Trope of Split-Screen Reaction and Split-Screen Phone Call. Contrast Half Empty Two Shot, a two-character shot where one character is conspicuously absent.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Fan Works 
  • Lampshaded 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 
  • In Turning Red, this is used during the panda hustle montage to indicate increasing success in raising money going from close up shots of Miriam receiving money and handing over merch to a split screen shot of Abby and Priya handing over merch to a quad split screen shot of all four girls receiving money at the same time.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Carrie (1976): the climatic prom scene, when the humiliated protagonist unleashes her psychic power and massacres everyone there.
  • 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 steals a gun from Max's car in order to protect herself from Ordell. 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 describes this as "a non-gimmicky and entirely story appropriate use of split screen - which might be a first".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lampshaded in Airplane II: The Sequel. When President Reagan is talking to the Commissioner, he says to go bring in a split screen and it happens.
  • 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.
  • Poison (2023): The screen is halved as Woods narrates Dr. Ganderbai injecting Harry with the serum, with Woods' narration on the right and the camera cutting between the doctor and Harry on the left. The same technique is used when Ganderbai breaks out the chloroform, but this time Woods on the left is flashing back to being treated for an injury in a hospital.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gladiators (2024): Contenders are introduced with a split screen montage showing their life and skills (sometimes including a Training Montage as well).
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): "Is My Very Nature That of a Devil" features a brief split screen where the left side is Lestat de Lioncourt playing the piano onstage at the Azalea, while the right side is Louis de Pointe du Lac watching him from where he's seated among the audience.
  • On the M*A*S*H episode, "There's Nothing Like A Nurse", Frank and Margaret have a phone conversation shown in split-screen.
  • The Modern Family episode "The Late Show" opens with a three-way 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.
  • 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, if the spinning contestant whammied, no whammy animation would be played; they would just clear away the split screen and go directly to the winner.
  • The Price Is Right
    • 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.
  • Run On uses a long split screen in its pilot episode to show the contrasting levels of order in each main character's life.
  • 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. 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).
  • Trial and Retribution is a rare show that uses split screen throughout the entire series, showing different characters during the same scene. It was less frequently used as time went on, but remained in use throughout.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Young Ones episode "Bambi" lampooned University Challenge's use of split screens by seating the teams one on top of another, which Vyvyan exploited by kicking the contestant's head below him.

    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.

    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 
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots:
    • One part of the game has the screen split between Snake fighting 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 evokes the feeling that you're playing the game with another player.
    • When Snake is crawling through the microwave corridor, the screen is split between him and his allies. 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Used for dramatic effect in the fourth season premiere of Infinity Train to drive home how the lives of season's protagonists, Min-Gi and Ryan, drift apart, with the former focusing on entering college to please his parents while the latter unsuccessfully trying to become a rock star. Eventually it becomes one screen again as they reconnect in the present.
  • South Park did this in "Spookyfish", deliberately showing the split screen line between Cartman and Evil Cartman.
  • 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. 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.
  • Work It Out Wombats!: A split screen is used in the episode "Me Time" when Malik and Zadie go their separate ways to do their 'Me Time.'


Video Example(s):


Good Morning, Hobbs and Shaw

The contrasting and respective morning routines of Luke Hobbes and Deckard Shaw are shown via split-screen.

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