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Split-Screen Phone Call

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Summary: Both people on a phone call are shown simultaneously.

Split Screen is one of those camera tricks that were never really popular... except for depicting people calling each other on the telephone, that is.

A common cartoon gag with this is where the shouting character's portion of screen expands and/or the timid character's portion shrinks. Very useful when the tide of the argument shifts, moving that diagonal back and forth showing who's in charge. It's also common for cartoon characters to reach across the screen split and directly interact with the person on the other end of the line. It is sometimes parodied when the split is removed and it is revealed that the characters are actually next to each other.

Even though there is nothing inherently comedic about this trick (and, when applied wisely, it can be a useful tool to portray two characters in an equal position with only the viewer deciding who to focus attention on, something not quite common outside of the theater. Plus, it eliminates the need for Repeating So the Audience Can Hear), it's rather hard to come by in any non-animated fiction that tries to take itself seriously.

It can extend to more than just two screens, thanks to things like three-way calling and call waiting.


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  • Frozen meal company Frosta in Germany subverted this in several TV adverts. QC from Frosta would phone remote (Greek or Spanish, eg.) cooks who offered their recipes, stressed the necessity for fresh ingredients (or in one case how good their food tastes) ... and then QC would reach over and grab the fresh food right off the table of the cook.

  • Happy Heroes: In Season 5 episode 1, Big M. calls Doctor H., and both are depicted on separate sides of a split screen.
  • In the Lamput episode "Arm Wrestling", Fat Doc calls the boss of the laboratory he works at with news that Lamput is pretending to be a trophy for an arm wrestling competition. The doc and the boss are seen on opposite sides of a split screen as this call is taking place.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In Flying Island: The Sky Adventure episode 8, Wolffy gets a call from Wolnie and explains to her how he plans to go about capturing the goats. The wolves are able to make physical contact with each other through the resulting split screen, with Wolffy also throwing cucumber slices right onto Wolnie and moving the split screen's border around a bit.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Martian Successor Nadesico features technology that can allow free-floating 'screens' to pop up just about anywhere, and it appears that the caller has some control over the size and positioning of their image, so multi-way conversations will often involve multiple screens literally jostling for attention, the winner being the character with the best 'Screen-Fu' (generally Ruri).
  • My Dress-Up Darling has a particularly heartwarming one between Gojo and Marin. The latter called the former and asked him to talk so she would calm down (she'd been watching a horror movie and was scared of falling asleep). The two talk for a bit until Gojo ends up falling asleep, and we're shown a split image of the two lying on their beds in front of their cellphone, before Marin says that she loves him.

    Comic Books 
  • Frequently used in comics, usually with a jagged diagonal gutter between two triangular panels. Sometimes the phone cords will be positioned to suggest the two receivers are directly connected to each other.

    Films — Animation 
  • Used for a brief moment in Lilo & Stitch while Lilo is on the phone with Cobra Bubbles.
    Lilo: Oh good, my dog found the chainsaw.
    Mr. Bubbles: Lilo! Don't hang—
  • Used twice in Shark Tale:
    • When Don Lino calls Oscar to tell him that he has sent his mob on him, Luca joins in, having misdialed while trying to order out.
      Oscar: [meekly] Hello?
      Lino: "Shut up?" "Shut up?!" You don't tell ME "shut up", I tell YOU "shut up!" [beeping is suddenly heard on the other line] Huh? Hello?
      Luca: Hi. How ya doin? I'll have a pie with everything on it: anchovies, meatballs, mushrooms—
      Lino: LUCA!
      Luca: Oh! Uh... Hi, Boss! What are you doin' workin' at the pizza joint?
      Lino: GET OFF THE PHONE!
      Luca: But I'm hungry! [hangs up]
      Lino: Ugh... My guys are comin' for ya, Sharkslayer! They're gonna tear you FIN FROM FIN! [slams the phone down, leaving Oscar frozen with horror]
    • Later Luca calls Oscar to tell him he has Angie and that he wants him to come to a sit-down.
  • Parodied in Sing when Buster calls Eddie on the phone. The split screen disappears when Buster compliments Eddie on his shirt, revealing that they're standing right next to each other.
  • In Turning Red, this is seen when Mei is on the phone with her mother during the panda hustle montage.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Splendor: Used in a phone conversation between the main character and his love interest in the film version.
  • Parodied in Austin Powers when a normal split-screen call keeps adding new elements until there are eight split-screens and the original caller has moved on to something else.
    General: And be sure to feed my goldfish.
    [fish flakes enter the goldfish's screen]
    General: Not too much.
    [a net takes some fish flakes away]
  • Barbie (2023): Aaron takes a phone call from an FBI agent in his square gray cubicle. The screen is then split, with half of the screen being the FBI agent talking on the phone in his own square cubicle.
  • In the French lesbian romance film Besties, video conversations via cellphones are rendered with a split screen.
  • Black Dynamite has the scene where the titular character's mother called him via phone in the middle of his training. The screen splits perfectly in half.
  • In BlacKkKlansman shows some phone calls scenes between the main character and the Big Bad like this, with each side having an opposing Dutch Angle.
  • The film version of Bye Bye Birdie naturally did a bit of this in "The Telephone Hour." The original Broadway production split the stage into over a dozen areas for that number.
  • Pillow Talk's use of this trope was parodied in Down with Love. The phone scene between Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger used the Split Screen in a rather interesting way to imply that they were directly interacting. Earlier in the film there's a montage of Ewan's character calling to cancel every time they're supposed to meet. By the final call the line dividing the screen is shaped like a bolt of lighting to show how annoyed Renee is about being stood up again.
  • A unique example in Five Star Final (1931). A distraught Nancy Townsend tries to call Hinchecliffe at the newspaper. But Hinchecliffe is on the line with Randall, so the screen shows Nancy in the middle as Hinchecliffe and Randall are on each side talking to each other. When Nancy gets bounced back and forth between the two of them, either the right side or the left side goes black.
  • Four's a Crowd: This happens when Bob's two girlfriends Lorri and Jean both call his office at the exact same time, and Bob tries to have two conversations at once with a phone in each hand.
  • Glass Onion: The opening phone call between the Disruptors is framed through a frequently-changing split screen configuration, since they're all in different locations and characters join in on the conversation randomly.
  • Milk: a split screen blossoms into multiple squares with simultaneous overlapping conversations to portray a network of political organizing.
  • Two times in When Harry Met Sally...:
    • Sally calls Harry one night and the two of them chat while watching "Casablanca". The split-screen is set up so that they're each in their own bedroom, in their own bed, but it looks like they're sharing a bed.
    • A three-way set-up has Jess and Marie in bed together when Harry calls Jess and Sally calls Marie. When Harry and Sally tell their respective friends that they had sex the night before, Jess and Marie turn to each other and say in unison, "They did it!"
  • The Incredible Jessica James: Both times Boone calls Jessica, she takes up the top half of the screen; he takes up the bottom.
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action has Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck do this when the former was planning to help the latter get his job back. And they even push one another.
  • One of the cell phone calls in Mean Girls splits the screen in five.
  • Also does the phone call in at the finish line hotel in Midnight Madness. Each team is on one of the four corners, and the gamesmaster caller is in the center.
  • Parodied in The Naked Gun 33 1/3. One end of the conversation is in a phone box, the other in an apartment. In the background, a hobo walks past the phone box only to cross the split screen line and find himself in the apartment, which he then proceeds to burgle.

  • Ruthless People has this trope twice between Carol and Chief Benton; first discussing to arrest Sam Stone and again after Sam was released from jail.
  • Used in Run Lola Run when Manny and Lola talk on the phone.

  • There's one of these in Snatch. The director's DVD commentary reveals that in order to cut costs the two sides of the phone conversation between Cousin Avi and Doug the Head were shot at separate times on the same physical piece of film - which is why the timing is slightly off.
  • Snatched has a text version. When Emily changes her Facebook relationship status to reflect that her boyfriend dumped her, Linda comments, "That son of a bitch." Their ensuing argument is shown using this technique.
  • A modernized version in Spider-Man: No Way Home: when MJ and Peter are talking to each other with their smartphones, we see a split screen... focused on the phones, thus showing both their faces on the other's respective screen.
  • Suspense (1913): The Ur-Example shows a wife in one part of the screen, telephoning her husband (in another part of the screen), while a tramp attempts to break into the house (in a third part of the screen).

  • Three Smart Girls: The camera shows Donna's and Judson's wedding rings. It zooms in for a closeup. The two circles are filled up by shots of Donna's mother and a reporter, as the former calls the latter to tell him about the impending wedding.
  • Train Man updates the trope to the early 21st century as Split-Screen Internet Chatting. Many scenes use a six-way split.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 does this a lot. According to the DVD extras for the first season, 24’s entire split-screen look was born of necessity when the editor realised the pilot involved a lot of phone calls. He was using a common computer editing setup that showed two separate takes running side-by-side and decided to apply that visual metaphor in the actual show.
  • Angel. Played for Laughs in The Teaser of "Provider". A Victim of the Week is being chased by an unseen monster, stumbles in the rain, finds himself clasping an Angel Investigations flyer, rushes to a phone booth and begins to dial frantically. We then Split Screen to Team Angel staring at the phone waiting for a call — only for the screen to split again to show a pizza parlor cook picking up the phone. Apparently the wrong number was printed on the flyer.

  • One Coupling episode did this with an answerphone. The entire episode was an object lesson on weird/cool stuff you can do with splitscreen.
  • Used briefly in the fourth-season opener of Criminal Minds, with Garcia hurried checking in on Prentiss, Morgan, and JJ in the aftermath of a car bomb.

  • The season 4 finale of Doctor Who has one: it's a video conference. It was a standard shot of a video screen that was, in turn, showing a Split Screen Phone Call.
  • This trope appears in one episode of Family Matters involving Steve, Laura, Maxine, Waldo, and Eddie.
  • Taken to extremes on Glee, during a conference call between all the members of the Glee club that are in on Finn's Baby Trap.
  • How I Met Your Mother uses this trope constantly and finds new ways to play with it. For example, one scene shows Lily talking to Marshall's mother and she hangs up. Marshall comes in, and they start talking about how they keep throwing away cookies that his mum sends them. Then they have floor sex. And split screen shot fades in, revealing that the phone was not hung up at all, and Mrs Eriksen was listening the whole time.
  • JAG: 8th season episode “Persian Gulf” used it in a dramatic moment, when Mac speaks to Al-Qaeda terrorist Sadik Fahd.
  • Strangely popular in Korean Dramas, which seem to like to use this trope even for routine phone conversations. Among the Korean dramas to use this effect are Evasive Inquiry Agency, Queen In Hyuns Man, Nine: Nine Time Travels, and The Slingshot.
    • Extracurricular uses this for the scenes where Gyu-ri, who has stolen the phone that Ji-soo uses for his prostitution business. She uses the pimp phone to call his regular phone and demand a blackmail payment.
  • Used frequently in Lizzie McGuire when there was a triple-split screen, and on one occasion, quadruple when Lizzie's brother tried to listen in.

  • The Middleman uses this a lot, to good effect.
  • Mimpi Metropolitan sometimes splits its screen during the early parts of a phone call before switching to the usual, unsplit screen.
    • Bambang and Melani's phone call in episode 40 starts out split with Bambang on the left side and Melani on the right, before switching to the regular back-and-forth phone call.
    • In episode 65, Alan's call with the people in Jakarta starts out split vertically, then horizontally, and then shown regularly for the rest of the call.
  • Used in the "Cheating" short shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which gave it a Bye Bye Birdie riff.

  • Our Miss Brooks: Used in the episode "Blind Date".
  • A character on Parker Lewis Can't Lose actually pressed a "Split Screen" button to trigger this effect in one episode.

  • Reboot (2022): The third episode ends with a phone call between Reed and Bree on opposite sides of a split-screen, before Bree hangs up and Reed's side of the screen disappears to reveal who she's in bed with.
  • The Roswell episode "I Married An Alien" is partly done as a Bewitched style sitcom; at one point there's a four-way split-screen as the real characters and the sitcom characters carry on separate phone conversations, until they get mixed up and start responding to the wrong conversation.

  • Seinfeld had a few of these, and sometimes played with the concept with call waiting.
  • In Sledge Hammer!, Hammer is taking a transatlantic call from Scotland Yard where the stolid British cop is smoking a pipe as he talks. Hammer realises a cloud of pipe smoke is crossing the split screen to his side of the call.
  • Used for perhaps the only time in the Star Trek franchise in the Star Trek: Discovery episode "Such Sweet Sorrow, part II" during a pre-battle confab between Discovery and Enterprise.
  • Commonly done on Top Gear when two presenters are in separate vehicles speaking to one another by radio or cell phone.
  • The X-Files did one split screen between Agents Mulder and Scully, and then their boss Skinner joined in, too. It is played for laughs. Both Mulder and Scully lie about what they do, and only Skinner unashamedly admits that he's taking a bubble bath, which is what Mulder and Scully are doing as well. They were pampered by a Hollywood production as there was a movie being made, based on their case and characters.

  • Old Master Q have various strips where the titular character have conversations on the phone in this manner. One of these involving Master Q's arch-enemy, Mr. Chiu, pulling a prank call on him actually have Master Q looking at the other side to see who's the caller.

  • The Hipgnosis sleeve for 10cc's How Dare You! album uses this trope.
  • Occurs in the music video for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper.
  • The John Mayer song "Split Screen Sadness" references this trope, where a girlfriend tells her boyfriend over the phone some bad news.

    Video Games 
  • Episode 4 of Ambition has one of these between Yale and Helen.
  • Whenever George makes a phone call in Broken Sword: The Shadows Of The Templars, the camera switches to screen. They gave it up in the sequels though.
  • Fork Parker's Crunch Out: Whenever Fork calls his wife, their phone conversations have her on the left, and him on the right.
  • Used when overhearing phone conversations in Ghost Trick. It's implied in-game that the protagonist, who has the ability to travel through phone lines, actually can see both ends of the conversation at once.
  • In Maggie's Movies: Camera Action when Maggie is on the phone with her grandfather they're shown in separate spotlight-type ovals.
  • Used in Mary Le Chef: Cooking Passion when Mary calls her parents.

    Web Animation 

  • N calls Black in episode 02 of Black Adventures, then reaches over the dividing line and drags Black into helping him save Hitler from the Allied Forces.
  • Exaggerated and Played for Laughs in Neglected Characters, which features one...and then all of a sudden, Pikachu joins in, followed by more and more people trying to listen in or somehow joining in the conversation by mistake, frustrating the people originally calling.
  • Waterworks: Urist McWorkman's radio conversation with his supervisor. At one point the supervisor does the classic gag of leaning across the jagged border to yell at Urist.

    Web Videos 
  • The Epic Phone Fail short by comedy group BriTANicK illustrates the dangers of answering a phone call when one is in a movie - and the unintended consequences for anyone stuck Behind the Black when you do.
    "Where was I? Where the hell did I go? Why was David Bowie there?"
  • "A Call To Arms", Chapter 1 of LG15: the resistance plays with this effect a lot (including a bit at the end where the two cameras meet).
  • Muppet Viral Videos: The Muppets' version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" ends with a many-way Split Screen of all the participating characters... which then pulls back to become Kermit's video-conference screen.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Jimmy gets several split-screens in a row in "Journey to the Center of Carl" when his classmates call to complain about the "sick patches" suddenly dissolving into their skin, leaving them permanently sick. The call is actually a conference call, but we only see one classmate at a time, as they take turns speaking. This ends with Jimmy visibly pushing the split-line off the screen with his hand; the phone call continues, but Jimmy is now the only one the audience can hear.
  • In Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr. Robotnik parodies this trope in a way that has to be seen to be believed.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In the episode "The Spoiler", several character connect to Gumball's phone call in order to attempt to spoil the movie to him. Just two characters are seen first, but when Darwin gets added to the call, everyone else gets shortly added.
  • Klaus from American Dad! becomes a lineman for an episode and opens a conference call from a telephone pole to talk to the Smiths about it. Stan doesn't care and immediately hangs up, but Klaus presses a button that brings him back on, to Stan's confusion since it somehow made him pick the phone back up.
  • Taken to extremes in one 1999 Arthur episode, where there was a 4×4 split! Each of the 16 screens also faded to black as that caller hung up. When Binky Barnes ended up being the last guy talking, some Hilarity Ensued™.

  • Big City Greens gives us shorts called "Random Rings", where Cricket (and sometimes Tilly) would deliver prank calls to a random store or business with little to no success.

  • Used in the Ed Eddn Eddy episode "3 Squares and an Ed" after the three are grounded for trying to break Ed out of his grounding, using a three-way Tin-Can Telephone system, which backfires when they get repeatedly slammed into the wall by Sarah and Jimmy yanking on the strings connecting them.

  • Shows up on The Fairly OddParents!. The first time it does, it's used to lampshade TV Telephone Etiquette.

  • Since The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is Denser and Wackier than its source material, this shows up in one scene. When Beasto accidentally reveals that he's only saving Velvet von Black for the chance to get laid, Suzi X reaches over and gives him a mean slap for being so selfish.
    Suzi X: Did you just say "your lady"? [smack] I knew this was about pussy!

  • Shows up commonly on Jimmy Two-Shoes.

  • Kaeloo: In Episode 128, this happens between Kaeloo and Stumpy. When Kaeloo gets angry, she steps into the other side of the split, yells at Stumpy in person and then storms off.

  • An episode of The Legend of Korra has Varrick describing what Bolin's own mover would be like: Amon, Unalaq, Vaatu, and Zaheer doing a Villain Team-Up on Bolin. During the flashbacks, Vaatu, Zaheer, and Amon have a casual chat together on defeating Bolin while keeping Unalaq out of the talk.
  • Happens briefly in The Loud House, when Lincoln loses his sister's bike.

  • The Merrie Melodies cartoon The Bear's Tale has a split screen phone call scene between Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks who are both using payphones. It was a cartoon made by the Texan. And he really loved this trope. See for example Thugs With Dirty Mugs.

  • Done at least twice with Candace and Jeremy on Phineas and Ferb.
    • Also during the episode when the gang is at their respective homes sick, their conversation is done this way.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins and Him affect this in "Telephonies."

  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "The Plant From Bortron 7", Jet has one with Carrot and Celery. This also happens in "A Visit From Uncle Zucchini".
  • One episode of The Replacements had Todd and Riley both on the phone with Conrad Fleem, only for them to start fighting, tilting the split-screen and forcing Mr. Daring to try and urge Mr. Fleem (whose chair began sliding around) to "save yourself!"
  • Rocko's Modern Life once had the screen divide into a progressively larger number of subsections as more people joined in the call. By the time Rocko picked up the phone, he found himself greeted by enough people to fill a 4X4 grid.

  • The Simpsons:
    • It had a scene with tons of little screens as rumours spread about Michael Jackson coming to Springfield in "Stark Raving Dad".
    • In "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife", the whole town's worth split screens appear when there is a piece of gossip about Marge being attracted to Ned Flanders, when she published a novel that seemed to have characters based on her, Homer and Ned.
    • The episode "24 Minutes", a parody of 24, features many split screens. Martin even hurts himself when he manually closes his split screen.
  • Used all the time in Six Teen.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants also did the parody version with SpongeBob and Patrick.
    • Done again in another episode with SpongeBob and Sandy, the latter leans up to SpongeBob's side to yell at him.
  • Super Mario World did the parody version with Yoshi and Oogtar. ("Yoshi hear Oogtar too good! Who need telephone?")

  • Tiny Toon Adventures played with this and added a side helping of Fourth Wall Breaking. After Babs steps on some toes with her impersonations of her friends, Shirley and Fifi are talking on the phone in a split screen when Plucky calls Shirley on her other line, leading to a three way split; then Dizzy calls Plucky, and Calamity calls Dizzy, leaving the screen cut into five pieces. Fifi says they need to do something since they are now cramped inside these small slivers of the screen.

  • The Zeke's Pad episode "King of the Pad" uses this, including having the receiver bang his head on the barrier between him and the caller.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):


Korra Villain Phonecall

Varrick's Mover pitch has Korra's worst enemies, Zaheer, Vaatu, a zombified Amon and the Evil mover version of Unalaq teaming up to take down Bolin, after a phone conference together.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / SplitScreenPhoneCall

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