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Staggered Zoom

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"Personal space, Dave..."

Instead of a standard zoom, use three or more shots, varying in distance but focused on the same point, cut together rapidly. Commonly used for shock value. Each cut is often accompanied by a sting.

Common subjects are corpses and monsters, but it is not exclusively a horror technique. Also commonly used when someone is saying something Punctuated! For! Emphasis!; the camera will cut closer to the character's face with each word.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This technique is used twice in the fourth opening theme of Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), in time with the music, to focus on two of the villains. A rare effect to see, but catchy nonetheless.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry does this many times to unbelievable effect.
  • This is done on Koro-Sensei in the first opening of Assassination Classroom.
  • The effect is used in the anime adaptation of Fist of the North Star, on a shocked expression of Rei when he learns that Mamiya was abducted by his old rival Yuda in the past.

    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in a short history of Mortadelo y Filemón, where they have to resolve a case on a TV studio. Mortadelo removes the safety lock of a crane that has a TV camera mounted on it while recording a news program, and as the latter falls over the television host we see his horrified face being zoomed on the camera's screen followed by a "CRASH!" and static.
  • The Punisher MAX: "Mother Russia" features Frank methodically and silently beating a man to death against a wall, the "camera" cutting ever closer to his eye (said man having demonstrated he Would Hurt a Child in front of Frank).

    Films — Animation 
  • In Up this is how we find out that Carl's house is now surrounded by a massive construction project.
  • Done in The Brave Little Toaster just before the Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Done for laughs in The Emperor's New Groove, where Kronk is holding the unconscious emperor over a waterfall, where the camera zooms out and out and out... until finally the waterfall isn't even visible, and the focus is on a monkey eating a bug.
    Narrator Kuzco: Uh, what's with the chimp and the bug? Can we get back to me?
  • Seen in The Great Mouse Detective right when Ratigan finally snaps and has a Villainous Breakdown inside Big Ben, cutting into his eyes starting to become wild.
  • Done near the end of the song "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid.
  • Also done near the start of "Savages (Part 2)" in Pocahontas, focusing in on the marching, armored form of Ratcliffe.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks: The "Under Our Spell" sequence starts with one centered on Adagio's mouth.
  • In Turning Red, the scene where Mei recognizes her mother as the giant red panda that crashes the 4*Town concert starts with a wide shot of the crowd, then zooms in to a narrower shot of the crowd and finally cuts to Mei and her friends' shocked expressions.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Death of a Cyclist: Two staggered zooms are intercut with each other. There's a staggered zoom in on the headline "MUERTE DE UN CICLISTA" that zooms in to the word "MUERTE", intercut with a staggered zoom into Juan's face as he reads, ending with a closeup of his eyes.
  • The introduction of Boris Karloff's Monster in Frankenstein (1931) is done as three cuts rather than a zoom.
  • The Idiot: Akira Kurosawa does this as Akama watches Kameda walk away through the peephole in a door, zooming in on Akama's eyes. It's a striking moment, as Akama is a Crazy Jealous Guy, Kameda is going to talk with the woman Akama wants, and Akama's eyes are filled with homicidal rage.
  • Used by Quentin Tarantino in the first Kill Bill movie, when O-Ren Ishii and her bodyguards enter the restaurant.
  • Director Sogo Ishii, of Gojoe is very fond of this. He often does it in reverse: extreme close-up, close-up, medium shot, long shot.
  • A similar effect is used for the discovery of a dead farmer in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963).
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) used this as the camera zooms out past the Vogon ships at the beginning. Fifty-five times.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off uses this in the infamous museum scene of Cameron staring at A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
  • The introduction of Daniel Day-Lewis' character Bill "The Butcher" Cutting in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York follows this trope to a T. The overall effect is heightened by the addition of both a badass longcoat and an American eagle patterned glass eye.
  • Used in Casino Royale (2006) at the start of the airport chase sequence.
  • In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan this is used to pull back from the Reliant just before the Genesis Device detonates.
  • Pictured above: in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick combines this with Quieter Than Silence when the camera zooms in on HAL 9000's eye on the front of the space pod that he kills Frank Poole with, and the sound of Frank's breathing cuts off abruptly.
  • Steven Spielberg rarely uses this technique, but a notable exception occurs near the end of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial with the staggered zoom on Elliott's face, synched to the music, as he's about to hit the police roadblock. Spielberg was able to do this because he agreed to let John Williams record the score for the film's finale first, then edited the footage to fit.
  • West Side Story does this, starting from an aerial view of most or all of New York City and cutting closer and closer in a series of jumps until it finally gets down to a single neighborhood of just a few blocks before the film cuts to street level. No stings in this one; it's eerily silent until the final cut when Jet Song starts.
  • Children of the Corn:
    • Used in the fourth film when June is running away from her house, and turns back to look at it. A staggered zoom then shows a scythe breaking through a window on her front door.
    • When Jamie sees one of the ghost children in the seventh film skipping in the asphalt in the middle of the night, the camera does a staggered zoom on the kid's face.
  • Friday the 13th
    • Used in Jason Lives when Jason puts on his mask, and we get a closeup on his one good eye just before the title screen.
    • A staggered zoom is used on Jason in The New Blood when the Final Girl Tina finally comes face to face with him.
    • When Rennie tries to run down Jason with car in Jason Takes Manhattan, a POV shot accompanied with a staggered zoom shows that she is once again seeing a vision of younger Jason.
    • Used on Diana's eyes in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday when she sees Jason's reflection from a mirror.
  • The chilling last shot of Greed, where the film zooms out to show McTeague handcuffed to a corpse in the middle of a desert.
  • A staggered zoom onto Opanas's face in Earth, right before he says "there ain't no God" and turns the Orthodox priest away from his home, the morning after his son Vasyl's murder.
  • Only Old Men Are Going to Battle: As the men of the fighter pilot squadron sing and relax in the mess hall, there is a cut to one of their planes being made ready for combat. There is then a staggered zoom out from the plane, emphasizing the mortal danger that awaits them.
  • Dames: One shot features a single chorus girl in the far distance on a bare stage. Four staggered zoom cuts take us to a closeup of her face. A conventional zoom out reveals her to be just one part of a huge chorus.
  • Elf uses one the first time Buddy sees Jovie - the staggered zoom focuses on her face as she puts the finishing touches on a Christmas tree in Gimbels Department Store.
  • Mon oncle d'Amérique: The final sequence shows a series of shots of grim urban blight, then shows an elaborate mural on the side of a building, a painting of a lush green forest. Then the camera goes into a closeup via a series of Staggered Zooms to show that the mural of the forest looks like meaningless blotches of paint when examined close up.
  • War and Peace uses this for the first shot of Natasha, the central female character in the story.
  • Ecstasy: Five cuts in a row zoom us in to Adam's window, as Eva approaches with sex on her mind.
  • Yesterday: A staggered zoom out from Yesterday and the doctor at the clinic, when Yesterday finds out the result of her blood test. She has AIDS.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 uses a staggered zoom out during the last few seconds of the bomb's countdown before it blows up Ego's brain/core.
  • In The Day After, this technique is used to pull back from Kansas City just before it is struck by an EMP from a warhead detonating high above. An additional effective touch is that the sound of the city's blaring air-raid sirens abruptly cuts off during one of the jumps.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Avengers: Combined with the use of Dutch Angles at the start of "Return of the Cybernauts", when one of the eponymous robots smashes its way into a victim's home.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Onto Holt in Season 4 premiere "Coral Palms Part 1", when he realizes that if they don't investigate the case they might be left indefinitely in witness protection in the worst place on earth, Florida.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Caves of Androzani", when the Doctor decides to confront one of Jek's androids to see if it'll differentiate between human and Time Lord physiology, the shot transitions to the android's point of view via a staggered zoom into the giant lens on its face.
    • Parodied in "The Eleventh Hour". The camera shows the things the Doctor is focusing on, but because he's still suffering from regeneration sickness, he focuses on a lot of unimportant things before noticing the important plot detail.
  • Famously used in the intro to Hawaii Five-O.
  • It's Okay to Not Be Okay: Sang-tae is finally able to explain his fear of butterflies in episode 12, telling Gang-tae that their mom was killed by someone wearing a distinctive butterfly brooch. Cut to Gang-tae remembering the photo of Moon-young's family that he discovered earlier, and a Staggered Zoom onto the distinctive butterfly brooch that Moon-young's mother was wearing in the photo. Gang-tae comes to the extremely disturbing conclusion that the person who murdered his mother was his girlfriend's mother.
  • Part of NCIS' Signature Style.
  • Kodoku no Gurume has a trademark three shots that zoom outward to indicate when the main character becomes hungry Once per Episode, though sometimes it continues zooming out to highlight its comedic absurdity.

    Music Videos 
  • In Pepe Deluxé's "Super Sonic Sound System" video, every time the spokeswoman says the words, "Super! Sonic! Sound! System!", the camera zooms closer to her lips with each word.
  • Used in Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" video when Dave Gahan sings "Reach out and touch faith".

    Video Games 
  • Eternal Darkness uses this early on when the heroine encounters her own dead body in a bathtub. Each cut only lasts a few frames, followed by a screamer.
  • Used in a trailer for Mass Effect 2, in order to show the relative size of the spaceship Shepard is viewing.
  • Used twice in Guacamelee!! First, a staggered zoom-out as the luchador flies into the gigantic Ominous Floating Castle to show that, holy crap, the thing means business. And then, a staggered zoom-in on the luchador himself during his Big Heroic Run towards the Final Boss to show that he means business.
  • Done in comic form in the "President Madagascar" strip, a Memetic Mutation of the flash game Pandemic II where the game can become Unwinnable if Madagascar closes its only seaport.
  • Used in Paper Mario whenever Gourmet Guy eats something really good. It starts with this, and then the camera spins around, and then it cuts to Gourmet Guy running and flying around the room.
  • Used a couple of times in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, allowing the player to get a good look at a villain when they'd otherwise be too far away.
  • Happens in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, when Link finally confronts Ganondorf: upon entering the room, Link immediately sees Zelda in the crystal Ganondorf captured her in, and the camera zooms in on her.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the cutscene introducing the Hidden Village ends on 3 dramatic shots of the door where Impaz is hiding before the music and gameplay begin in earnest.

  • Used here in Ears for Elves to show Tanna's feelings of being worthless because she can't shoot well and her sadness about being alone. Due to the medium, the speed of the cuts can't be shown, but the placement of the three panels on the page is equivalent.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • The ending of "The Remote" in The Amazing World of Gumball.
    "Daisy. Daisy... Daisy! Daisy!!! DAISY!!!"
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: In "Bullies", this is used to visualize Jackie, Jade, and Valmont's Berserk Buttons being pushed.
  • Used a few times in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Dragonshy", zooming out from the mountaintop cave as Fluttershy explains her objection to facing a fully-grown dragon, each jump punctuating the list of things she finds terrifying about them.
    • In "Lesson Zero", we get a staggered zoom in on Rarity whenever she decries something as "The. Worst. Possible. Thing!" After the third time (when Twilight has to go face Princess Celestia), we get a normal zoom out afterward, with Rarity meekly stating "I really mean it this time!"
    • In "May the Best Pet Win", when Rainbow Dash announces the final contest will be a race through Ghastly Gorge, the camera pulls back to reveal the hazard-filled canyon. She even provides the sting sounds herself.
    • In "The Last Roundup", the camera zooms in on Pinkie Pie when the other girls decide to "bring out the big guns" (i.e. use her Motor Mouth tendencies to get Applejack to open up about why she ran away from home).
  • Done on one of Angelica's eyes at the end of the Rugrats episode "Angelica Breaks a Leg", accompanied by the sound of Charlotte's call buzzer repeatedly sounding, until Angelica's pupil fills the screen with black with one final long buzz.
  • Happens in the Rocko's Modern Life Halloween Episode "Sugar Frosted Frights", after Rocko and Heffer remove the sheet Filburt is hiding under and he appears headless (he's actually hiding it under his shell.)
  • The Simpsons:
    • Used in the end of the episode "Bart vs. Australia", when we are shown one stowaway Koala clinging on a helicopter.
    • Also happens in "Krusty Gets Busted" when Bart figures out that Sideshow Bob framed Krusty.
    • Used in "The Old Man and the Key", with the camera cutting closer to Homer's mouth as he tells Grampa he's "Never! Driving! Again! EVER!"
    • In "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", Bart and Lisa get trapped in the Air Force base; Marge comforts herself with the thought that at least Bart is wearing clean underwear. Cue a dramatic sting and staggered zoom through his bedroom window to his briefs, still on his bed.
    • At the end of Season 7 premiere "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part two ", Maggie is revealed to be the shooter, obviously by accident—but the episode ends with a Scare Chord and a staggered zoom into Maggie's face as her eyes dart back and forth.
    • In "22 Short Films About Springfield", this happens to Superintendent Chalmers after he sees Principal Skinner's kitchen has been set on fire, and questions the latter's claim that it's actually Aurora Borealis in there.
      Chalmers: AURORA BOREALIS!? At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen?
  • The Smurfs: In "The Kaplowey Scroll", Grouchy becomes the victim of one of Jokey's exploding packages, and the camera cuts closer to his face just before he angrily curses "Kaplowey!" and makes Jokey vanish.
  • Happens in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Wet Painters" when SpongeBob sees a tiny spot of paint on Mr. Krabs' first dollar.
  • Steven Universe: "Keystone Motel" has a staggered zoom on Garnet's seemingly stoic face to illustrate that she's still furious over Pearl's actions in the previous episode, "Cry For Help".
  • Seen in the Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production episode "Hareplane Mode" when Yosemite Sam sees that a hair has gotten onto his smartphone screen.
  • South Park: In "Where My Country Gone?", Mr. Garrison is sent to a Canadian language class as punishment for an anti-Canadian outburst at school. As the class is being instructed on the Canadian alphabet, the camera zooms into his rage-filled expression while eerie music plays, showing that President Garrison had been born.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Three Cut Zoom


Edric Blight

When Amity reunites with her siblings and finds Edric encased in plaster cast, Emira explains that Ed ended up falling into an empty well while running away from the Collector's spies.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / AmusingInjuries

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