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Vertigo Effect

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Note the background.
Prolonging her plight as I go back to stabbin' her,
dismember her limbs, simple as that: Cadaver her,
zoom in with the lens, then pan back the camera
Eminem, "Music Box", demonstrating a potential use of this in a Slasher Movie

The camera lens zooms in on the subject, while the camera itself is physically moved away from it, or vice versa. This effectively changes the focal length of the lens without altering the image composition. This causes the image's depth information to either compress or stretch, making the image look like it's getting deeper or flatter. To put it another way, while the subject stays about the relative same size in the frame, objects in the foreground and background will appear to change in size and distance relative to each other (the foreground may get larger or stay the same size while the background shrinks, or the foreground may shrink while the background gets larger or stays the same size).

Goes by many names, including optical compression, tracking zoom, dolly zoom, Hitchcock zoom, contra-zoom, trombone shot, smash zoom and push-pull zoom.

Often used to tell the viewers that the character in the focus of the camera has just had an emotional shock, although it may not actually be shown on their face. Sometimes goes hand in hand with Oh, Crap!.

First used by Alfred Hitchcock in the movie Vertigo as an Impairment Shot to show the audience what the protagonist is experiencing every time his fear of heights kicks in. The opening scene can be seen here displaying the effect about 55 seconds in.

The effect can actually be repeated in real life. If one stands in a tunnel with the horizon in view and walks forward, the horizon will appear to move further away while the tunnel shrinks closer. This is due to mathematical laws governing Relative Velocity.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ghost in the Shell (1995) used this technique digitally in 1995, when it was hailed as a major advance in 3D animation.
  • In Digimon Adventure, this happens in episode 5, when Izzy deciphers on his laptop the code written in the walls of the factory's battery.
  • Used in the Mushishi episode "The Sleeping Mountain" when Ginko wakes up feeling that something is wrong.
  • In episode 62 of the One Piece anime, this shot is done with Nami when it appears Going Merry is going to crash into the island whale Laboon at the Grand Line exit of Reverse Mountain.
  • Used liberally in The Promised Neverland, among other Hitchcock conventions, to underscore almost every unsettling reveal. Considering how many shocks the series lays on its protagonists on a regular basis, it's no surprise.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Lion King, when Simba sees the wildebeest stampede charging right at him.
  • In Tangled there is a dolly zoom on Mother Gothel after Eugene cuts Rapunzel's magic hair with a mirror fragment, which leads to Gothel's death.
  • A Goofy Movie, when Max learns his father is taking him on vacation.
  • There are quite a few simulated trombone shots in the computer-generated Pixar movies, notably in The Incredibles.
  • Subtly used in How to Train Your Dragon, when Hiccup and Astrid see the Red Death for the first time.
  • Used in Kung Fu Panda 2 when Po and the Five see Master Thundering Rhino's hammer in the spot where he was killed.
  • Ratatouille:
    • A subtle version occurs when Remy watches an inspiring speech from Gusteau on a TV.
    • It happens again to start and finish Anton Ego's childhood Flash Back.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: This occurs when the Wolf makes himself known to Puss, particularly when Puss realizes that the Wolf is Death incarnate.
  • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted:
    • Used when Stefano is hanging from a cliff.
    • Another subtle version occurs when Chantel DuBois finds out that the animals rode away with the circus-train.
  • Used in Toy Story 4 when Woody gasps in horror after watching Forky jump out of the RV.
  • In Turning Red, when Mei tries not to look at her notebook she accidentally left on the floor this is combined with a darkening of the lighting of the scene. On the DVD Commentary, the director of photography, camera, Mahyar Abousaeedi, refers to it as "theatrical lighting when the camera zollies in".
  • This effect is used in Help! I'm a Fish, when Aunt Anna apparently steps on Fly and the reactions of his parents and Stella are shown.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Used by Peter Jackson in both The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (when Frodo senses the arrival of the Black Rider in the Shire) and The Return of the King (Frodo's first look into Shelob's lair).
  • Jackson later used it in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when Radagast encountered the Necromancer in Dol Guldur, emphasizing the otherworldly terror of this new entity's power.
  • Jaws, when Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) reacts on the beach to the Kintner boy being attacked by the shark.
  • The opening shot of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samouraï is a Vertigo Effect shot of a man lying down on his bed, smoking. Unlike most examples, however, the shot is jerky and uneven, representing the man's loneliness and mental instability.
  • Josie and the Pussycats (the movie), when Josie realises she's been brainwashed.
  • Used on a mailbox in How I Got Into College: it is the only memorable shot in one of the world's most forgettable films.
  • Brick, when Tug punches Brendan.
  • In Goodfellas this happens during a scene in which Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro are speaking in a diner. The shot happens so slowly that you don't consciously notice it, to show how paranoid the characters are getting at this point in the movie.
  • There's a remarkable one in Road to Perdition, where Jude Law's character first appears walking toward the camera underneath an L track. It takes about thirty-plus seconds of screen time, whereas the typical Vertigo shot is much more fast-moving.
  • A notable version of this happens in the movie Poltergeist during the ghost's assault on the family at the end of the film. The mother gets thrown out of the house at one point and then battles her way back in to save her children. As she's running down the hallway to the children's bedroom, a Vertigo Effect begins which soon turns into a full-blown special effect in which the hallway itself starts becoming stretched and distorted. The more the mother runs, the longer the hallway becomes and the further away she gets from her children's bedroom door. She eventually catches up to it by running at full speed.
  • Used in Wes Craven's New Nightmare when Heather goes answer the door, and sees two cops there.
  • The Mask: A huge, hilarious version is used to comic effect to show how Stanley and Charlie have their eyes glued on Tina.
  • Ghostbusters (1984) uses this for its 'weird feeling' effect in a shot of a doorway to the collapsed roof of the 55 Central Park West tower. The commentary track between the director, main actor, and director of photography addresses that they considered themselves to be pioneering the technique — Harold Ramis jokingly suggesting "Scorsese ripped you off!"
  • There's one on Ralph Fiennes inside the "soundproof" booth in Quiz Show, at a particularly anxious moment.
  • Used in The Return of the Living Dead, when Tina first sees the "tar man" zombie.
  • Used to the point of self-parody in The Quick and the Dead. A textbook-worthy example happens while Herod and The Kid (Father and Son) square off.
  • The French spy satire OSS 117: Lost in Rio steals not just the effect, but the entire staircase scene from Vertigo.
  • Night of the Creeps: When Detective Cameron tells the sorority girl to lock the doors.
  • In Apollo 13, Jim Lovell announces "Houston, we are venting something out into space"; we cut to Gene Krantz back in Mission Control, and use this effect to show just how dreadful this news is.
  • In Back to the Future Part II when Marty watches footage of his mother marrying Biff in 1985-A.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Used in the film Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders when Michael sees the evil monkey has returned to his house.
    Tom: My cabinets are flying away!
  • As well as Vertigo, Hitchcock used the effect very strikingly in Marnie to give the effect of a room shrinking and becoming claustrophobic.
  • Used in the Bollywood movie Rangeela ("Bollywood Dreams") — possibly as a nod to Spielberg, whom the in-movie director character admires.
  • Used in Paul just before O'Reilly fires his gun in the farmhouse.
  • Communion uses this effect to intensify the state of hypnotization and confusion in the main character.
  • Used prolifically in Evil Dead (2013).
  • Used in Shaun of the Dead when the zombies break through the barricade.
  • Used in Hugo during the first dream sequence.
  • In BrainDead, this is used in the shot of Lionel's face when he sees the hyperactive zombies pop out of the ground.
  • What About Bob?: One of these shots is used on Leo's face when Bob tells him he left the explosives in the house.
  • La Haine uses a dolly zoom effect half-way in. Watch it here.
  • In one total shot from The Stoning of Soraya M., where two men finish digging the hole for the stoning, the Vertigo Effect is being used.
  • In one of the courtroom scenes in i am sam, after the lawyer poses his Armor-Piercing Question to Annie, we see him go through this camera effect from the Annie's POV.
  • Used to convey a rather different effect than most examples, in Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness. As the Enterprise powers up its warp drive, a Vertigo Effect is seen from outside the ship, with the camera close enough that the Enterprise is in both the foreground and the background. This gives the impression that the ship is stretching as it accelerates past light speed.
  • Used subtly in The 'Burbs when a neighborhood of incompetent snoops in a crapsaccharine version of 1980s privileged suburbia are paranoid about their neighbors. Early shots of the Klopek house use this effect to get the viewer to immediately realize Tom Hanks' character Ray thinks something is just wrong about the place.
  • Used in the dream sequences in The Film of the Book Fahrenheit 451 to give the effect of running down a long corridor without ever getting nearer to the far end.
  • Flight of the Navigator uses this effect in a very clever way during the ship's transformation sequence to make it look like the interior of the ship is expanding around David.
  • In Pushing Tin, a dolly zoom is used when Nick learns that Russell changed his shift to be different from Nick's, meaning he might be having sex with Nick's wife while Nick is at work.
  • Used at the very end of Magic in the Water. Ashley thinks Orky the lake monster is dead, but she leaves some Oreos at the end of the dock for him anyway. The next morning, she finds that someone has eaten the filling but left the wafers, just like Orky used to. The effect is used when she screams in surprise.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Babylon 5 episode "Severed Dreams" features such a shot at a dramatic moment when a major character comes to a major realization: Sheridan discovers that the Earth Alliance is coming to seize control of the station.
  • FTL jumps in Battlestar Galactica (2003).
  • Used in an episode of Casualty many years ago when Brenda Fricker's character realises that she has told a girl's parents that she has survived an explosion when, in fact, there has been a mixup and she is actually dead.
  • There's a rare documentary example in David Attenborough's First Life. A piece to camera by Attenborough finishes by changing from a telephoto shot to wide angle simultaneous with the camera helicopter flying forward and ascending, causing the coastline on which Attenborough is standing to expand dramatically.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Unicorn and the Wasp": Lady Eddison gets a zoom-in on her in this fashion when she realizes that the reverend is the illegitimate child she gave up for adoption decades ago.
    • "The Eleventh Hour" has a scene shot from the Doctor's point of view, as he scans the Leadworth village green for inconsistencies. Eventually, he hones in on a disguised Prisoner Zero, whose background and shadow stretches out behind him in classic Vertigo style. Particularly odd example, as it's not shot conventionally — rather, it's a series of snapshots strung together.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Used in the season 1 episode "Betty Full of Turkey", when Lily finds out the typical size of an Eriksen newborn.
    • Used in the season 2 episode "Something Blue", when Barney thinks that Ted got Robin pregnant.
  • Used very effectively in Journeyman at a climactic point in the story arc. Dan has tried to convince his brother, Jack, that Dan and his supposedly dead ex-fiancée Livia have been moving through time. Jack doesn't believe him—until, across a room, he catches a glimpse of Livia, who's come to him in desperation because Dan is in great danger. Cue contra-zoom on Jack as he realizes all the implications of seeing Livia alive.
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle Lois inadvertently infects Malcolm with mononucleosis. As Malcolm is heading to the couch to lay down, Hal shoos him away saying he has to be quarantined from the healthy family members. Cue Malcolm looking down the hall towards Lois in her bed with the vertigo shot. It's definitely an Oh, Crap! moment for poor Malcolm.
  • Mr. Bean in Room 426 has one of these, when the title character realizes he's just consumed a bunch of rotten oysters.
  • Used in episode 7 of MythQuest during a Big "NO!".
  • Psych in their Hitchcock homage.
  • Squid Game: "The Man With The Umbrella" uses the vertigo effect to zoom in on Gi-hun's Thousand-Yard Stare after he realizes he's drawn the worst possible task in the Deadly Game. Around him are the other contestants and the upbeat background noise.
  • Used in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Aliens are affecting the crews' sleep, preventing them from getting real rest. At one point Captain Picard sees the turbolift ceiling experience the Vertigo Effect, showing how his perceptions are being affected.
  • In season 4 of Stargate Atlantis, this effect is used when Dr. Keller sees an alien bug bursting out of Teyla's abdomen, Alien-style, within a nightmare.
  • Used a lot in Top Gear with head-on shots of speeding cars.
  • Veronica Mars features one at the end of season 2, when Veronica figures out exactly what's going on.
  • To excellent effect in White Collar, to display Mozzie's extreme emotional distress on entering the federal building for the first time.
  • It is used in The Witcher (2019) before Ciri enters Brokilon Forest.
  • Young Sheldon: Used in "The Geezer Bus and a New Model for Education" when Sheldon is afraid to get in Mary's car.

  • Oddly enough, Stereolab's album Dots and Loops (specifically the 2019 remastered version) includes a written description of this trope in the liner notes. In Tim Gane's song-by-song commentary, he thinks the frequency-shifted drums in the intro of "Diagonals" sound like the audio equivalent of a dolly zoom, only he doesn't recall the name of the technique.
    Sounds like the audio equivalent of that strange camera technique where the person appears to be coming down a corridor towards you and moving back away from you at the same time. The Stanley Kubrick of effects.
  • Eminem's "Music Box" manages to pull this off in a song — as Eminem's Slasher Movie-inspired incarnation of Slim Shady murders a woman named Tabitha, he raps, "zoom in with the lens, then pan back the camera".

    Music Videos 
  • Ola Ray's reaction to Michael Jackson's zombie reveal in Michael Jackson's Thriller
  • A few instances show up in Kalafina's Magia video, along with Forced Perspective and Rack Focus (although the direction is so generally odd that everything might just be due to the director fiddling around).
  • A few instances in Serenity's The Chevalier video, with some shots on the lead singer Georg and also on the special guest, Aylin (lead singer of Sirenia)
  • Used in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Foil" video while ranting about Illuminati conspiracies.
  • The video for Faith No More's Last Cup Of Sorrow , being an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, uses it more than once.
  • In the first verse of Ninja Sex Party 's video for ''I Don't Know What We're Talking About, when Danny Sexbang suddenly realizes that he hasn't been paying attention anything his date has been saying.

    Video Games 
  • This effect is used to zoom in on Roman's horrified face when he and Niko get kidnapped in Grand Theft Auto IV.
  • Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 uses this effect to simulate a feeling of temporal displacement in scenes where time paradoxes can and will occur, going back and forth faster and faster as the paradox comes closer to happening, such as whenever the Soul Reaver's past and present versions of one another meet.
  • Instead of zooming in or out, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess uses this for its camera controls.
  • Rock Band likes these. Really, really likes them.
  • Done in a cutscene in the original Tomb Raider. Tomb Raider: Anniversary also uses this effect whenever Lara looks down while hanging from a ledge.
    • Used interestingly in a cutscene from a fan-made level: the camera enters a large room, then uses the Vertigo Effect before it begins to pan around, giving the impression that the room has doubled in size.
  • Used in the intro cinematic to Half-Life 2, when you first enter the train.
  • Used in one of the early hallways in Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
  • Used in Mass Effect when sprinting. Even if you're out of combat, i.e. you cannot sprint, holding the sprint button will cause this effect without actually making you go faster.
    • It also accompanies the Bullet Time effect (except when zoomed into a scope, for obvious reasons). In Mass Effect 2, this was mostly power-driven, but it occurs at several plot-mandated moments of Mass Effect 3, such as the final round of the Boss Battle on Rannoch, where the Reaper leeeeeans in and stares Shepard down, and it turns into a quickdraw contest between Shep's markerlight and the Reaper's Energy Weapon.
  • Used frequently in Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, as a bit of visual jargon representing the use of psychic powers.
  • Halo 3 does this whenever a Gravemind Moment occurs.
  • When you're infiltrating The Master's secret lair in the 2003 Hulk video game, the first tunnel you enter uses this zoom effect while you're walking through it.
  • Happens in Maria's section of Silent Hill 2, Born From a Wish, when she opens the door Ernest has been hiding behind during their talks and discovers no one's there and he's been dead all along.

    Web Animation 
  • One entry for the Internet Raytracing Competition uses this effect to show off how MC Escher's famous "Waterfall" print works.
  • Red vs. Blue was able to do this after switching to Halo 3, using the camera in theater mode. Previous games had a zoom feature, but it always switched to a scope of some kind. The camera in Halo 3's Theater mode zooms seamlessly (although very quickly, making it a bit hard to control). One of the first times it was used was in Part II of "Relocation", when Caboose sneaks up on Simmons.


    Web Videos 
  • In Echo Chamber, this combines with Oh, Crap! and Say My Name after Tom runs into his Psycho Ex-Girlfriend. Or it would, if that weren't an outtake.
  • Spoofed in the Shut Up & Sit Down review of Too Many Bones where Quinns gets a dolly zoom that looks like genuinely impressive video editing for a low-budget tabletop game review show... until it's revealed that this "dolly zoom" is just another person pushing and pulling his chair towards the camera.

    Western Animation 
  • The Vertigo shot (and quite a bit of Hitchcock's oeuvre) is parodied on an episode of Sylvester And Tweety Mysteries with Sylvester in the place of the main character, and since it's Looney Tunes, the shot is exaggerated to the point of hilarity.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • In one of many Hitchcock-inspired scenes, Batman gets hit with the Vertigo Effect while under the influence of Scarecrow's nerve toxin.
    • There's a episode that's actually called "Vertigo" that focuses on a gadget of some kind that can temporarily induce this effect in people's vision.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the segment "Hungry are the Damned" from the first "Treehouse of Horror", this kind of shot is used when Lisa first sees the flying saucer.
    • Also used in "Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily" when the social worker announces to Bart, Lisa, and Maggie that they're being taken to "a FOSTER HOOOOOOME!"
    • And on "Principal Charming", when Skinner climbs a bell tower, a shot directly lifted from Vertigo.
    • And in "Lisa's Substitute" when Lisa sees that Miss Hoover is back and Mr. Bergstrom is no longer teaching.
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror IX" segment "Hell Toupée", when the Snake-possessed Homer confronts Apu and says "I know you are, but what am I?" before killing him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • In the episode "Castle Mane-ia", Applejack and Rainbow Dash explore the old Castle of the Two Sisters. This shot is done on both of them when they think they see a ghost in one of the tapestries.
    • In the episode "Equestria Games", Spike first sees how big the crowd is at the stadium and the camera pushes in on him panicking.
    • In "Yakity-Sax", when Twilight drops the bombshell to Pinkie that they think she's not good at the yovidaphone and should give it up, there is a zoom on Pinkie Pie while the background is getting farther away.
  • South Park:
    • This shot is done in the episode "Pinkeye" on Kyle when he discovers Chef has turned into a zombie.
    • Also used in "1%" when Cartman sees his doll Clyde Frog nailed to a tree.
  • Occurs in the Gravity Falls episode "Not What He Seems" when Mabel sees an old news article about Grunkle Stan's faked death.
  • Mr. Hublot: Done with Mr. Hublot when he sees that his gigantic dog got a little too excited and completely trashed his living room.
  • American Dad!: This happens in "The One That Got Away", when Roger discovers that Sidney Huffman is actually one of his personas that has taken on a life of its own.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Used in "Boating School" when SpongeBob is about to take his driving test, and the track appears to get longer to show how nervous he is.
    • Used again in "Stuck on the Roof" when SpongeBob climbs up to the roof of the Krusty Krab, and he looks down over the roof edge which gets deeper and deeper to show just how high up he is and how nauseating and horrifying it seems.
  • Family Guy: Used in "Lethal Weapons" when Brian sees an swarm of New Yorkers descending on the town to watch the leaves change color.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, when Tony Stark exposes Obidiah Stane of hiring Ghost to steal the Iron Man blueprints to the Board of Directors of Stark International, he blurts out that his criminal days are over. When Stane remembers that Iron Man said those exact same words to him at a demonstration of the Iron Monger, causing him to realize that Tony is Iron Man, the camera digitally pulls back and zooms in on Stane’s face as he flashes back to that moment right after the Board removes Stane from his position of CEO.
  • An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It is a Stop Motion cartoon that is heavy on Medium Awareness, with an outer camera showing the whole plasticine set while the "main" cartoon takes place on a different camera's monitor in the center of the frame. Neil is the protagonist, an office drone who eventually starts figuring out that he's actually a plasticine figure in a stop-motion cartoon. As the realization hits home for him, the camera does a dolly zoom to show his horror and disorientation—but it also dollies back far enough to again show the entire plasticine set for the cartoon.
  • Bluey: In "Asparagus", Bluey's Big "NO!" when she sees Bingo eating the asparagus, which she had been using as a magic wand to subject the others to pretend Animorphism, has the camera simultaneously zoom in on her face and zoom the background further out.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Tracking Zoom, Optical Compression, Dolly Zoom, Vertigo Zoom


The Endless Hallway

In Diane's exhausted state, her children's bedroom door first appears to be miles away, then never seems to get any closer.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / VertigoEffect

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