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The Dolly Zoom: More Than A Cheap Trick

The Dolly Zoom: More Than A Cheap Trick


The Dolly Zoom is one of the most disorienting and flashy camera techniques of all time And it shows up in some of the most beloved scenes in cinematic history. It’s famous for its bizarre look but the shot also teaches us a lot about filmmaking. It shows the different kind of lenses and how to use them, it enhances the emotion of a scene and It can be used in subtle places you may not have even noticed. Let’s see how. The Dolly Zoom, or sometimes called ‘The Vertigo Effect’, started in Hitchcock’s film Vertigo in 1958. You need a smooth track and steady zoom to pull it off nicely, which is why it wasn’t developed sooner. The Shot is essentially an optical illusion caused by zooming in or out on the camera lens while tracking the camera forwards or backwards. The result is the foreground stays in the same position while the background appears to squeeze or stretch depending on which direction you go. It actually teaches an important principle of filming. Camera lens. If you ever wanted to see the difference between wide-angle and telephoto lenses, a simplified example would be to observe a dolly zoom. Compare how it begins to how it ends, the dolly zoom shot can start like a telephoto lens, where the camera is far away and the focal length is bigger There’s less background in sight Because the lens concentrates on a smaller portion of it. But when you change focal lens by zooming out while also pushing the camera forward, you can observe more of the background while keeping the foreground in the same place. The result is filming the same thing but the camera expands to see more of the background. The change in focal length takes in a wider area so you go from a telephoto shot to A wide-angle shot. You generally use telephoto in close-ups to keep attention on the foreground. When you move the camera around while using a telephoto lens, the background whips quickly behind the foreground because the camera takes in less of the background. It makes for some pretty cool shots. People also tend to look better in telephoto because their faces aren’t stretched by the wider lens wide-angle takes in more of the background, so it’s better for outdoor shots when you want to capture the Landscape. So each lens is a trade-off. The dolly-zoom captures the transition from one kind of lens shot to the other and it leads to different emotional responses for the viewer. Vertigo uses a dolly zoom to give a sense of height. This increase in height perfectly embodies how the telephoto has a more narrow view of the background, so we go from capturing a lot of the background to capturing very little. The result is a dizzying optical illusion. The shot is unsettling, even a little bit nauseating for some, because it’s physically impossible to experience without some kind of lens alteration. In Goodfellas, the diner scene becomes all the more confusing as the landscape shifts around them in impossible ways, just as Henry’s world is crushing and his paranoia grows, the impossible movement of the diner shows just how disoriented he feels. The zoom makes the world literally close in around him as getting caught seems almost inevitable. As I mentioned before, the wide-angle lens makes people look A bit off. With the famous dolly zoom in Jaws, the shot shifts to a wide-angle look, which makes his face look just a bit more stretched and unnatural, and it unconsciously adds to the rest of the freakiness of the shot. Those three examples, Vertigo, Jaws and Goodfellas are the Go-To examples Whenever Anybody Mentions the Dolly Zoom. The problem is that when teaching the shot, the examples usually stop there which is a shame, because it makes the shot seem like a one-off effect for legendary movies. But it’s actually a lot more versatile in common than that. Its out-of-this-world visual look makes it commonly used for the supernatural, or the feeling of a drug trip. I particularly enjoy its use in The Lord of the Rings, because the widening of the holes in the trees gives the visual feeling that the forest is opening up a portal for the enemy to come. It’s almost always used at a movie’s most climactic epic moment. So if your hero fails, it adds to the punchline. Shaun: Sorry, we’re closed! The shot has even found its way into animation. Brad Bird uses it extensively in his films. The food critic flashback gets enhanced with a dolly zoom effect to simulate the transportation from one world to another. Animation, particularly computer-generated, has a distinct opportunity to use the photo in interesting ways because of animation’s complete control of object placement. As Remy relates to Chef Gusto the dolly zoom is no longer used to disorient the viewer, but to show them get physically closer together, indicating a relationship is born. The Incredibles has a seemingly impossible dolly scene as Mrs Incredible gets closer to the temptation. Both instances are non-disruptive, but also draw our attention to certain parts of the shot with its trademark squeezing effect. The dolly zoom is certainly a fantastical shot at the disposal of the filmmaker, but remember it’s more than just a cheap trick. Alfred Hitchcock used it for depth, Scorsese used it to show paranoia, and Brad Bird used it for visual cues. So be on the lookout for it. Thanks for Watching What are you staring at, fucker?

100 thoughts on “The Dolly Zoom: More Than A Cheap Trick

  1. I always loved that effect and knew how it worked (have done that myself with cameras all my life), but never knew it was called dolly zoom. I think my favorite example in film is in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, when Frodo and Co. try to hide the first time from a Ring Wraith in the forest alley. It's a beautiful scenery and daytime, and it still gives you such a feel of fear and foreboding dread. Love it.

  2. you can do a dolly zoom without a dolly, with practice and steady hands, i do it all the time. it won't look as smooth but gives the same effect. it also helps if you are doing it with a wide angle or fisheye rather than a telephoto.

  3. People finally should understand that not the Focal lenght changes the background or causes the effect but the distance from the camera/sensor to the object changes it.
    The Focal lenght ist just there to keep the person or Object in the same size.

  4. This video is incredibly hard to watch with its rapid fire edits and the annoying voice over.

    Just sayin'. 😀 I'm probably not the only one to think this but might be the only one to say something.

  5. You'll find it in the musicvideo of Rag'n'Bone Man – Human. Skip to 2:38. It's a quite nice implementation of the effect.

  6. When I was little, I did not the name, I didn't even knew much about filmmaking, however I figured out by myself that they moved camera while zooming in or out.

  7. To make it simple for those lazy cunts
    Move the camera closer to the object while zooming out ( closer )

  8. That's funny. I'd always heard that Poltergeist was the first movie to use the dolly shot, and I never realized that Goodfellas and Jaws used it!

  9. One of my favorite renditions of this effect is when it was used in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, the moment Ego revealed he had placed a tumor in Peter's mom's head.

  10. it’s also at the end of tangled when eugene cuts rapunzel’s hair! it uses the same effect on mother gothel.

  11. How it was used when it was invented was awesome. But the following over uses for close ups on actors became cliche and most of the time doesnt really add anything compared to a classic zoom

  12. I remember first seeing this in Jaws as a kid and I thought it was so cool. I've always been intrigued by cinematography.

  13. Название на русском а видео на английском, даже субтитров нет!

  14. Funnily enough, the Dolly Zoom I remember the most distinctly is from Everybody Loves Raymond’s intro.

    ”THEY’RE COMING!”

  15. Can we just get back to humans talking like humans. Why does every millisecond have to be filled with talking by cutting takes together so there is no pause. Just speak like a person.

  16. I first notice this shot on akira kurosawa's Throne of blood. Make's you feel the protagonist is really scared or shock.

  17. Whats the kinda reverse dolly zoom i see a lot that makes it look like a live news broadcast. Where they zoom in too fast and too far then have to refocus. It creates a very dramatic effect. I remember noticing it in Firefly first

  18. i would focus on a door at the end of a hallway or corridor, be far away whilst zoomed in on the door, walk towards the door while trying to keep the door exactly in the same place on the screen/viewfinder. slowly zooming out as i walked forwards. i would get an awesome focusing type effect going on and an unusual atmosphere.

  19. Okay? Very redundant…he's just describing what's obviously happening. He says the same thing over and over and shows the same shots over and over. Bleh.

  20. can't believe you didn't mention the Guardians 2 twist, such a dope scene with perfect use of the dolly zoom

  21. Theres one in the mob of the dead intro cut scene, its dead furgeson face being zoomed in and then being shot

  22. Good video. I remember when i first began filming in my youth and stumble on the effect while moving the camera and zooming at the same time. What an exciting time that was.

  23. The dolly zoom in Michael Jacksons "Thriller", when they are surrounded by the zombies and she turns to Michael. Now I understand the dolly zoom!

  24. The music video of Nelly Furtado's "I'm like a bird" has some perfectly executed examples of the Dolly Zoom right at the beginning.

  25. A very effective shot. That scene in Jaws is so memorable. I have never even noticed it in Goodfellas and I’ve seen it dozens of times.

  26. Anyone also notice that the music that usually accompanies these shots, at least the more dramatic ones, feature both a going down yet going up effect as well?
    The best sound that emulates this is not from any dolly shot, but from the original 'THX the audience is listening' music.

  27. totally disagree with some of these other people about the tempo of your content. every video seems to be 10 minutes plus on youtube nowadays and noone has time for that shit. i could watch this video twice if i needed to rehear anything and still have over a minute of time otherwise

  28. I like the effect because it really illistartes that feeling of focus right about the time your stomache drops in real life and pupals change.

  29. Another place the dolly zoom was used to great effect: Michael Jackson's Thriller video, where his girlfriend suddenly discovers MJ's transformation into a zombie.

  30. I was watching something like a week ago and it had a (dolly) shot I recognized as a specific technique I had seen numerous times, but didn't know what it was called or how they did it. I consciously wondered if the technique had a name, but didn't bother to look. Then today this video pops up out of nowhere and is basically answering a question I forgot I had. Cool.

  31. Bugger me! I thought this was invented by a Top Gear cameraman! They used it a lot on the Tour d'France, recently. I didn't realize it had been around for ages. Like my mother-in-law.

  32. Ничего не понятно. Название на русском, говорят на английском быстро.

  33. I imagine the dolly zoom being used on my face whenever I’m jacking off in my room and I hear the front door open

  34. JAWS what an incredible film for the year brilliantly written and that shot in this video is brilliant that captures the gush of fear that travels through your body… GENIUS.

  35. If you like the Dolly Zoom (I've always heard it called "tracking zoom"), check out the Leonardo DiCaprio-Gene Hackman gunfight in the otherwise meh "The Quick and the Dead." There are EIGHT rotating tracking zoom shots in a row during this gunfight.

  36. Poltergeist was the first time i saw that effect as a pre-teenager back in the 80s. Never saw Vertigo, so i had no idea it was used there. I saw Jaws as a kid, but never noticed the affect since I was scared half to death by the shark.

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