Tag Archives: vertigo

What is… a Dolly Zoom?

A dolly zoom is a camera effect that distorts an audience’s regular sense of visual perception. It is created by zooming in or out whilst the camera physically moves (dollies) in the opposite direction. For example, the camera would zoom in whilst dollying away. This keeps the subject of the frame roughly the same size throughout the effect, whilst the background moves closer or further away, depending on the direction of the zoom/dolly.

The invention of the effect has been credited to Irmin Roberts, a second-unit cameraman at Paramount, and was made famous by Alfred Hitchcock in Vertigo. Most film fans will be aware of the moment in Vertigo in which a dolly zoom is used and the effect it creates…

A dolly zoom creates a feeling of disorientation for the viewer. It is not an effect that the human visual system is used to seeing and can therefore be jarring and unsettling. It might be used to create a sense of height, as in Vertigo, unease, a sense of urgency or danger, or may show a sense of dawning realisation in a character. An example of this is in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, where Brody realises that they do indeed have a shark munching on swimmers. See below…

Just some of the alternative names for a dolly zoom include:

  • The “Hitchcock zoom” or the “Vertigo effect”
  • “Hitchcock shot” or “Vertigo shot
  • Triple Reverse Zoom
  • Reverse Tracking Shot
  • Back Zoom Travelling
  • Telescoping
  • Trombone shot
  • Stretch shot
  • Reverse Pull
  • Contra-zoom

For more entries in the ‘What is…?’ series, click here and (hopefully) learn a little bit about deep focus, chiaroscuro, German Expressionism, and more.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,