Friday, May 30, 2008

Introducing...Friday is for film!

Welcome to the debut of Friday is for film! Anything film-related that's been rattling around my head will be fodder for this weekly feature. And any questions, comments or ideas from you, dear readers, are welcome. They may even show up in a future installment.

The "dolly zoom" is a special-effects shot popularized by Alfred Hitchcock in his 1958 film Vertigo. Thus it's sometimes called a "Hitchcock zoom" or "Vertigo zoom". Hitch used it to dramatize Scotty Ferguson's, well, vertigo. The effect is achieved by the simultaneous use of a dolly (basically a wheeled platform for a camera) and a zoom lens (if you have a digital camera you've used one of those). The camera operator pulls the camera away from the subject(s) at the same time he's zooming in, or pushes the camera toward the subject at the same time he's zooming out. The viewer is left with the illusion that the background is receding or coming closer in relation to the foreground. Depending how this shot is used it can come across as cheesy or be an effective way of conveying psychological or emotional disorientation.

Here's a series of "dolly zoom" shots starting with the famous ones from Vertigo. The others are from Jaws, Poltergeist, Goodfellas and The Fellowship of the Ring.


redeyespy said...

This is great, Stephen. I've always loved that technique, and the master directors/cinematographers (some of whom are refed by the clips) use it best, but it can easily become gimmicky in the wrong hands.

A possible future topic? Undercranking-filming at a slower than usual rate (fewer frames per second). When later projected at normal speed, the action appears to be much faster(conversely, overcranking achieves the effect of slow motion).

Undercranking was useful for the old slapstick chase scenes a la Buster Keaton, or more modern day car chases. In theory, at least; many stunt men would just as soon hit ramming speed!

redeyespy said...

Ignore post #1 and go thee straight to #2, as I mistakenly began the last paragraph with "overcranking" instead of "undercranking."

Sorry about that, I think my church must've switched to decaf this morning.

Stephen Ley said...

Ha! I avoid the coffee at our church. It has that "institutional quality" if you know what I mean.