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21 Jan 2021

Dolly Zoom

dolly zoom
Term: Dolly Zoom
Description: The dolly zoom effect is something many of us have seen in movies numerous times and will instantly recognize when explained. It's a technique where the camera is moved on a dolly towards or further away from the scene while the lens is being zoomed in the opposite direction.

If the timing is correct, this will give a unique effect to the scene where the characters in this frame will remain unchanged while the background or foreground becomes enlarged or compressed depending on which way the camera is moving.

What is Dolly Zoom?

The dolly zoom effect is something many of us have seen in movies numerous times and will instantly recognize when explained. It's a technique where the camera is moved on a dolly towards or further away from the scene while the lens is being zoomed in the opposite direction.

If the timing is correct, this will give a unique effect to the scene where the characters in this frame will remain unchanged while the background or foreground becomes enlarged or compressed depending on which way the camera is moving.

dolly zoom definition

History

Dolly zoom is also called Hitchcock zoom because it became well-known after Alfred Hitchcock used the effect in his movie Vertigo in 1958. The technique itself was invented by cameraman Irmin Roberts who wanted to create an acrophobic effect.

This is a shot that encapsulates the characters' mindset in the unchanged frame and amplifies it through the compression or expansion of the surrounding.

We have seen this used repeatedly in Lord of the rings, Jaws, Goodfellas, and many other movies. In layman’s terms, this effect is the visual representation of the sensation people have when they have vertigo. The unreality and feeling of slipping away from the real world is what it represents, and it has been effectively used in storytelling ever since.

Equipment Needed to Shoot a Dolly Zoom Effect Video

Here are the things you need to shoot a dolly zoom effect video.
  • Zoom lens
A zoom lens with an adjustable focal length is what you need. To effectively capture the sequence, you also have to utilize the deep depth of field so that you do not have to keep adjusting the focus while the shot is in progress.
  • Dolly track
This is the core of dolly in the zoom out effect. You need a running dolly and a track to keep the camera steady and in motion. Manual dollies will work, but they might involve a shaky effect that could make your short clumsy and unclean. The track should be focused on the main subject of the story. The smoother your dolly track is, the more perfect and fluid the Vertigo effect will be.
  • Perfecting the speed
The key to making the shot a success depends on the speed at which you are moving the Dolly and the zooming effect of your camera. If your dolly is moving too fast or too slow compared to the zoom, it’s not going to look good.

The speed of the dolly should be exactly matching the speed of the zoom. When you have captured all of these elements perfectly, you can also encapsulate the special warp of this camera effect that conveys a sense of unease and discomfort of the subject of your short.

The Dolly zoom is not only a powerful effect that can be placed anywhere at the time of the shooting, the move specifically captures the succession of the story. This means every moment that leads up to a dolly zoom effect should be doing justice to the shot.

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