Dolly Zoom / Vertigo Effect, What Is It And How & When To Use It?

What Is Dolly Zoom Or Vertigo Effect?

<img alt="Dolly Zoom Vertigo Effect Bhushan Mahadani">

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You have watched films and  you have probably seen the dolly zoom. It’s when the foreground element stays the same size while the background elements grow or shrink that is what the dolly zoom is.It has many different names such as the The Reverse Tracking Shoot, Zolly, the Stretch Shoot, Forward zoom Reverse Tracking, Trombone Shot, Contra-Zoom, Telescoping, Smash Zoom or Smash Shot, Hitchcock shot, Push/pull, The Long Pull, Trans-trav (in Romanian and Russian) from trans-focal length operation and travelling movement, … or The Vertigo Effect.

So when was dolly zoom used first and who invented it? The Dolly Zoom is a camera shot made famous in Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO (1958). It was invented by his cinematographer Irmin Roberts to visually convey the feeling and effects of fear of heights by zooming in with the lens while simultaneously dollying the camera backwards…or vice versa. Since 1958 it has been used many of times in motion pictures… only as a trick shot. Filmmakers always use dolly zoom only because it looks visually awesome. But every shot or camera movement has some meaning which filmmakers often forget. First lets watch the original dolly zoom or Vertigo effect from the master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock‘s Vertigo.

So the dolly zoom or Vertigo effect is when James Stewart looks down and  viewer sees a visual representation of his mental fragility through his POV shot. So why use dolly zoom?

The Dolly Zoom is only effective (and curiously invisible) when it visually amplifies the internal emotional mindset of a character’s critical story moment.

Dolly zoom must be used only to show the unstable emotional mindset of the character. It should not be used only because it looks cool. Conveying any message visually without any dialogs is the key to filmmaking and if you have to show that the character is unstable because of fear or drugs or obsession then showing his mental state in just one shot with the help of dolly shot is perfect. It should never be an another camera trick. It must be in the context with the character’s emotional status. Here is an another Dolly Zoom or Vertigo Shot in the french movie La Haine.

Thank you very much for reading this post and I hope you like it. I recommend to read more about Dolly Zoom at FilmmakerIQ.

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