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Instead of a standard zoom, use three or more shots, varying in distance but focused on the same point, cut together rapidly. Commonly used for shock value. Each cut is often accompanied by a Sting. Common subjects are corpses and monsters, but it is not exclusively a horror technique.

Examples of Staggered Zoom include:

Anime and Manga


  • The introduction of Karloff's Monster in Frankenstein (1931) is done as three cuts rather than a zoom.
  • Filmmaker Akira Kurosawa used this as a stylistic device; he frequently began his films with a series of establishing shots that jumped in closer and closer to the characters he wanted to focus on.
  • Used by Tarentino in the first Kill Bill movie, when O-Ren Ishii and her bodyguards enter the restaurant.
  • Director Sogo Ishii, of Gojoe is very fond of this. He often does it in reverse: extreme close-up, close-up, medium shot, long shot.
  • A similar effect is used for the discovery of a dead farmer in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963).
  • The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy used this as the camera zooms out past the Vogon ships at the beginning. And zooms. And zooms. And zooms...
  • The introduction of Daniel Day-Lewis' character Bill "The Butcher" Cutting in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York follows this trope to a T. The overall effect is heightened by the addition of both a badass longcoat and an American eagle patterned glass eye.
  • Used in Casino Royale (2006) at the start of the airport chase sequence.
  • In Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan this is used to pull back from the Reliant just before the Genesis Device detonates.
  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick combines this with Quieter Than Silence when the camera zooms in on HAL 9000's eye on the front of the space pod that he kills Frank Poole with, and the sound of Frank's breathing cuts off abruptly.
  • Steven Spielberg rarely uses this technique, but a notable exception occurs near the end of ET the Extraterrestrial with the staggered zoom on Elliott's face, synched to the music, as he's about to hit the police roadblock. Spielberg was able to do this because he agreed to let John Williams record the score for the film's finale first, then edited the footage to fit.
  • In Up this is how we find out that Carl's house is now surrounded by a massive construction project.

Live Action TV

  • Part of NCIS's Signature Style.
  • The 2000s Battlestar Galactica loved this.
  • In The Day After, this technique is used to pull back from Kansas City just before it is hit with a nuke. An additional effective touch is that the sound of the city's blaring air-raid sirens abruptly cut off during one of the jumps.
  • Threads also used a staggered zoom on Sheffield just before an EMP blast hit Northwest Europe.

New Media

Video Games

  • Eternal Darkness uses this early on when the heroine encounters her own dead body in a bathtub. Each cut only lasts a few frames, followed by a screamer.
  • Used in a trailer for Mass Effect 2, in order to show the relative size of the spaceship Shepard is viewing.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Done in The Brave Little Toaster just before the Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Done for laughs in The Emperors New Groove, where Kronk is holding the unconscious emperor over a waterfall, where the camera zooms out and out and out... until finally the waterfall isn't even visible, and the focus is on a monkey eating a bug. Quoth Kuzco the narrator, "What's with the chimp and the bug? Can we get back to me now?"
  • Used in the end of The Simpsons' Australia episode, when we are shown one stowaway Koala clinging on a helicopter.
    • At the end of the very first "Treehouse of Horror", the narrator intones the final stanza of "The Raven" and on the final line, the camera zooms on the title character thus.
  • Used a few times in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Dragonshy", zooming out from the mountaintop cave as Fluttershy explains her objection to facing a fully-grown dragon, each jump punctuating the list of things she finds terrifying about them.
    • In "May the Best Pet Win", when Rainbow Dash announces the final contest will be a race through Ghastly Gorge, the camera pulls back to reveal the hazard-filled canyon. She even provides the sting sounds herself.
    • In "The Last Roundup" the camera zooms in on Pinkie Pie when the other girls decide to "bring out the big guns" (i.e. use her Motor Mouth tendencies to get Applejack to open up about why she ran away from home).
  • Done near the end of the song "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid.
  • "Do ya?! Do ya?! DO YA?!"