The dolly zoom is an unsettling in-camera effect that appears to undermine normal visual perception. It is part of many cinematic techniques used in filmmaking and television production.
The effect is achieved by using the setting of a zoom lens to adjust the angle of view (often referred to as field of view or FOV) while the camera dollies (or moves) towards or away from the subject in such a way as to keep the subject the same size in the frame throughout. In its classic form, the camera angle is pulled away from a subject while the lens zooms in, or vice-versa. Thus, during the zoom, there is a continuous perspective distortion, the most directly noticeable feature being that the background appears to change size relative to the subject.
As the human visual system uses both size and perspective cues to judge the relative sizes of objects, seeing a perspective change without a size change is a highly unsettling effect, and the emotional impact of this effect is greater than the description above can suggest. The visual appearance for the viewer is that either the background suddenly grows in size and detail and overwhelms the foreground, or the foreground becomes immense and dominates its previous setting, depending on which way the dolly zoom is executed.
The effect was first developed by Irmin Roberts, a Paramount second-unit cameraman, and was famously used by Alfred Hitchcock in his film Vertigo.
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... Hitchcock popularized the dolly zoom in this film, leading to the technique's sobriquet, amongst several others, "the Vertigo effect" ... This "dolly-out/zoom-in" method involves the camera physically moving away from a subject whilst simultaneously zooming in (a similar effect can be ... filming the shot on a full-sized set, a model of the tower shaft was constructed, and the dolly zoom was filmed horizontally ...