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Old June 7th, 2005, 05:24 AM   #1
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Camera zoom vs camera push

Hi,

I know what is the technical difference between a zoom and a push in, but how do we tell the difference between the two when watching a movie, or video? Or if we do effects like this in editing?

Is there a way to tell the difference between these two methods of shooting?
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Old June 7th, 2005, 06:21 AM   #2
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Yes, the perspective changes as you physically move the camera. Imagine two objects, with one that's a distance behind the other. With a fixed camera position and a zoom, both objects will remain in the same relative proportion as you zoom in. However if you physically move the camera, the size relationship of the two objects will change as you approach them. With a wide angle lens it can be a very different effect.

Hitchcock enjoyed playing with this phenomenon, he used a zoom in combination with a dolly shot to create a strange perspective effect. Watch the movie Vertigo for an example of this in the tower scene (which was actually shot using a model).
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Old June 7th, 2005, 08:43 AM   #3
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There's an example of this in "Goodfellas" as well. It's towards the end when Jimmy meets Henry in the diner.
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Old June 7th, 2005, 10:33 AM   #4
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Another consideration is that, unless one makes a conscious attempt to compensate, a zoomed shot will usually have a shallower depth of field than a dolly shot.

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Old August 4th, 2005, 11:24 AM   #5
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I was just going to post on this very topic... glad I searched first.

What do you guys think is the psychological difference to the audience between a push in and a zoom in? I mean, we can tell the difference between the techniques, but if it is subtle can the audience also?

It seems in production that setting up a dolly, pulling focus, and doing the move is about 10 times more work than just zooming in. Is it worth it? How differently will it play in the end? Has anyone done any side-by-sides on this? I would love to see it. (and if I get time, I'll do it and share).

Anway... thoughts anyone?
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Old August 4th, 2005, 11:49 AM   #6
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You're right in that, in many cases, it does take a lot more time to set up a dolly shot, especially if the surface is uneven and you have to lay and level track. It also requires at least one more person, sometimes more--one to push the dolly, one to pull cables and one to follow focus.

However, the look is significantly different. Basically, when you dolly in to something, it's as if the viewer is moving physically in closer. When you zoom in, it's like an optical effect.
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Old August 4th, 2005, 04:17 PM   #7
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I think, mentally, a zoom says to the public: this is a film!
Because it's much less subtle.
If you do a dolly track, which I personally think is much nicer to look at also, as viewer, you don't really pay attention to it, because we already are used to a camera moving.
But zooming in, looks indeed like a very optical effect, and reminds often to a home video.
Sometimes, great directors can make it work (Sergio Leone, Stanley Kubrick) but they had very good compositions and frames to work with.

I think if you are going for subtle and dramatic, choose the dolly.
If you want something more 'flashy', you could try the zoom, but I think often it gets the viewer out of the action.
I think a zoom in is worse, then a zoom out.
I think a zoom out has much more chance to 'work' in a dramatic piece then a zoom in. For instance, a person is a alone (as you would say, in the beginning of 28 days later) I think it could work to start with a close-up of somebody constantly yelling 'Hello???!!! Anybody??!!', and a zoom out untill you see he is very very alone in a complete deserted town.

(possible spoiler)I think in The Village, from Shyamalan you also see a zoom out, if the girl towards the end, stands in a little field full of red flowers. I think they start with a close-up of her face and zoom out untill you see she's in a field full of red flowers (for persons who haven't seen the movie, this is important for the movie)

BTW: A Good example of the combination of dolly and zoom, like Hitchcock did, is also in JAWS from Spielberg, when the shark attacks the little boy and the sherrif sees this. (end of spoilers)
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Old August 4th, 2005, 06:46 PM   #8
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Mathieu you make some good points, but I think you meant to say "I think, mentally, a zoom says to the public: this is a video!" (not film)

Zooms tend to look 'fake' and tend to jolt the audience out of the movie. Even if they don't realise it's a zoom, it just doesn't look right.
In real life people can do a dolly shot - just walk closer, but you can't do a zoom. The zoom tends to make your video look more like news, run and gun documentary or a realty tv show. Either has it's place depending on how planned the shot is, how much time you have to setup and ideally, what look you want for the shot.

BTW trombone shot as it's sometimes called (the dolly and counter zoom) is generally done with a subject and the subject size is maintained throughout the shot, whereas the background and foreground change perspective much more during the shot. You can also do it with no subject and it looks like the shot in Lord of the Rings after Frodo and co fall down the hill before the Ring Wraith comes, although that could have been done digitally too.
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Old August 4th, 2005, 08:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyle Ringin
You can also do it with no subject and it looks like the shot in Lord of the Rings after Frodo and co fall down the hill before the Ring Wraith comes, although that could have been done digitally too.
I always thought that was such a trombone shot, at that point!
And indeed, I meant that it says to the public: this is video, but I also mean: this is film, by which I mean you get them out of the illusion of the reality of the film.
Because of that optical effect, that humans cannot do, whereas a dolly can.
Besides the fact that a zoom comes over very video-ish, it's also: hey, this is not the reality, you are watching a movie! look at the zoom!
That was more what I meant. I don't know if my assumptions are a little bit logic... And I hope I'm making my point a little bit clear, because it's late here now, so I'm a little bit tired, but I'm doing the best I can ;-)
Best regards,
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Old August 5th, 2005, 04:12 PM   #10
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Hmmmm

Many people in the business that I know think that zoom is an amateurish move... a real No No.

But in reality, there is a new acceptance of the zoom among filmmakers. Like any of our tools, there is a time and place for it. For instance, if you wanted to get intimate with a character by moving in closer, then a dolly would be appropriate because that is what you would do in real life, but if you wanted to create an effect or symbolize getting into someones head, then a zoom might be more appropriate. I like using zooms a lot... I use them to add interest to the frame very subtly by slowly changing the composition. This is not meant to be noticed, but to add subconscious variety for viewing pleasure.
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Old August 5th, 2005, 04:59 PM   #11
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In memento, when Leonard gives his monologue in the bed, when Nathalie is asleep, about his wife and his 'condition', don't they use a zoom there? Or is it a dolly track?
If it's a zoom, it's very slow too, but there it indeed works, because it's so slow.
Btw: off-topic, but I thought that was one of the most beautiful and gripping scenes in the whole movie, and one of the best monologues ever, even if it's simple.
I really was watching that scene with my mouth open, staring, in the theatre.
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Old August 5th, 2005, 05:11 PM   #12
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I like crash zooms that are used constantly in Indian music videos.

But they only work in Indian music videos.

So if I would ever use one in a western film I would have to also hire fifty dancers and a band of guys with turbans to play in the background.
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Old August 5th, 2005, 09:27 PM   #13
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What's a crash zoom?
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Old August 6th, 2005, 12:11 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Stemen
What's a crash zoom?
Zoom as fast as you can. Really only works well with a true manual zoom where you can travel from one end of the lens to the other in half a second.

Besides indian music videos, it also works great for family reunions, birthday parties, and any other event where Uncle Bruce gets to show off his brand new camcorder.
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Old August 6th, 2005, 04:39 AM   #15
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So I guess it's like this:
Dolly if you want to move your audience through or within the scene
Zoom if you want to give them binoculars

does that sum it up?
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