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Digital Vertigo Effect

Posted: Tue, 27th Jan 2009, 2:31am

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Force: 2182 | Joined: 10th May 2007 | Posts: 1376

VisionLab User PhotoKey 4 User FXpreset Maker FXhome Movie Maker Windows User

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Trombone shots, (A.K.A Dolly zooms, Hitchcock zooms, or a vertigo effect) is a nice cinematic trick when the image appears to be stretched on its Z axis. This move is usually best in horror movies at the most suspenseful moment of the film occurs. It was used most famously in the films Vertigo and Jaws. You can also see it in poltergeist, The Lord Of The Rings: The fellow Ship of the Ring, and Good Fellas. There are two variations of this camera move: The first and most common one is where you start far away from your subject with a zoom lens. As you move the camera forward, you make the FOV wider. If you do it just right, your subject stays the same size, but everything around he/she expands on the Z axis. The second variation is exactly opposite. You start with the camera close and a wide lens, and then you move the camera back and zoom the lens in. This creates the effect of everything sandwiching together.
We will do the first variation in Vision Lab (Although you can also follow along in effects lab and Composite Lab. You can even apply the principle to your NLE). The reason why I have chosen it is because my footage has a dolly in. If you have footage with a dolly out, you can reverse this process.

1.First you want to open your video clip in vision lab, effects lab, or composite lab. Make sure the settings match your original footage. I’m using interlaced footage shot in NTSC with a pixel aspect ratio of 1.2 (In other words, wide screen.)

2.It is easier to work backwards, so go to the point where your camera move ends and place a key frame by selecting the pencil tool. Then click on the time line adjacent to “Scale”. This will create a key frame.

3.Next, go backwards through the time lines were your camera move begins. When you have found it, Scale the video image up. In my case, 1.20 times, was a good value. Check back to the keyframe that you made earlier to see were your foreground elements are and try to match them up with the beginning of the camera move. This does decrease the resolution so small camera moves are a good idea.

4.Go through and make minor adjustments if your camera was moving at different speeds throughout the dolly. My move was steady so I didn’t need to do this step.

This is a very difficult shot to do on-set, but the results can be fantastic. If you know you want a trombone shot in pre-production, then go ahead and do it on-set. Doing it digital is best when you decide it would look good after you've shot it. Just like any camera move, I can not stress enough how dumb it would be to over do it. A good rule of thumb is two is too many (Even though the film Vertigo used three). Use this shot at the climax and it will give your shot a surreal look. I hope this helps some one. Have fun