Welcome to How’d They Do That? — a bi-monthly column that unpacks moments of movie magic and celebrates the technical wizards who pulled them off. This entry explains the in-camera effect known as the “dolly zoom.”
Even if you’re unfamiliar with its name or how it works, if you’re a fan of movies, you’ve likely seen a dolly zoom. And if you’ve seen a dolly zoom, you know that its power cannot be denied.
Dolly zooms are an overwhelming and unforgettable effect. If you’ve ever seen a shot where a background warps impossibly, expanding or constricting around a character, you’ve seen a dolly zoom. If you’ve ever seen a shot with a sudden distortion of perspective that zeroes in on the subject, you’ve seen a dolly zoom. And if you’ve ever seen Jaws, you’ve seen a dolly zoom.