What's the name and origin of the "long Noooooo" shot in film?
February 11, 2011 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Is there a name, please, for the now-clichéd and much-satirized film shot in which the camera pulls rapidly out of a close-up, often moving back and up, while the subject, having just had bad news or seen something dreadful, goes "noooooooooo" rather a lot? We are meant to gather that they are somewhat alone, and not at all happy. Where/when did this shot originate?

I was wondering if there's a sort of trade name for this, like "Vogel's No" or "The Framingham Denial" or something ... or maybe there is not a name per se but a short technical description like "overhead dolly tracking crane helicopter pull focus shot with long NO" (yes, I am good at this aren't I) It seems to be so common that I feel there must be a moviegoers/makers' shorthand for it. And yes, nowadays you usually see it as a mostly-joke - to the extent that I am quite surprised if I see it used seriously in a film now! But it must have had serious origins, no? - indeed, it must have had AN origin - does film history record when it was first done? Thanks in advance, and sorry if it's an FAQ - searches haven't yet helped.
posted by vogel to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This from TVTropes: Big No
posted by Lucinda at 9:12 AM on February 11, 2011

TV Tropes to the rescue? The earliest one I see mentioned there is "STELLA!!!!" from A Streetcar Named Desire. And, of course, KHAAAN!
posted by joshuaconner at 9:14 AM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Looks like the "NNnnoooooo" is the "Big No" from TVTropes. As for the zoom, not sure if you're referring to a "dolly zoom", aka the Vertigo Effect, or not.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:15 AM on February 11, 2011

I think it really took off after Luke screams "NOOO!" after finding out Darth Vader is his father. And Khaaaan as well (from Star Trek II), which was around the same time.
posted by Melismata at 9:19 AM on February 11, 2011

Oh Good Lord, why did no-one ever tell me about TV Tropes before? Great - there goes another few hours a week! Thanks very much for that. :)

And no, I wasn't quite thinking of a dolly zoom, but I am not sure how to describe the thing I do have in mind. Maybe it's not consistent enough to be considered a part of the effect, when it's the shouting that's perhaps more important. Thanks very much for the refs - I will check them out.
posted by vogel at 9:24 AM on February 11, 2011

Yeah, I know the effect you mean - I guess the full name would just be a Big No With Zoom Out.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:30 AM on February 11, 2011

"... in which the camera pulls rapidly out of a close-up, often moving back and up..."

I think the exaggerated version of this is when the camera pulls back, a certain distance each a time, until the view is in space looking at the earth.

I feel like this happened in Wayne's World (yes!) at some point, but can't find a clip.
posted by jlunar at 9:32 AM on February 11, 2011

Wayne said "Why, God? WHYYY?", which is close.
posted by AugieAugustus at 9:34 AM on February 11, 2011

Isn't this from the end of Planet of the Apes?
posted by Rash at 9:39 AM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like the semi-wordless NooooAAAAAaaaaahhhhhhh! (start at 5:30).
posted by ND¢ at 10:02 AM on February 11, 2011

Oh Good Lord, why did no-one ever tell me about TV Tropes before? Great - there goes another few hours a week!

Only a few hours a week? Ah, sweet innocence...
posted by zombieflanders at 10:08 AM on February 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

ACK, I typed a couple directions wrong in the above comment. This is better:

I think it is in fact a dolly zoom you're thinking of (also called a contrazoom, a Hitchcock zoom, or a Vertigo zoom), but in the Vertigo opening linked above, it's not quite as evident that it's the same effect since the subject in that scene is the vertical drop, not a person.

Dolly zooms work by smoothly moving the camera towards or away from the subject (usually by putting it on a wheeled platform, or dolly, although cheap filmmakers can use a skateboard or wheelchair, too). As the camera moves, you smoothly zoom in the opposite direction. The ideal outcome (it's hard to do!) is that the subject of the shot stays about the same size, while the background seems to advance or recede.

You can even do it without a dolly, if you just lean the camera towards or away from the subject while zooming at the same speed in the opposite direction. I know a documentary videographer who does this all the time to subtly emphasize things he's shooting- in small doses, it has a subtle but very visceral effect.

Here's a "receding" dolly zoom, accomplished by pulling the camera away from the subject while zooming in. It can be very disorienting- this shot made me very queasy.
PS, I dunno if receding is the real term, I made it up.

Here's the inverse, an advancing dolly zoom (again, my term)- the camera moves physically closer to the subject while zooming out to keep the person the same size, and the effect is that we see less and less of the background. I think this is the NOOOOOO shot you're talking about. Here's a slow version , here it is at a more standard speed (camera pushes in first, then pulls out). Here's another .

It's actually hard to find examples of dolly zooms on YouTube, since they're quite tricky to do nicely on a home camera, but here's one starring a surprisingly dramatic apple, which is a little shaky but shows both directions (camera first advances, then recedes).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:52 AM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not all of them have the camera work you described, but here's 11+ minutes of characters shouting "noooo!" in movies.

Incidentally, I wonder if the reason the camera so often pulls or cuts back from the character has to do with the audio technology from the early days of talkies. Back then, they could only effectively record of play back a narrow dynamic range of sound. Record someone shouting from the same distance and levels that you'd use for normal speech, and you'd just get an unpleasant, maxed out mess of sound. Any way you tried to record a yell cleanly, it would end up not all that much louder than speech. Show people yelling from a ways away, and you can even have the yell a little softer, and our brains will interpret it as loud, because we automatically adjust for distance.
posted by patnasty at 12:03 PM on February 11, 2011

Also from TVTropes, what about the Skyward Scream?
posted by zoetrope at 1:46 PM on February 11, 2011

Variations can also be called "Trombone" shots; used in horror and action movies.
posted by Khazk at 2:08 PM on February 11, 2011

After sending out the link to TV Trope (thanks Lucinda!), I was sent back this montage of "noooooooooo!'s" Enjoy!
posted by vivzan at 3:32 PM on February 11, 2011

Instant gratification.
posted by wondercow at 4:30 PM on February 11, 2011

This from TVTropes: Big No

I love TVTropes to death and think they have some awesomely succinct/descriptive ways of explaining media tropes. Sadly, virtually nobody I've worked with in film has ever heard of the site, and a great many of the terms* they use are completely foreign within the actual entertainment industry (in my experience, of course).

As far as I know, there's no official two-word awesome descriptor for this. Maybe cinematographers have some insider slang for it? Pseudostrabismus probably put it best, in that case.

*Obviously this doesn't include expressions like McGuffin which originated in Hollywood in the first place.
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 PM on February 11, 2011

Thank you all very much for the amazing range of interesting answers. The next time I find myself standing on the edge of a cliff; or alone on a plain of dead warriors; or in the carpark at Tesco's, going "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo", I shall think of you. Cheers!
posted by vogel at 2:57 AM on February 25, 2011

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