not very precise dimensions

shit I learned from dadlock, part 1: Vertigo

Remember #too bad moriarty’s dead though with my dad the film nerd? We sat down to watch The Empty Hearse and exactly two minutes in, we had to pause and have an extensive discussion on camera work because he was already geeking out over shit. I learned a few things and now I’m sharing with the class. Observe.

Notice how Molly and Sherlock are zooming in towards the camera while the buildings out the window in the background are simultaneously zooming out? This little thing here is called the Hitchcock zoom.

This technique was developed by Hitchcock, and used to great effect in Vertigo to create a sense of depth and movement. (If I remember correctly, Vertigo might have been the first movie this technique was used in, but that could be wrong. At the very least, Vertigo was what made it famous.) I’m not a pro on camera work, but my understanding is that it’s done by zooming a specific lens or filter on the camera while simultaneously moving the camera in the other direction to very precise dimensions. The result is to leave the viewer unbalanced, unsettled, as if the world is spinning the wrong way on its axis. Here it is in Vertigo itself. (Which, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, maybe do yourself a favor and do that.)

Apparently it’s pretty difficult to set up and pull off, and is never done without a fair deal of forethought. You have to use formulas and shit to figure out exactly how much the camera needs to move and the ratio to which the lens needs to zoom. (Which if nothing else, explains why they needed to do multiple takes while filming. Poor Loo.) According to my dad, often times when it is used, it’s an homage to Hitchcock himself.

Ready for the take home message?

How interesting is it that the camera workers deliberately set up and executed a difficult camera technique designed to leave the viewer feeling disoriented and slightly wrong…when Sherlock and Molly kissed?


So there you go, another film reference we can add to our already extensive pile of reasons we love the obsessive nerdery of the Sherlock film crew. I’ve got two more posts up my sleeve on Shit I Learned From Dadlock, so keep your eyes peeled for those. (And if you’re interested in the Hitchcock zoom, you can find out more here and here.)