The Zolly Filming Technique: Dolly + Zoom = Zolly!

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The Zolly

A Zolly (a.k.a. Dolly Zoom, the Vertigo Effect, Telescoping, etc.) is a simple and commonly used camera effect that gives the illusion that the subject is being pulled toward the camera and the surrounding background is being pushed back, or vice-versa. The main requirement for creating this type of technique is a camera with a zoom lens. For a smoother zolly shot, you may also want to use a dolly on wheels or even a Steadicam.

How to Do it:

To create a zolly, simply DOLLY (track in/ track out) the camera in the reverse direction and speed in which you’re ZOOMING. (Note the ‘z’ from zoom and the ‘olly’ from dolly.) Keep the camera as steady as possible, even if you’re tracking in using a handheld dolly shot.

What you’re actually doing as you track in or out from the subject(s) is keeping the subject(s) at the same size and, what it appears to be, distance, within your frame. This creates an illusion, for the human mind uses both size and perspective to determine sizes of objects. Seeing a change in the perspective and not the size creates this vertigo-like illusion. Irmin Roberts, who was a second-unit camera operator for Paramount, created this camera effect which was used in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’(1958).


Aesthetically, the zolly shot creates a sense of desertion between the character(s) and their surroundings. Unreality, separation of space and time, psychological struggles, an ‘awakening’, and/or any type of state of awareness in which the character(s) ultimately rises or fails against his or her conflict(s) all may make suitable placements of a zolly. It’s famous use in Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ was not only suitalbe in relation to the plot line, but also innovative for its time.

Don’t overuse it! Use the shot only where necessary. Since the zolly has been frequently used in many films, it is now dubbed a cliché.