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"Why is it that whenever they knock out the main character, they have to knock out the cameraman as well?"
Graham Stark, Unskippable

This is a camera trick used to indicate that the character's POV we're seeing from is drugged, poisoned, sick, injured, or otherwise incapacitated, and/or about to lose consciousness...or die. Frequently Fade to Black that indicates the character has lost consciousness is preceded by an Iris Out signifying "everything going black". Sometimes included, Sound Effects of heavy, labored breathing and/or heartbeat. Or a Mood Motif of wavering horns, woodwinds, and/or strings to simulate the disorientation or drowsiness.

Common variations include:

  • The blink-blink eye shaped shot that finally goes black as the character loses consciousness. Which is then reversed later when the POV character comes to again.
  • The shot wobbles wildly, then falls to the floor as the character gets dizzy and falls over.
  • The shot goes in and out of focus before losing focus entirely.
  • Seeing double (or more): A concerned person asks "How many fingers am I holding up?" and the injured person answers in a number larger than the one the person's actually holding up.
  • The drunken or drugged person tries to focus on something, only to see the item they're focusing on circling before them in multiple images superimposed.
  • Using Jittercam, other odd or unusual camera movements and/or edit-cuts, or colored filters to produce a disorienting effect.
  • In the case of a Mechanical Lifeform, the tactical display may fuzz, wobble, blink, or otherwise fritz out before it diminishes to a single dot like an old cathode ray tube TV screen.

A method of Painting the Medium.

Compare Fever Dream Episode.

Examples of Impairment Shot include:


Anime and Manga

  • In Volume 9 of Detective Conan, Ran was nearly drowned after being drugged. She assumed that her savior was Shinichi {It was him, as Conan, before the whole Improbable Antidote incident. This also occurs whenever anyone in the anime goes back and forth when they were being shrunk by Apotoxin or going back with Baigar. with funky colors and blurred outlines. The manga has a negative version of the outlines and is either black or white, besides when Shinichi first became Conan.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist "Body of the Sanctioned" -- Ed gets the eye-shaped shot, looking at Al, just before he loses consciousness and wakes in the clutches of the Prophet.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!, Match of the Millennium - when Yugi's trying to concentrate just long enough to draw a card while the pressure of the shadow game overwhelms him.
  • Naruto does a manga version of this at one point, to indicate the extent to which Itachi is going blind. The target of his focus is little more than a darkened blur.


Comic Books

  • The Castafiore Emerald has a very blurry panel showing characters' reactions after viewing a very buggy color television broadcast.


Film

  • In David Fincher's The Game, where Michael Douglas' character has been poisoned and is about to pass out, there's a shot just before he hits the ground that goes completely nutty, the camera shakes and the screen blurs with a yellow overexposed effect.
  • The entire opening shot of Point of No Return is blurred, out of focus, replicant, any or all of these back and forth to indicate the appearance of the world to the four drugged out derelicts robbing a pharmacy.
  • James Bond movies usually start with the POV of an random mook, dying by bullet shot, the screen being covered in red filter (blood).
  • In the first Home Alone, one of the thiefs gets hit in the head by a bucket of paint, and sees triple. His partner does the "how many fingers" routine, but neither of them can count to six.
    • This trick comes back in the second movie, after Marv is struck in the head by a brick.

 Harry: "How many fingers am I holdin' up, Marv?"

Marv: "Hm-hmmmm, eight."

    • In the second, when Kevin slips on the ice, he hits his head hard enough for his vision to blur, and the camera spins for effect. By the time his head clears, he's in the clutches of the bandits.
  • The titular Terminators (all models) get dissolving HUDs and flickering static in their field of vision, right before it finally goes black.
  • The eye-shaped blink shot is used in Disney's Ratatouille as Remy attempts to wake a sleeping Linguini.
  • In Once Upon a Time In Mexico, things move in and out of focus after Sands wakes up from being drugged, just before he's blinded.
  • Bella experiences the going-unconscious focus fade and then experiences the focus-fade-in as her consciousness returns in ''Twilight.
  • Trunchbull's Humiliation Conga in Matilda ends with her seeing double from being spun on a globe.
  • Used in the 1956 version of Around the World in Eighty Days, after Passepartout has been drugged with opium.
  • Used in Léon when Léon is walking out of the apartment building at the end and Stansfield shoots him in the back.
  • In the Roger Corman Fantastic Four, we see a point-of-view shot of Alicia being chloroformed. The fact that the character is BLIND appears to not have mattered to the filmmakers.
  • Norwegian zombie flick Dead Snow (Originally Død Snø) features one of the victims waking up as the zombies are ripping out her intestines.
  • A version of this is done in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World where Scott slaps his hands over his eyes when he walks in on a half-naked Ramona and the screen goes dark.
  • In 9, 1 gets a blink-awake moment (but with a round eye, since he's a stitchpunk) when he wakes up and sees 2, dead on the floor after 7 disconnected his body from the Seamstresses tail.
  • The Covenant does a blink-awake when Caleb hits his head on the edge of the lap pool and nearly drowns.
  • Several, both from the POV Cam and external in Face Off mostly as Castor!Archer tries to keep his Sanity Slippage from wearing his enemy's face from overwhelming him.
  • Flash Gordon: Flash gets an inverted one -- his vision going from blurred to clear as Zarkov throws him a football in Ming's court.
  • In North by Northwest, Cary Grant's character is force-fed a bottle of whiskey and put behind the wheel of a car - as he makes a getaway we see the road from his seeing-double perspective, curving and going straight at the same time.
  • In The Hunger Games, the camera takes on Katniss's perspective many times as she runs through the woods. One scene has the camera swaying in and out of focus to represent Katniss hallucinating.


Live Action TV

  • Firefly, in "Out of Gas", where Mal has to repair the ship after being shot in the stomach. The whole episode has dark (because the ship's power is off), green and brown filters and a weird, off center camera.
  • Pushing Daisies used a sort of smoky Hit Flash in "Oh Oh Oh It's Magic" to show what it looks like to a dead person when Ned touches them a second time.
  • Cordelia gets the blurry version on Buffy the Vampire Slayer when she is cursed with blindness (the curse takes some time to ramp up).
  • Blurred vision, skewed sight, focus failure and every other possible variation Impairment Shot one could imagine someone sick might suffer occurs with predictable regularity to patients on House.
  • An odd, external-to-the-impaired version happens to Gary on Early Edition when an old T-man suckerpunches him. The shot goes out of focus as Gary slips unconscious to the ground.
  • Done briefly in the West Wing episode "Commencement," when Zoey's drink has been drugged, in a rare example of POV camera-trickery for that show.
  • In The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Allison From Palmdale", Cameron's processor begins to glitch out, and this is shown by first displaying things from her point-of-view, in traditional "Term-o-vision". A few moments later, once she begins to seriously glitch and forgets who she is, the head-up-display normally shown in her POV is gone. Shortly afterward, she starts confusing herself with a previous identity she'd assumed, because she no longer knows who "she" really is.
  • Parodied in the sketch from The Mitchell and Webb Situation where Mitchell is sick and trying to get some bed rest and Webb, in a very old-school Obviously Evil manner, keeps trying to poison him. At one point we see the room twisting and rocking wildly from Mitchell's point of view, and then in the Reveal Shot, Webb is sitting over him waving a magnifying glass over his eyes.
  • Done on Father Ted to show Jack's POV, although he's gone far far beyond "about to pass out".
  • There's a scene that uses this in the Doctor Who Made for TV Movie, apparently because the Doctor is still disoriented after regenerating, even though he seemed to be just fine when he was stealing some clothes to wear.
  • There's a very disturbing series of fade-to-black, fade-back-up Impairment Shots as a gathering crowd at a New York butcher's kills Jack Harkness over and over again to see him revive in the Torchwood: Miracle Day episode "Immortal Sins".
  • A very effective use in the pilot of Once Upon a Time when Prince Charming is mortally wounded protecting his baby and falls to the ground. We see from his point of view his child escaping just before his vision fades to black.
  • It's been suggested that the end of The Sopranos was one of these.
  • Santa Sent Me to the E.R., “Sightless Night”: This type of shot was used for the segment that showed Leigh Ann putting in the contact lenses she had no clue were barely out of their enzyme bath!


Video Games

  • In video games, this can appear as an Interface Screw, usually when coupled with a "confusion" Standard Status Effect.
  • Also done in some Flight Sims. If you pull too tight a turn, the screen goes red or black as you black out under the G-forces.
  • Happens near the beginning of Bioshock--after getting the Electrobolt plasmid, you black out, fall over a railing and fade in and out of consciousness in time to see first a pair of Splicers and then a Little Sister and her companion about to try to harvest you.
    • Also, the screen appears blurry whenever your character is drunk.
    • Appropriately enough, the screen goes red, and veins appear across the camera whenever Jack gets hit with Atlas' "Code Yellow" mind control command.
  • Fallout 3 has blood splatter on the screen if the player takes damage or is close to a messier opponent death. After a drug wears off or the player suffers from a crippled head or is otherwise low on health the screen will blur. Taking crippling damage to the head causes a concussion effect at random intervals, which includes bloom, blur, doubled vision, and an irritating high-pitch ringing sound. The Enclave Stun grenade causes the blink-blink cam.
  • When your character gets drunk in Fable and its sequel, the image on the screen is blurred and doubled, and all the sound is filtered to be off pitch and slowed down.
  • When you're very close to death in Left 4 Dead, the screen goes black and white until you get healed. Also, after taking some pills, your vision very briefly goes slightly black & white and blurry.
  • In Mirror's Edge, the screen becomes desaturated according to how much remaining health Faith has. It also briefly flashes red whenever she takes damage.
  • Hitting a wall in Gran Turismo 4 in bumper cam will make the screen blurry for a second.
  • The mission "Boomshine Saigon" in Grand Theft Auto Vice City starts with Tommy accidentally getting high on "boomshine" when Phil, heavily intoxicated by that stuff, blows his own arm. You must then drive him to a clinic... with the world blurry and the camera wobbling and shaking.
  • Flashbangs in Counter-Strike turn the entire screen white for 5 seconds.
    • Many FPS games use this technique for flashbangs. Some games with higher graphical limitations keep the scene at the moment of the flash burnt into the character's retinas (i.e. the player's screen) for a few seconds. Then it gradually fades back to being able to see properly. Apparently, that's what really happens.
    • Some flight games do this as well; a notable example was the Descent series' flash missiles, which whited out your screen for five seconds.
  • In Perfect Dark, this happens when you get knocked upside the head or injected with a dizzy-causing serum.
  • The Lucas Arts adventure game Full Throttle uses this after Ben crashes his bike in the beginning of the game.
  • The effects of Malaria in Far Cry 2 result in a yellow border with little cell-looking things and everything going out of focus. A similar effect happens if you sprint for too long.
  • The drunk effect in GTA IV are similar to those mentioned for Fable and Vice City above. Niko will occasionally also fall over.
  • Common occurrence at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II, when you're playing as Roxas.
  • In The Witcher, the screen gets progressively blurrier and sways lightly as Geralt gets drunker; this can also happen from taking hallucinogens such as fisstech and White Gull. When Geralt's health is critical, the colors desaturate.
  • Depending on which cannon you follow the Point Man From F.E.A.R. spend a good amount of time passing out and having to pick himself up again. By the end of extraction point he's coughing up blood
  • Need for Speed 3 has a cheat code to make the screen look like you're driving under the influence. And a cymbal crash plays and the Variable Mix music cuts down to the bass when you crash.
    • Need for Speed: Shift takes this trope and runs with it. Driving at a car's top speed blurrs your vision, and a collision simulates the disorientation from the shock of impact.
    • Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (the 2010 game) takes this trope and runs with it on a Turbo. When you use the aforementioned (Racer-only) Turbo, the entire screen darken and things shift to grayscale as the car is forced to go beyond its maximum speed. Also, when the damage to your car reach critical level, things are gray, not unlike in some modern FPS.
  • Used in the start of the tutorial of Final Fantasy XII, to show that Reks is just waking from unconsciousness in the middle of battle. It's also used at the end of the tutorial, when Reks is dying.
  • Used several times in the opening sequence of Final Fantasy VI, as Terra tries to escape from Narshe. The screen blurs and pixelates out to demonstrate the combined effects of head trauma and magic-induced amnesia.
    • Final Fantasy IV Does something similar, blurring the screen a couple of time to show Cecil's head spinning as he picks himself up after the events at Mist.
  • Used in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, when Samus wakes up from a month-long coma after the events of Norion. Made somewhat amusing by the Federation medical officer planting a hand right in her visor as she's coming to.
  • Half Life and its sequels, being played from the First-Person Shooter perspective throughout the entire game, uses this extensively.
  • F.E.A.R. 2 uses this when Becket wakes up in the hospital after being genetically engineered to have Alma's psychic powers (he even picks up and puts on his Cool Shades/Heads-Up Display).
  • There's a "blink-blink" version at the end of Tales of Monkey Island Episode Four, after Guybrush gets stabbed.
  • Infuriatingly and accidentally used in Assassin's Creed where the game's reward for collecting a flag is to temporarily blind you. Often while you're being chased across rooftops by the most persistent guards in history. Also played straight, as when you lose health synchronisation the interface starts to glitch and colours go funky.
  • Invoked in Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater once Naked Snake is shot in the eye; from then on, if you enter first-person view that side of the screen is blacked out.
  • Used liberally by Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth: your view is blurred whenever you're faced with something terrifying, the screen slowly goes dark as you're injured...
  • Many first person shooters, especially those with regenerating health, use a red filter that covers more of the screen the closer you get to death.
  • In the Die Hard 2 part of Die Hard Trilogy, the screen blurs when you get hit, and has a Near-Death Experience-like effect when you die.
  • Used terrifyingly in Batman: Arkham Asylum when the screen seems to glitch and the game starts again from the beginning cinematic, to show when Batman is under the influence of Scarecrow's fear toxin. His coughing gives it away a bit, but it still sends many players into a panic.
    • In combat, inmates with stun rods will make the screen fill with static, and inmates with bats or pipes make you see double for a bit if they hit you.
    • The sequel, Batman: Arkham City, has the same effects in combat, and also some cutscenes when Batman's disease worsens.
  • One of the possible plug-in modifications for Team Fortress 2 is called "Drugged", where this is combined with Interface Screw to throw the player off balance. It's done well, because none of the player's controls are messed up, only their perception of the world (wildly flashing colors combined with a jittery camera). For new players experiencing this, it's often disorienting, more or less crippling them. Players who have had this result pop up a few times tend to have a little bit more control.

Webcomics

  • Penny has one in Out at Home after being drunk for most of the story arc.


Western Animation

  • A vertigo weapon causes this in Batman: The Animated Series
    • In "Pretty Poison", Batman sees Poison Ivy in blurred multiples after she poisons him.
  • Kim Possible movie So The Drama, as Ron blacks out.
  • A variation occurs on a couple of Looney Tunes shorts, where Sylvester is trying to keep awake lest he get beaten up by another character. Every time he blinks, the assailant is standing a little bit closer, and the last blink is followed by a Hit Flash.
  • On a recent episode of King of the Hill, a pig Dale rents to hunt truffles eats something that is definitely not a truffle, and as it blacks out it sees Dale turning different colors.
  • The title character in Pinocchio gets sick from too much cigar smoke while playing pool and sees the eight ball all wavy and out of focus. It even seems to blink at him.
  • Hercules has the "How Many Fingers? do you see" bit, only it's how many horns Phil has. Herc answers six.
  • Swat Kats uses the Impairment Shot in the episode when Turmoil threatens Megakat city with a vertigo weapon.
  • The Mayor experiences an unbroken series of Impairment Shots until he's rescued by The Powerpuff Girls in "The Bare Facts".
  • Jun's monster scent-hound Shirshu experiences this when Katara waterbends it a face full of perfume on Avatar: The Last Airbender.
    • In Season 2, we get one when Zuko goes into his Angst Coma.
    • And one for him in 'The Avatar State' (?) the view is blurred when Azula knocks Zuko to the floor and is about to attack him again, only for Iroh to intervene.
    • And another in Season 3, when Aang first wakes from his post-traumatic-injury coma.
    • One more in Season 3, as Combustion Man tries to take out the Gaang after having been brained by Sokka's boomerang.
  • In The Nightmare Before Christmas, this trope is used after Jack runs face-first into a candy-cane-striped pole.
    • Similarly used in Corpse Bride when Victor runs into a tree.
  • The "closing eyes" variant is used in the Simpsons episode "Lisa's Pony", when Homer, fatigued from over-work, falls asleep while driving and enters a Little Nemo in Slumberland-parodying dream.
    • In another episode, "Homer's Odyssey", there is a point-of-view shot of the kids looking down at an exhausted Homer. Maggie pokes at his eyes and the image is doubled for a moment.
  • In The Brave Little Toaster, Kirby's POV blinks open and gains focus as he wakes up after his freak-out by the waterfall.
  • Tom and Jerry have several shorts in which this occurs; almost always resulting from them getting drunk.
  • Danny Phantom: Happens once in Reign Storm, when Danny blacks out from exhaustion and energy loss. Bonus points for Vlad giving him a Hannibal Lecture while this happens!
  • In an episode of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Ben gets a faceful of dream dust, and his vision swirls, leaving him hallucinating Gwen as a monster.
  • Happens a few times in "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic", particularly in "Applebuck Season" where we get to see Applejack's sleep-deprived perspective. Happens to Rarity when she passes out from shock (in time for a commercial break) in "Sweet and Elite"; we get her POV again when she comes to after the break.
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