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Whenever a character talks to another over a video link, often a Video Phone, each is able to see the other party on his monitor but no camera of any sort is shown. Both parties will look directly at the screen showing the character on the other end, but neither character appears on the screen on the other end to be looking slightly off screen.

A variation also exists where one of the parties may see the other party actually holding the device he is using to chat. This would require a camera crew following the characters around to set up cameras for their conversations, but of course no such crew exists and the camera is never seen.

Closely related to Computer Equals Monitor. With both tropes, Shoot the Television might solve many problems.

Examples of Screens Are Cameras include:


Anime

  • Bakugan: Dan and his friends chat over the Internet and no webcam is ever seen.

Comic Books

  • In Spider-Man comics, the earliest versions of the Spider-Slayer robots worked this way. The robots, piloted remotely by J. Jonah Jameson, would seem to have no technological need to project JJJ's face onto a TV screen mounted on the robot's "head," but that's exactly what they do.

Literature

  • The Telescreens in 1984 are this.

Film

  • 1408 averts the trope; the cam is visible when the main character starts a video chat.
  • Austin Powers: Dr. Evil tends to do this a lot. He has typical villain ultimatums with various world leaders through closed circuit televisions, yet there are no cameras that would allow him to see anything.

Live Action Television

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Hexfield Viewscreen
  • Lexx: 790's eyes and mouth are screens, cameras, and speakers.
  • Star Trek's viewscreens, in all the show's incarnations, seem to work this way.
  • This was strangely played both straight and averted nearly every time video communication was used on Firefly. Every other ship besides Serenity seems to have a dual camera/screen, but the heroes have to stare into a little camera lens when they speak. The effects department apparently thought the trope was being played straight because they had to be told, repeatedly, not to add a button beep/touch tone when Mal brushed dust off the camera lens with his thumb during one scene.

Video Games

  • Many of the screens in the Half Life universe seem capable of this, particularly the Combine screens.
  • Portal 2: Wheatley appears to be able to see through several of the video screens dotting various parts of the facility. In fact, there are a couple of parts where he reacts in pain to any of them being damaged. He later becomes jumpy whenever a flying cube almost hits them.
  • The members of the Think Tank in the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Old World Blues each have three mounted screens displaying their eyes and mouth separately, and are capable of seeing through their "eye screens".

Western Animation

  • Danny Phantom videochats with Sam and Tucker with no visible webcam.
  • The Comm Links in Atomic Betty.
  • The variation often occurs on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Krang in the Technodrome is talking to Shredder, who has a small handheld Comm Link. Krang has a huge wall-sized screen in front of him, yet his face fills the entire screen on Shredder's Comm Links. Meanwhile, on Krang's screen, Shredder is shown holding the communicator in his hand!
  • The variation also occurs in Kim Possible, who is sometimes shown to use the Kimmunicator to call Ron on a regular cell phone. However, the Kimmunicator will show Ron holding the phone up to his ear.
  • The Save-Ums: The Adventure Screen.

Real Life

  • SSTV (Slow Scanning Television) was a method of image translation used in amateur radio practice before cheap cameras were available. It required only one light sensor instead of a proper camera and used a TV screen [CRT] for scanning. It was a more or less a shadow puppet theater for a light-gun controller.
  • Many modern laptops (and some desktop monitors) have a built-in webcam and microphone just above the screen. The distance between screen and webcam is quite small, so it isn't always obvious that neither party in a video chat is actually looking at the camera.
  • In 2006, Apple patented a way to achieve this by embedding microscopic cameras between the display's pixels. However, this design has never been implemented in hardware so far.
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