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In this scene in Hot Fuzz (2007) the camera focuses on these two characters and rotates slowly, but the background rotates so fast. So what is this camera effect and how is it accomplished?

Timeline of this effect in the movie is around 97:46.

enter image description here

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    Boring physics related reading: engineering.mit.edu/ask/…, interesting physics related reading: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallax, – StuperUser May 26 '16 at 15:11
  • I couldn't fit this "comment" in to a comment box so I'm creating a new answer, which is not designed to compete with the Michael Bay Spin answer. I thought perhaps the OP also thought the fuzzy background was part of the "effect." So I will just clarify that the foreground is in focus and the background is fuzzy in this particular screenshot because of something called "depth of field." Depth of field means that when you focus on something say 10 feet away, the things in front of and behind that thing (say 4 feet to 16 feet) will also be in focus. However, if you increase the aperture size of – Xplodotron May 27 '16 at 15:38
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The Michael Bay Spin

I'm joking, but as far as I can tell the technique doesn't really have a name. All that's happening is that the camera is moving around subjects in the foreground, and the background appears to move quicker thanks to the simple fact that it's further away.

The reason I refer to it as the Michael Bay Spin is that director Michael Bay has used this exact shot (with different actors/locations, of course) in a lot of his films.

In fact, the inclusion of that shot in Hot Fuzz is a direct reference to Michael Bay - Bad Boys II (directed by Bay) is bought up earlier on in the film, and if I remember correctly, the shot in question is actually shown to the audience while Nicholas Angel and Danny watch the film at Danny's house.

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    That's too bad it's called that, since I first saw it in the Mel Gibson Hamlet in 1990, and it might have even been invented for that movie. In Hamlet, it's perfect for adding disorientation to the scene where Hamlet is practically driving Ophelia crazy. Later uses are not so appropriate or symbolic, and now it's just a tired trope that is most effectively used for humor and/or satire, as in Hot Fuzz. – Todd Wilcox May 25 '16 at 16:20
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    @ToddWilcox - According to this review, Zeffirelli (the director of Gibson's Hamlet) also used the same spin shot in his version of Romeo and Juliette in 1968. So perhaps he does deserve the credit. "The Zeffirelli Spin" does sound classier. – T.E.D. May 25 '16 at 20:59
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    @T.E.D. I asked a separate question about it and it looks like Hitchcock did it in 1947: movies.stackexchange.com/questions/53507/… – Todd Wilcox May 25 '16 at 21:01
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    Related: youtube.com/watch?v=2THVvshvq0Q – Wossname May 25 '16 at 23:05
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    @ToddWilcox He already has a zoom named after him, so it's probably time to share. ;) But more relevantly: the Hitchcock zoom wasn't invented by Hitchcock, but it bears his name because he popularised it. A spin effect not invented by Michael Bay, but popularised by him, seems similarly appropriate to name the Michael Bay spin. – SevenSidedDie May 26 '16 at 2:40
26

TV Tropes refers to it as an "orbital shot" which somehow seems more appropriate for describing the technique.

You can find this technique in Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs when the queen drinks the potion transforming her into the witch - obviously they're not rotating the camera, but the actual painted cel backgrounds themselves, but the effect's the same.

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    Didn't want this as part of the answer, but seriously, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was so ahead of its time it's not even funny. – Kyle Hale May 26 '16 at 17:27
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This can be called as Michael Bay spin because Bay uses this technology.

Source BusinessInsider:

Bay utilizes a 360 shot that has the camera slowly spin around one or more characters (usually the protagonists) as they come up from below frame. One of the first uses of it was in 1995's "Bad Boys" starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Bay used it again a year later with Nicholas Cage in 1996's "The Rock."

According to a behind the scenes featurette for the film, Bay used the spinning shot to attempt to show both sides of the shootout without cutting away.

Bay spun the cameras around the different rooms and then digitally added in the doors.

The shot has been noticed online by many (YouTube channel ScreenJunkies compiled a supercut of the shots), and while some don't find his work to be anything special, Bay isn't too worried about what the critics have to say.

"I really, really don't care," Bay told Mother Jones. "I make movies for people. I make movies for audiences to enjoy. A few sour apples are not going to spoil my fun."

  • He fails to make movies I enjoy. I'm just not part of his audience, I guess. :) – Almo May 27 '16 at 18:13
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    @Almo Ah, but you enjoy ripping on him, so you are. – candied_orange May 28 '16 at 6:18
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Pretty sure this effect requires a narrow angle lens. With a wide angle lens, the extent of the background which is in view is fairly large, and so movements of a large area will appear smaller, and thus slower. With a narrow angle lens, much less of the background is in view, which causes any motion to appear sped up.

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    "Narrow angle" here means the same thing as "long", "telephoto", or "zoomed-in". These terms refer to the focal length of the lens. (Technically the sensor size, film format, or crop factor also affect this.) – Era May 26 '16 at 19:28
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    Thanks, I actually have no idea what I'm talking about, but the physics made sense. – rich remer May 26 '16 at 19:58
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I would classify this as a variant of parallax:

"Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, and is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two lines."

— Wikipedia

Here's my (pathetic) attempt at illustrating what's happening here. The camera is rotating around a point near the subjects. Because the subjects are closer to the camera than objects in the background, they move less distance onscreen than objects in the background.

enter image description here

Because objects in the background move a larger distance onscreen (and they are out of focus), motion blur is achieved.

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