Can I get a letterbox format? ...Aww yeah, this is the director's cut!
—Bo-bobo, Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo
A Camera Trick where, in order to show focus on a particular thing, two black bars will emerge from the top and bottom of the screen in order to bring about some drama by changing the aspect ratio, Letterbox-like. Often done with eyes in order to showcase the intense stare of our hero, who nine times out of ten is staring down his opponent, but not exclusively. Said bars are often accompanied by a nifty sound effect. Possibly originates from attempts by producers of TV to recreate the same intense effect that Sergio Leone achieved with his massive closeups in his Spaghetti Western films—which don't work so well in non-widescreen shots.
Anime and Manga
- Dragonball Z's Vegeta does this when he sees Trunks fall.
- Code Geass: Happens in one of the picture dramas. However, this being the picture dramas, it's for comedy rather than drama.
- Scion: This happens right before a fight between Ethan and Exeter.
- Event Horizon: Played with to horrifying effect, where you get a wonderful close-up of Sam Neill's eye sockets after he has gouged his eyes out, while he bellows and rants like only a possessed Sam Neill can. Not exactly this trope, because of course the film is already in a letterbox, and possibly an homage to those old Spaghetti Westerns.
- The Lord of the Rings: Constantly done with Frodo's already-huge eyes, Sergio Leone-style.
- Done in Revenge of the Sith with General Grievous when he's threatening Obi Wan. Loses some impact in the pan-and-scan cut of the film, though—his eyes are spread wide apart compared to a human character, so the camera ends up centered on his forehead, with his actual eyes just off screen.
- The climax of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has quick shots of the three main characters' eyes just before the end of their Melee a Trois.
Live Action TV
- CSI: Miami occasionally does this to focus on the Miami skyline.
- Used occasionally in Super Sentai (and thus Power Rangers) as part of the Calling Your Attacks sequence. Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger and Power Rangers Ninja Storm do this with nearly every mecha finisher.
- Power Rangers RPM had a rare practical effects version where they cast light over the actor's eyes while the rest of them was incomplete shadow. As they would be morphed at the time, the light cast would be in the shape of their respective visors as a sort of inside-the-helmet view.
- Used in the Samurai Kirby mode of Kirby Super Star.
- The opening sequence of Super Smash Bros.. does this in rapid succession with the main eight characters.
- The The Legend of Zelda Oracle Games feature a closeup on Link's eyes in the opening sequence.
- The non-eye variation is used in all 3D games when Z-targeting.
- The sequence that plays before each cross-examination in the Ace Attorney series looks like this except with two sets of eyes, one from each lawyer, glaring at each other.
- A common breed of Super Move Portrait Attack in the Tales series.
- The Trauma Center series:
- In Under the Knife 2 before an operation, this happens with Derek, showing him move his hand closer to his glasses.
- Shown on the Wii Channel of New Blood with Markus, Valerie, and Elena.
- Done in the (brief) intro of Sonic Battle, with all the storyline characters.
- Persona 3 uses this sometimes when a Persona is about to hit a weak point with a spell or make a critical hit with a physical attack.
- Used in Valkyria Chronicles to signify when a character's special power is activated.
- A staple of the cinema scenes in the Ninja Gaiden NES trilogy.
- Used in Dengeki Gakuen RPG : Cross of Venus, when you do Chain Bursts, and when the bosses activate their Hi-Ougi.
- Bang does this when he goes into Super Mode.
- When Ocelot and Big Boss are about to duel in Metal Gear Solid 3, as an homage to Sergio Leone.
- Harvest Moon DS/DS Cute uses these extensively in cut scenes.
- Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection has these in Kuma and Panda's endings. In Kuma's ending it showed this instance seconds before he pushes the button that opens a trap door under his visitor (in this instance, his owner Heihachi). Panda's has two; one when she opens the trap door under Kuma, and the second where Xiaoyu unwittingly opens the one under Panda.
- Done from time to time in the Floating Hands webtoons.
- Godzilla does this in the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny video.
- Happened near the end of the Weebl and Bob episode "Hentai" when we zoom in on the characters' eyes.
- Parodied in Bad Idea, where it's applied to a fetid zombie with a dislocated eyeball.
- Used in this installment of Avatar: The Abridged Series.
- Banana-nana-Ninja! uses this frequently. (Example)
- The Homestar Runner cartoon "Marshmallow's Last Stand" (no longer on the site) featured this, complete with the accompanying musical track from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
- "Go ahead...make my day." "Octorok!"
- This installment of Least I Could Do.
- All the time in Digger. Once with a squash.
- In Keychain of Creation this is a visual cue that someone's Great Curse is acting up.
- Megas XLR, pictured above, does this all the frickin' time. Heck, you can't even get through the opening theme without being assaulted by this trope.
- And by "assaulted by this trope", we mean that most of the opening consists of this.
- The first episode of Invader Zim shows Dib's and Zim's eyes so as to express their confrontation.
- Kim Possible in "Car Alarm", with focus on Jim's and Tim's faces to emphasis their It's Personal statement.
- The newer Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series does this all the time, although not necessarily with eyes... it just has the zooming black bar effect during dramatic moments and virtually all commercial breaks.
- Samurai Jack is not exempt from this, either. The title card itself is an Eyedscreen. This was parodied in the Duck Dodgers episode "Samurai Quack". When this happens to Dodgers (playing Jack), he notices the effect and actually tries to push out the black bars.
- Shows up in Sushi Pack from time to time.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Unfair Science Fair", Candace and her rival Wendy use this trope in emphasizing their competition.
- Skip to 1:30 in "this video" for an example in motion.
- Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi:
- Ami employs this trope in the episode "In The Cards", while staring down Yumi in a card game, mixed with her Inner Monologue.
- It is used again in "Spaced Out" to emphasize Yumi's intense stare.
- The Emperors New School in "The Mystery of Micchu Pachu", Kuzco used this trope against an anteater skeleton which was actually an old man in a costume.
- World of Quest does this a lot in relation to Quest. Normally when he's complaining about how much he hates something. And seeing that he hates just about everything (except for Albert)...
- Occasionally shows up in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
- Done at least once in the animated version of Lucky Luke, like every other western trope.
- Adventure Time "Ricardio the Heart Guy", This trick shows up when Finn says that Ricardio is "up to something."
- Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes Used when we first see Iron Man powering Up
- The Venture Brothers Phantom Limb in "Victor Echo November".
- Storm Hawks with Aerrow in "The Key".
- Brutally parodied in an episode of Yam Roll—the letterbox effect gets smaller and smaller until you can hardly tell what it's focusing on.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Used in Episode 7 "Dragonshy" when the Mane Cast is preparing for confront the dragon.
- Chief Thunderhooves of the buffalo tribe uses the effect several times in "Over a Barrel".
- Parodied to hell and back in an episode of Yin Yang Yo! where various characters do this when plotting something - then promptly note how cramped it is, take their hands out, and push the bars back to the ends of the screen. The bars get thinner and thinner to the point, by the end of the episode physically squishing Yin and Yang between them from the horizontal sides.