Dolly zoom is an in-camera effect that requires focusing on a single point while zooming in (or out) and dollying out (or in). The shot, developed for Hitchcock's Vertigo, appears to undermine normal visual perception.
The effect is achieved by zooming a zoom lens to adjust the angle of view (often referred to as a field of view, or FOV) while the camera dollies (moves) toward or away from the subject in such a way as to keep the subject the same size in the frame throughout. In its classic form, the camera angle is pulled away from a subject while the lens zooms in, or vice versa. Thus, during the zoom, there is continuous perspective distortion, the most directly noticeable feature being that the background appears to change size relative to the subject.
The visual appearance for the viewer is that either the background suddenly grows in size and detail and overwhelms the foreground, or the foreground becomes immense and dominates its previous setting, depending on which way the dolly zoom is executed. As the human visual system uses both size and perspective cues to judge the relative sizes of objects, seeing a perspective change without a size change is a highly unsettling effect, often with a strong emotional impact.
The effect was first conceived by Irmin Roberts, a Paramount second-unit cameraman, in Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo. The shot has since been used in many other films, including Goodfellas, Jaws, and the Lord of the Rings films.