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In film and video, a freeze frame is when a single frame of content shows repeatedly on the screen—"freezing" the action. This can be done in the content itself, by printing (on film) or recording (on video) multiple copies of the same source frame. This produces a static shot that resembles a still photograph.
Freeze frame is also a term in live stage performance, for a technique in which actors freeze at a particular point to enhance a scene or show an important moment in production. Spoken word may enhance the effect, with one or more characters telling their personal thoughts regarding the situation.
- The first known freeze frame was in director Alfred Hitchcock's 1928 film Champagne.
- An early use of the freeze frame in classic Hollywood cinema was Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas film It's A Wonderful Life where the first appearance of the adult George Bailey (played by James Stewart) on-screen is shown as a freeze frame.
- A memorable freeze frame is the end of François Truffaut's 1959 New Wave film The 400 Blows.
- Director George Roy Hill frequently made use of the technique when depicting the death of a character, as in The World According to Garp (1982) and in the memorable ending to the classic western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The freeze frame ending of The Color of Money (1986) also featured Paul Newman.
- Hong Kong director John Woo also makes extensive use of freeze frames shots, usually to gain a better focus on to a character's facial expression or emotion at a critical scene.
- This technique is used quite a lot in the 2003 film Pieces of April; the director uses this to capture special moments that are considered particularly significant.
- The 1970s television series of Wonder Woman had its episodes end with a freeze-frame of Diana Prince smiling.
- The American TV show NCIS—a spin-off of the series JAG—often uses freeze-frame shots, referred to in that programs's production as "phoofs" or "foofs" due to the sound effect that accompanies them, which was created by NCIS's creator and Executive Producer Donald P. Bellisario hitting a microphone with his hand. These short black and white freeze frames depict an event that will occur later in the episode, and usually last for three seconds. The program first used the technique in the fourth episode of the second season of NCIS, Lt. Jane Doe, and have appeared in every episode since, with a typical episode containing four or five freeze frames that include main characters and sometimes also one-off or recurring characters.
- Freeze frames were parodied in the 1982 sitcom Police Squad!. Each episode ended — and the credits rolled over — a "freeze frame" shot emulating those of 1970s dramas. However, the scene was not actually frozen. The actors simply stood motionless in position while other activities (pouring coffee, a convict escaping, a chimpanzee throwing paper) continued around them.
- "The Complete Alfred Hitchcock - Harvard Film Archive". hcl.harvard.edu.
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