Freeze Frame (film technology)

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In film, the term freeze frame is used to describe the stylistic device of freezing a certain individual image, i.e. creating an effect as if the film were paused. For this purpose, the desired individual image of the camera negative is copied several times in succession in the classic film in the optical printer .

The technique of the freeze frame creates a transition from film, i.e. moving images, to photography ( two bandits , you kissed and they beat him ), sometimes also from film to painting ( Born in Pain ) or to comics ( 300: Rise of an Empire , RED 2 ).

In 1959, director François Truffaut finished his first feature film They kissed and they hit him , with which he founded the Nouvelle Vague , with a freeze frame on the face of his hero Antoine, who runs into the sea.

The style element is best known from various action and kung fu films from the 1970s and the television series Navy CIS , in which such frozen images are also shown in black and white.

Hong Kong director John Woo regularly uses frozen images. Usually he uses this to emphasize a special facial expression of one of his heroes, for example the expression of an emotion in an important scene.

Two bandits

The final freeze frame of the film Zwei Banditen (Original title: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ), a western by screenwriter William Goldman and director George Roy Hill from 1969, went down in film history. The film tells the life of the two sympathetically portrayed train- and bank robbers Butch and Sundance as well as their love triangle with their beautiful accomplice Etta and was one of the biggest box office hits of its time.

The film ends with the bandits, death-defying, jumping out of the house completely surrounded by the military - a scene reminiscent of their jump from the cliff (in the middle of the film) when they were still able to successfully escape from the bounty hunters. Director Hill explained that he deliberately wanted to leave open the vague possibility that they could still save themselves. By capturing this moment like a photograph, the image joins the series of photo-like still images that depict the happiest times of the two (or the three) - with Etta in New York, a stopover on the way to Bolivia - shapes. However, if historical photographs were used in the New York sequence, in which the actors were retouched , the final image had to be produced in a complicated process: A so-called still camera - here a 35 mm Panavision camera - was placed on the roof of the building opposite and aimed at the door that Newman and Redford would sprint out of. First some footage was shot of them walking towards the camera and shooting. Then a still image was taken of the set with no actors. This had to be done extremely quickly and precisely so that the shadows on the 35mm image matched those in the photo. The last picture of the 35mm recording, on which you can see them running out, was then stopped, then the colors were faded to the historical-looking sepia hue and the picture was glued into an enlargement of the still photo from the set. At the end it was filmed again with an animation camera and zoomed out . In this way it was possible to show Newman and Redford as part of a photograph of the whole scene.

Current examples

Quentin Tarantino repeatedly uses freeze frames in contemporary cinema . In his film 300: Rise of an Empire , for example, Zack Snyder regularly closes scenes with freeze frames, which also transition from a still image to a painted form.

Comic adaptations

In the comic adaptations of DC Comics, for example, RED - Older, Härter, Better and RED 2 , the ends of scenes are frozen again and again and then turn into comic drawings. These comic drawings are then sometimes used for transitions to the following scene. In this way, the company creates a direct connection between the comic characters and the film characters, which are represented by real people.


Freeze frames are rarely used in German films. An exception is the experimental crime scene in pain born in 2014 based on a script by Michael Proehl . In the film, where paintings play an artistic role, scenes are frozen and blended into a painting, creating yet another of the many combinations of art forms that characterize this film.


  • Stefanie Diekmann, Winfried Gerling (eds.): Freeze Frames. On the relationship between photography and film. Verlag transcript, January 2010, ISBN 978-3-8376-1363-6

Individual evidence

  1. The Making of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” , documentary by Robert Crawford, USA 1972. To be seen on: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid . Cinema Premium Edition. 2 DVD set. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment 2006.