Film Language Tag: split screen
An optical or digital effect where multiple separate images appear within the same frame at the same time.
In a traditional split-screen matte shot, one half of the image is exposed, the film is rewound, and the other half is exposed. This technique allowed Hayley Mills to play identical twins and appear on screen at the same time in The Parent Trap (1961). The film Timecode (2000) used a four-way split screen with each quadrant playing back a separate but simultaneously recorded image from one of four cameras. The series 24 (2001-) uses split screen as a storytelling device to show multiple angles of the same action or shots of different action taking place at the same time, either within the same location or in different locations (such as the two sides of a telephone conversation). More American Graffiti (1979) and Hulk (2003) offer an interesting comparison in split screen technology. More American Graffiti represents the state-of-the-art in optical technology with the screen divided into various rectangular grids while Hulk demonstrates the significant advances made possible by digital technology with split screens moving freely throughout the image.
USAGE: Technically, a split screen contains only two images. Any more, and one has a multi-image screen. However, most people use the term split screen and qualify it by the number of images presented if more than two — a four-way split screen, for example. [Also known as split-screen effect, split-screen shot, and split frame]