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long tracking shots


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Hello, i will soon be introducing my mother to the wonderful world of forums. In the meantime we would love to get a thread started regarding a somewhat technical issue. "Long tracking shots" that is to say camera takes of notable length with out an edit; preferably with camera movement. If you are not interested in the technical side of classic movies perhaps you will suggest a more appropriate forum somewhere else . Thank you for your time and attention.

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Although not a technician, I am interested in the methods used in the classic movies and find them fascinating in their ability to modify the viewer's perspective .

 

One movie in particular caught my attention at the beginning sequence. The movie was Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. It was not until later that I watched a documentary and the filming techniques were discussed. That first scene was photographed as one long shot without an edit. I then understood how important such things are and began to look for them in other movies.

 

I think its a great idea to discuss how these great movies (that we all love) were accomplished.

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One of the other great tracking shots is Robert Altman's eight-minute opening sequence of The Player, a logistical work of art. I know tracking shots are certainly of major interest but, though this might be a little off-topic, I think extended, unedited sequences almost unnoticable in films are of equal interest. One of the best I've seen, apart from Lionel Barrymore's final address in A Free Soul, is in Mervyn LeRoy's Two Seconds, with Edward G. Robinson. Towards the end he delivers over two minutes of dialogue to a judge in an unedited close-up that always sends shivers down my spine. His performance during this scene is electric and damn-near the best work Robinson ever did. I know I got a shiver down my spine when I first saw Touch of Evil and The Player, but those were nothing compared to the shiver I got when I first saw that shot in Two Seconds.

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One movie in particular caught my attention at the beginning sequence. The movie was Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. It was not until later that I watched a documentary and the filming techniques were discussed. That first scene was photographed as one long shot without an edit. I then understood how important such things are and began to look for them in other movies.

 

It's a tribute to Orson Welles's powers as a filmmaker that he executed the extended tracking shot to open TOUCH OF EVIL only because it was forced on him by Universal's front office, who were concerned that he was falling behind schedule and going over budget. Though it was nerve-wrackingly complicated, because actors and camera crew knew that one slip-up would require starting all over again, the tracking camera-crane sequence eliminated a couple of dozen camera set-ups and saved two-days' shooting.

 

After all that, you probably think the executives were admiring and grateful for Welles's resourcefulness.

 

Guess again...

 

A director who was a master of planned tracking dolly shots was Stanley Kubrick, who used them extensively in PATHS OF GLORY, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, THE SHINING and FULL METAL JACKET. Contrast his work with the pointless, mindless "orbiting camera" shots around stationary characters in modern films and TV shows.

 

Cinema is a lost art, and people spend time jawing about how funny or not the Oscar host is.

 

It all goes to show you how far everything has sunk.

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By no means as amazing as the tracking/crane shot of "Touch Of Evil", there are multiple tracking shots in Preston Stuges' "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" that continue for pages and pages of dialogue.

 

The first dolly lasts 2:30 min while the whole scene runs 3:45 min between cuts. It is the scene of Trudy asking Norville to help in her deception of going to the dance. What is great is that the tracking shot/dolly shot goes around multiple street corners as they walk on the sidewalk. There is a second of Trudy and her younger sister a shortwhile later lasting 90 seconds also walking around corners.

 

I think that is one of the best parts of Preston Stuges films - long, unedited shots of multiple pages of dialogue. It drives me crazy to watch contemporary films filled with close-ups and reaction shots that serve no purpose when a unedited two-shot could have been just a useful and probably more emotionally or dramatically effective.

 

For excellence in shot composition that adds layers to the storytelling, see "A Place In The Sun".

 

Kyle in Hollywood

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re:Scrosese.

 

In a documentary I have on tape, Martin Scorsese speaks of a tracking shot/dolly in Goodfellas that is shot from the point of view of the main character. It is the character's entrance into the bar and his introduction to all the persons there who address the camera as if talking to the Ray Liotta character. Quite nice when you see it.

 

kjk

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Hello, i will soon be introducing my mother to the wonderful world of forums. In the meantime we would love to get a thread started regarding a somewhat technical issue.>>

 

Mbug,

 

I have to ask, so who has the technical interest, you or mom?

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The mother of all tracking shots is "Russian Ark". The entire film is one continuous take, over 90 minutes in length. No edits, no cuts. They did it with hi-resolution video equipment and a huge hard drive. There were several thousand extras involved, so planning was critical. I think they got it on the third take.

 

Hitchcock would have loved to use that technology for "Rope". He was limited by the ten minute length of film stock.

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Many of the 'tricks' used by the movie masters seem to have been born of frugality but were very effective. That is what separates the great movies from the others. You may not even know why you are pulled into one until the second or third look when you are freed from plot and can investigate the periphery.

 

A recent documentary on Hitchcock revealed such things as use of a giant cup to represent the foreground while the camera followed the action behind it (which movie?). The opening scene of Children of Paradise was filmed on a set where the buildings were scaled down toward the horizon line to give the correct perspective. Great effects, very little money. Perhaps the artisans are no longer available to provide these imaginative solutions.

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The scene of Mammy and Melanie Wilkes walking up the stairs near the end of ?Gone With the Wind? is rather famous. It was a long take until the very end. This one scene was one of the most important to help Hattie McDaniel win the academy award for that film. Everybody in the audience is crying by the time she reaches the top of the stairs. That scene was done with a ?boom?, a camera on the end of a long crane and the crane has its own dolly wheels, so the camera can go up and down as well as sideways or backwards and forwards.

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There is a 360-degree pan at the beginning of the cattle drive in ?Red River?. I can?t figure out where they hid all the crew, the director, the technicians, etc.

 

Fred, if the crew were clustered around the base of the camera crane, they'd never come into frame (kind of like why you can't touch your left elbow with your left hand).

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  • 2 weeks later...

For some really amazing tracking shots, see I AM CUBA, a propaganda film shot in Cuba in the early 60's with a Soviet film crew. There are shots that go on for 10 minutes with no cuts with the camera in one scene tracking down the side of a building, moving to a rooftop pool and then going underwater. Still another starts at street level, travels up several stories, tracks across the street, through a window in a building, through a room and then back out the window to track out at the street below, now several stories above the original starting point. I think TCM has shown this, but it is currently available on one of the ON DEMAND features on Comcast cable. What Orson Welles would have done to have such a camera crew!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hello to mbug and his mother! Welcome. filmlover the Lonesome Polecat sequence is one of my favorite parts of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and to learn itis one long tracking movement is incredible. Can you imagine the rehearsal needed to make it look so fluid. Now the girl walking or the waitess walking in From Here to Eternity that ain't long though the camera follows along in what I belive is a continious shot. Oh, I wish I could walk like that girl.

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One of the most amazing tracking shots is the opening shot from Julien Temple's 1986 (and otherwise fairly forgettable) movie musical Absolute Beginners. This extraordinarily long shot was supposedly inspired by Orson Well's opening shot for Touch of Evil. Wells' tracking shot was released under the credits until the last restoration when we could finally see it unimpeded (and iced with that wild jazz score).

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Man, you guys have great memories. "Touch Of Evil" and "The Player" both feature the definitive long tracking shots. James Wong Howe was great at tracking shots (and many other innovative camera techniques)-Check him out tonight on TCM. I recently watched "Fellini Satyricon" (on VHS)- a visually stunning depiction of ancient (decadent) Rome with hypnotic tracking shots.

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Hello,

 

A fine "one long take" scene is in the film "Gun Crazy" (aka "Deadly Is The Female"). Half-way through the movie, the bank robbery scene in, oh...I forget the name of the town.

 

What a great scene. What a great movie. The best "B" movie I have rented in a while.

 

Rusty

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