Tracking shots are truly one of entertainment’s finest moments. A rarity in the business, tracking shots are uncut, and are probably one of the most enjoyable parts of any film or show. For those that don’t know, a tracking shot is one continuous take of a certain scene that isn’t edited for a period of time. It may be difficult to accomplish, but the end result is a truly enjoyable storytelling experience. Alfonso Cuaron and Joe Wright are just a few of the filmmakers who have tracking shots in their works.
For those who have HBO, you may have seen the tracking shot in the most recent episode of True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Hit the jump to see the six-minute scene in its entirety and what director Cary Joji Fukunaga had to say about filming the scene.
Here is how Fukunaga describes the shooting of the most complex shots:
“We had ADs [assistant directors] all over the neighborhood because we had to release extras, crowd running background, police cars, stunt drivers. There were actual gun shots and stones being thrown through windows. There were a lot of things to put together. Even the action, the stunt sequences were complicated. We’re working on a television schedule. It isn’t like a film where you can spend a lot of time working the stunts out with the actors. We only had a day and a half to get Matthew and everyone else on the same page.”
It took weeks for Fukunaga and his crew to get the necessary permits to shoot in the housing complex that was seen in the scene. But once he got the greenlight, the director went to work on the logistics of creating the tracking shot which consisted of going through a number of houses, crossing streets, cars driving up, and other obstacles that McConaughey would have to encounter during the six-minute ordeal.
Part of that ordeal was trying to figure out how the team would film McConaughey and another actor scaling a fence. This fence could not be torn down, and building a ramp over it for the cameraman to record proved to be unsafe. MTV says “the solution ended up involving placing the Steadicam operator on an elevated jib, or a weighted crane, which carried him over the fence and back down to earth.”
Fukunaga and his team recorded the scene seven times, and he was sure to include edit points just in case two takes needed to be combined together in order to achieve the perfect shot. But just in case you were wondering, the scene in question is, in fact, unedited and one full tracking sequence. Pretty cool right? Makes me wish I had HBO.