Created By: KJMackley on November 14, 2009
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Epic Tracking Shot

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This is where the camera moves from one location to another, usually following/ pulling away from the characters so that you can see the sheer scope of their environment or so that you can see their exact location in relation to someone else.

What usually makes this so "epic" is that the complexity of the shot is such that it would be impossible to do without the use of some sort of visual effect, such as going from a city skyline into an apartment, and then through a keyhole into the bathroom. This doesn't mean that there has to be loads of Conspicuous CG, it's just that it would be quite difficult and very expensive to do certain shots like that any other way.

It's becoming quite popular to combine this with between scene eye catches, at least to give the illusion that it is one continuous shot. Another popular variation is where the camera seems to sink into the ground or ceiling to show what is happening on different floors.

A production can also have several very wide camera shots taken from a helicopter and zooming in slightly without actually being one of these shots. The key is how it goes from an extremely wide angle to a reasonable close-up or vice-versa.

Compare The Oner.

Examples-
  • ReBoot, by virtue of being the first All-CGI Cartoon, pioneered this use in television. It was actually quite common for an episode to begin with a view of Mainframe, then with a series of twists, turns and dizzying angles it focused in on the spot they needed to be in order to begin the story.
  • Star Trek: First Contact began almost inside Captain Picards eye, then progressively pulled back to show how massive the borg complex was. A later moment in the movie begins with a view of the Enterprise, then travels underneath the saucer section to focus on a couple of people emerging in space suits to walk across the hull. It gives a real sense of size to the ship.
    • Other Star Trek series would often have a shot of someone looking out a window to have the shot pan out to show the rest of the ship or station they were on. In Star Trek: The Next Generation they would visually "cheat" the image by pulling out only part way, then cut to the approximate area of the ship. In later series as CG became more cost effective, they would do it uninterrupted.
  • Smallville uses these on occasion. One shows Clark leaving Smallville by Super Speed, then the camera pulls back to see the entire Earth, and then zooms in to South America where Clark is arriving.
  • Firefly uses the "sink through the ceiling or ground" variation in the episode "Objects in Space" for both River listening in underneath the rest of the crew and Jubal Early listening in on top of their ship.
  • A particularly impressive shot was used for Treasure Planet. You see a half-moon in the sky and when the characters talk of going to the spaceport the camera then zooms towards the moon and as it gets bigger you see more details and eventually notice that it isn't a moon, but the spaceport itself shaped like a half moon.
  • Warehouse 13 uses the eye catcher variation using a handful of stock footage bits of moving quickly around the warehouse only to merge the stock footage with original footage as it goes into a specific area.
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • November 14, 2009
    Lee M
    There's a literary example of this in John Sladek's novel Roderick, where the title character (a robot boy) lets his newly-repaired eye do a long pan over a street scene, revealing all of the muggers, petty thieves, drug dealers, whores and other vices that his human 'mother' fails to notice.
  • November 14, 2009
    Assistant
    David Fincher loves doing this, like the garbage can in Fight Club or running the camera through the entire house (including going through walls) in Panic Room.
  • November 15, 2009
    KJMackley
    Michael Bay is fond of doing a "showdown" tracking shot where two enemies are hiding behind barriers, both ready to jump out at each other, and the camera starts behind one of them and does a high speed move while rotating 180 degrees. Sometimes going through walls.
  • November 15, 2009
    Youmustbelost
    The end of Resident Evil the movie has a particularly good one involving Alice pulling out a shotgun from a police car and cocking it determinedly, and then pulling slowly out revealing a completely devastated Raccoon City.
  • November 30, 2009
    KJMackley
    Men In Black ends with an epic tracking shot by starting with an overhead of J and L, then pulling away to see the Earth, continuing on past the solar system and the galaxy to show that our galaxy is simply a marble much like the Mac Guffin of the film.
  • December 1, 2009
    wanderlustwarrior
    Also The Oner, action movie Tom Yum Goong /The Protector/ Warrior King features a four-minute one-shot elaborate fight sequence that reportedly took eight days to get right in which Tony Jaa fights his way up a building. must be seen to be believed
  • December 1, 2009
    vijeno
    • Battlestar Galactica, final shot of season 3 (hopefully I got this right!): The camera moves back from the Fleet, until we see its location in the galaxy, and then moves back to where the Cylons are. Pretty impressive stuff, that.
  • December 2, 2009
    Arivne
    Film
    • One scene in Total Recall has several villains walking around inside an abandoned alien base. At the end the camera pulls back (via special effects) to reveal the incredible size of the base.
  • December 2, 2009
    random surfer
    Several in Watchmen
  • December 2, 2009
    JAF1970
    Oh, boy. Kids. All of those examples were influenced by such classic tracking scenes as:

    So many that young filmmakers emulate these scenes, I can't list them all.
  • December 2, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The Argentine film El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in their Eyes) has a tracking shot that starts with an above view of a football (soccer) stadium during a match, then dives into the crowd to focus first on the policemen trying to spot a murder suspect among the fans, then on the suspect as he is seen by the police, and finally on a dizzying chase scene through the stairs and toilets of the stadium.
  • December 3, 2009
    KJMackley
    There are also quite a few films that open with such a shot, as already mentioned Star Trek First Contact and most every ReBoot episode:
  • December 11, 2009
    KJMackley
    One more bump
  • December 11, 2009
    Bisected8
    The episode of Futurama "Bender Should Not Be Allowed On TV" has a shot of the Planet Express Ship taking off from New New York, flying around the Earth and landing in LA. All within the space of a few seconds.
  • December 11, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The final shot of Minority Report, starts with a simple pull back from two of the precogs sitting in a room in a house, back through the house, out through the (closed) window, and away from the house and up.
  • December 11, 2009
    Edgukator
    • A Couch Gag from The Simpsons features the "camera" pulling back to reveal the planet, then the galaxy, then the universe... only to reveal atoms, then cells, then we realise that the universe was within Homer all along.
  • December 12, 2009
    Arivne
    Film
  • December 12, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    • Godard was a big fan of the long tracking shot. It's evident in his early work- in Contempt, there's an early shot of the characters walking outside the studio space talking with the American producer that lasts for some 6 minutes- but most famously in his late 1960's film Weekend which opens with a stunning tracking shot of the protagonists driving around traffic which lasts for more than 10 minutes.
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