Standard Establishing Spaceship Shot

"Slow, awe-inspiring shot of approaching underside of spaceship. Thanks to the Star Wars Act, passed by Congress in '79, it is law."
Mike Nelson, Rifftrax

So you want to establish your Cool Spaceship's power and destructive potential? Easy! Just have it enter the screen (usually from the top) and sloooooowly crawl forward. For extra drama have the ship suddenly appear in the distance with a small flash of light after coming out of hyperspace and then slowly crawl forward.

Compare Fighter-Launching Sequence, Emerging from the Shadows.

Examples! Incoming!

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  • The Trope Codifier is Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, which began with a Star Destroyer chasing Leia's much smaller ship.
    • The later films used the trope Once per Episode. The Super-class Star Destroyer Executor in Episode V, the Rebel flagship Home One in Episode VI, the Jedi transport in Episode I, the Naboo ambassadorial ship in Episode II, and the First Order Star Destroyer in Episode VII, which eclipses a planet in its shot.
    • The long panning shot of the Republic Venator class star destroyer in Episode III subverts this, as it ends to reveal hundreds of warships fighting the Battle of Coruscant in the distance, showing that this ship isn't particularly special. Yes, George Lucas loves this trope.
    • Five of the Expanded Universe novels written by Timothy Zahn start aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimera, employing this Trope by inference.
  • Spaceballs parodied this by having the Big Bad's ship's introduction stretch on and on and on for well over a minute.
  • Used for the Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey in a famously drawn-out fashion.
  • The beginning of Event Horizon is the camera slowly exploring a space station, with such costly CGI that it reportedly took up a third of the film's budget.
  • At the beginning of Avatar we see the ship transporting Jake to Pandora.
  • Used to show off the shiny new Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Half the movie is just shots of the Enterprise receiving a fly-by shot, or doing a fly-by over V'Ger.
  • Also used for the U.S.S. Kelvin in the 2009 Star Trek film.
  • Alien opens with the camera panning over the Nostromo.
  • The opening shot of Independence Day has an alien ship flying over the Sea of Tranquility about to enter Earth orbit.
  • Done with Sark's cruiser in TRON.
  • Pitch Black starts with a top-down view that show a small part of hunter-gratzner's first section, but mostly the container behind it. Then the camera slowly rotates and pans down the ship and it ends with the classic from behind view.
  • Space Mutiny opens with an establishing shot of the heroes' spaceship in flight.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A regular feature on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Red Dwarf, particularly the epic opening titles used for series 1 and 2.
  • Used during the premier of Stargate Universe to introduce the Destiny
  • The sequel series to Armor Hero has an egregiously long shot at the start of episode 32 that takes a full two minutes. Half is spent viewing it from the classic angle (the bottom), and the other half is spent viewing it from the top.

    Video Games 
  • Continuing with the Star Wars examples, the introductory cutscene to X-Wing includes a squadron of Star Destroyers descending into planetary orbit about to attack a group of Mon Calamari Cruisers.
  • The Lindblum in Final Fantasy XIII makes its first appearance by slowly emerging from a huge cloud.
  • Halo: Combat Evolved opens with the Pillar of Autumn floating by. Most of the games do this at least once, such as the assault carrier and In Amber Clad in Halo 2, and the Long Night of Solace supercarrier in Halo: Reach. Halo 4 does this several times with the Infinity, sometimes with an escort fleet, and with the Didact's ship.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The first scene after the Illusive Man's office in Mass Effect 2 is the Normandy exiting hyperspace and flying towards the camera. The first game mixed this with shots of Shepard walking through the interior on his/her way to the bridge. The first establishing shot of the ship though is when it is still in drydock. The dock lights gradually turn on as the camera slowly tracks down the hull of the ship.
    • Played straight so often in the third game that the times it's not used can be counted on one hand.
  • The Opening Sequence of the first game in the Galaxy Angel gameverse features the Elsior crawling upward.
  • FreeSpace 2 does this numerous times, the most noteworthy being the intro. At the end of the scene, the camera pans out above the planet, where a fleet of GTVA ships flies in, including the GTVA Colossus.
  • The ship database of Infinite Space does this when viewing ship information. It's also the victory screen after battles and the "Press Start" screen when the game starts up.
  • Bowser is introduced this way at the very beginning of Super Mario Galaxy.
  • The original login menu of StarCraft II had the Hyperion over the screen and then go off to hyperspace. Apparently it goes right behind the screen and does it again. Turns into a overly long gag if you stay on the login screen for a while
  • Star Fox 1 opened with the first boss ship emerging from the top of the screen, heading towards Corneria and dispatching fighters.

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