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November 26 2007

The Ten Best Tracking Shots Ever. Serenity comes in at number 6.

In a tracking shot that introduces us to the ship, the characters, the world and the tone of his woefully underseen adaptation of his woefully underseen sci-fi series Firefly, Joss Whedon pulls off a stunner. It's technically two shots joined at the middle with some trickery, so we'll say that each of them tied for number six.

Unfair to ding Serenity for being two shots edited together since The Player did the same.
Still, sounds like he liked the film...
Yay for the recognition!

But, I'd replace Snake Eyes with the tracking shot at the end of The Royal Tenenbaums. In 2 minutes and 33 seconds (yes, I just timed it :) most of the film's conflict is wrapped up as the camera travels a little more than the length of the fire truck that sits in the middle of the shot.
Touch of Evil is one of my all-time favorite films and its tracking shot is indeed astounding. Yay Orson Welles!

As for Serenity, I agree that its tracking shot is also fantastic. A gorgeous and impressive way to introduce the world, characters and feel of Serenity. When I first saw it in the theater I gasped. Yay Joss!
I wish there had been a clip of Serenity's "best tracking shot" too.
Yay for more exposure for this wondrous film that gets so little attention though.
There's been a similar thing posted before (few months back) with a lot of the same entries.

It's not that artful re: composition etc. but I always liked the one in "Superman" where Supes drops Lois off after their night of (as it turns out) passion, flies away and the camera, without cutting, follows Lois through her flat to answer the door to ... Clark Kent ;). Perfect example of an unobtrusive oner that's there purely to add to the story/illusion IMO.

(done with movie magic BTW - the Superman that flies away is actually on a screen, only Clark was really there at the time)

The shot(s) in 'Serenity' is the same I think. Not done to be flashy, it really is just the most elegant, efficient way to introduce us to all the characters (including the ship herself) while sliding gracefully past quite a lot of exposition. The sound design's actually my favourite part of it, nice as the camera stuff is - the way the camera passes into and through conversations goes a long way towards creating a fully realised, believable world where real people live and work.

(and if they're allowing CG, there's a great zoom on "Battlestar Galactica" that goes from the galaxy scale straight down onto a lone viper - can't remember the episode but I remember being impressed by the ambition, even if it definitely looked CG in parts)
What about that bit in Donnie Darco when the school is introduced?
I love seeing 'Serenity' named (and remembered among) such great classic films.
missed the House of the Blue Leaves shot from Kill Bill vol. 1 though.
Whedonesque's previous discussion of tracking shots and the article it linked to. Another long list of long shots. And my own LJ post on the subject - dealing mostly with "Elephant" - a movie made of tracking shots.
Very much a camera trick, but my favourite is from Notting Hill. When Hugh Grant walks along the street with the seasons changing (and the plot progressing) in the background.
I always loved the tracking shot in "Anne" that showed off the fancy season 3 Sunnydale High set.
I simply loved the tracking shot in The Body...
I clicked knowing that if I didn't see both The Player and Goodfellas referenced, the list was completely without merit. Nice to see Serenity included, too.
Basically a good list. I agree that I wish a clip of the Serenity shot had been included. And I agree with Saje (gasp) :) about the sound, it was an integral part of the stunning opening presentation of this "world" and it's characters.
On the other hand, damn, Saje, now it's going to drive me crazy, trying to remember which ep of BSG that shot was in, because I was impressed enough to remember it also.

And if we're including TV, how about Joss's opening oner on Convictions (AtS)?
The thing I love about the Serenity shot is it serves to make the audience feel like they're in a comfortable homely place after the jarring transitions of the opening sequence. Pretty much the opposite of most other movies that tend to use the long shot as a means of building tension.
The opening sequence after the cold open of Serenity is definitely one of my favourite tracking shots....but did anyone here see "Children of Men"?
Even knowing where the cut in the Serenity tracking shot is, I really just can't see it. Masterfully done.
Re: BSG. Are we talking about the season three finale? When the shot goes from Apollo and Starbuck in their Vipers, pulls back to show the spiral galaxy and then zooms into a different arm of the Milky Way and shows Earth? At the end of this clip?

It's an homage to the opening sequence of the movie "Contact". An incredible, incredible opening.
Yep, think that's it crossoverman. Only ... that's not it. Someone must've gone back and changed it (and all extant copies) afterwards cos I totally remember it zooming in on the Viper ;).

(and clearly it's been way too long since BSG was on our screens if I can't even remember the S3 finale)

That 'Contact' intro is nice too. Guess Douglas Adams was right, space is big ;).
Well the BSG TV Movie "Razor" just aired and I have mixed feelings. Not quite enough to tide me over until the next season...
Pre-ordered it but it's not out on DVD over here until Boxing Day.

May have to ask the Torrent faeries for a favour ;).
>sigh< Shaun of the Dead, obv.
That's the one, crossoverman!!, I'd forgotten about the Contact homage .... that shot is also on this list. Well, we have until March to watch our BSG recordings, which everyone probably has in one form or another.
It's ok, Saje, we all have our moments of memory dyslexia ;)
Yes, that Serenity tracking shot is a real beaut. I remember back when the flick came out, I told one of my "friends" (in quotations because he turned out to not be one) that it bested the Copacabana scene in Goodfellas and he got pissed. Good times.

Speaking of Joss tracking shots...I've always loved that one in "Graduation Day, Part 2" at the hospital, where the Mayor tries to suffocate Buffy.
There's this little film called Halloween, kind of influential, that features a tracking shot that single-handedly inspired all the POV rip-offs of the 80s.

In terms of Joss tracking shots, I absolutely love 'Anne,' when we follow everyone meeting back at school, the chaos of life and energy, and then the harsh cut to Buffy sitting alone in her apartment in L.A.
Actually, now that I think about it, the opening scene of BSG (not the one with Six blowing things up, the one after that) is incredibly cool...
I agree that the Serenity tracking shot is brilliant. The way Joss uses it as a tool to introduce all the characters in an organic and interesting way, whilst exploring the set and helping viewers to gain an idea of how the ship is laid out.

But I think what really makes it work is it's simplicity. Not in the sense that it was easy to film or edit (I'm sure it was probably a lot more complex to set up and film than I could imagine), but to the viewer it seems so fluid and natural, not a self consciously impressive trick but inconspicuous because it's there for a reason.
The Dark Shape - When this topic appeared, I said to myself "No Halloween. TDS will point it out". Thank you! :)
but did anyone here see "Children of Men"?

Yep. And I agree. An incredible movie in every single way that matters. And that attack scene near the end? Blows every other scene I've seen straight out of the water, visually. Had it as my 'movie of the year' and 'scene of the year' last year, on the review site I write for. Very happy to see it get some attention in this list. Together with Serenity, Contact (which is an incredible movie as well, although I'm almost contractually bound to love it as a student of astrophysics ;-)) and the tracking shot in Goodfellas, I'd say this list might just very well be spot-on. Great stuff.

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