Sunday, August 15, 2010

Filming those Long Takes....

When I was small, used to think that film making or even making a teledrama is just a piece of cake as long as you could get hold of a camera and some good actors, where you would just shoot the conversations that happens. But I later came to realized the mammoth effort that goes into creating even the smallest scene.

One of the main aspects in a movie clip would be the camera angles and how the camera is being used in each scene. You could shoot a film in many different angles; this is done due to many reasons.

Some can be to best illustrate the contents of the scene, for example in a scene where two actors are engaged in a conversation the camera will switch between their facial expressions. For this you would either need to shoot with two cameras at once or to shoot the conversations separately.

Also you would slice the movie down into different scenes and have breaks in camera shots just to make it easy for you to get the perfect picture. Then you would work your way through little by little shooting each scene with breaks, this will reduce actors mistakes and ease up choreography and handling of other props.

But as of late I have grown in interest and being fascinated by “long takes”. Long takes are simply where the director uses one single camera to film an entire scene without having breaks in the acting. It lasts longer than the normal editing phase going into extra several minutes. Long shots are extremely hard to do simply due to the effort and the cohesiveness of all the teams that need to go in just to get it right. One single error means that the whole shot have to be taken from the scratch and for a very complex scene this is simply a nightmare.

I first started to show a keen interest on long takes through the movie Children of Men, where director Alfonso CuarĂ³n has created a masterpiece giving you an amazing experience and suspense through his extensive use of this technique.

Of course there are so many directors who are famous for long takes, such as Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson and many more but these are three of the best scenes I could find over YouTube and i am sure you are going to enjoy these...

The Goodfellas - Copacabana Entry 
I love this one. One of the most popular scenes from Martin Scorsese masterpiece; The Goodfellas, the scene is where Henry and Karen enters the Copacabana. With the use of a steady cam the director takes the viewer in a smooth journey into Henry’s stratum of friends society he deals with.

Interview on how they made the Copacabana Long Take, utilizing a steady camera

Children of Men (Uprising scene)
I have no idea how they pulled this off; this highly complex and thrilling take keeps you at the edge of your seat, and I am sure the director was able to strike right at the heart of the viewers with the free hand camera that follows Theo (Clive Owen) though this scene.

Children of Men ( Car Scene)

Great use of the Long Take to give the viewers a roller coaster ride of emotions. The shot which is done inside the car is amazing and the techniques they have used for this is simply brilliant.  

Old Boy

This fight scene from old boy has been dubbed as one of the best movie fight scenes ever, and I couldn’t agree more. The director Park Chan-wook has done an amazing work in making Old Boy and this scene is undoubtedly a testament for it.

The long take starts at 0:58


  1. what about Andrei Tarkovsky?
    the godfather of long takes...

  2. Well what intrigues me most on the long takes are the complexity it carries, the exact and precision timing of additional props, the long conversations of the actors and the choreography and the effort that is needed to be put to churn out that perfect piece of long take...

    Obviously Tarkovsky is one of the best in this approach but he utilizes it in a more subtle manner, and i do not see the hurry and the rush it has, where as some of the work from Stanly Kubrick who is famous for his perfectionist style churns out some very complex and breath taking long takes in movies like Heavy Metal Jacket.

    I guess its the way you would want to utilize the technique, depending on the director...

  3. El Secreto De Sus Ojos (Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2009) has a terrific long take.

  4. Sorry, I forgot the link.

  5. @anonymous whow, thats an amazing long take...i need to get my hands on the film...