There’s more than one way to use tracking or dollying in your next film project. Whether it’s a crane shot or a close-up, point-of-view clip, tracking shots can help directors bring their story to life in a new way.
The lazy cadence of the opening scene of Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice brings the audience into the relaxed, though occasionally hectic, country home of the Bennet family. Alternately, director Alfonso Cuarón uses several long-take tracking shots to traverse chaotic, violent environments in his film Children of Men.
“People are experimenting with the tracking shot where they see how fast the camera can move and how fast we can track,” says Kontijevas. From action scenes to quiet, emotional moments, tracking shots can be used to set the pace of film.
Create seamless transitions.
Tracking shots are an innovative way to transition between environments and follow a character on their journey. In Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, the audience is brought along for the ride while notorious mobster Henry Hill introduces his future wife Karen to the lavish lifestyle of the Mafia underworld. Moving from an establishing shot outside of the club, through the busy kitchen, and into the crowded restaurant, the viewer is immersed in this world of luxury alongside the characters.
Tell a vivid story.
Tracking shots allow you to experiment with perspective and bring your story to life through the eyes of your protagonist.
At the climax of Selma, Ava DuVernay uses subtle tracking shots to dolly out and follow Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other marchers as they cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This gives the viewer an unimpeded look at the concern and trepidation on the marchers’ faces as they approach the potential violence that awaits them on the other side. These intimate, moving shots bring the audience and the characters close together in a new way.
Convey complex emotion.
Showing an individual character’s emotional state or the overall mood of a scene is another great use of tracking shots.
In Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, the main character’s frustration is vividly brought to life as the camera moves and follows her in a circle around a truck as she smashes the headlights and windshield. This puts the audience in the perspective of the moving subject, rather than as a bystander to the action. Tracking shots are all about movement, but the subject matter and setting inherently affect how that movement is captured and interpreted.