Tracking Shot – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Cinematography Glossary Terms

What is a tracking shot?

A tracking shot, also known as a tracking sequence or tracking camera movement, is a filmmaking technique where the camera moves alongside or follows a subject or action. The camera is mounted on a dolly, crane, or other moving platform to smoothly capture the movement. This technique allows the audience to feel as though they are moving with the characters or objects on screen, creating a sense of immersion and dynamism.

How is a tracking shot different from a dolly shot?

While both tracking shots and dolly shots involve camera movement, they differ in their execution. A tracking shot involves moving the camera along a predetermined path alongside the subject, while a dolly shot involves moving the entire camera setup on a wheeled platform (dolly) towards or away from the subject. In essence, a tracking shot follows the action, while a dolly shot moves towards or away from the action.

When is a tracking shot typically used in cinematography?

Tracking shots are often used in filmmaking to add visual interest, create a sense of movement, or emphasize a character’s perspective. They are commonly used in action sequences, chase scenes, and long takes where the camera needs to follow characters through a complex environment. Tracking shots can also be used to establish a sense of space or geography within a scene, or to create a sense of intimacy by moving alongside characters in a dialogue scene.

What are the technical considerations when setting up a tracking shot?

When setting up a tracking shot, filmmakers must consider several technical factors to ensure a smooth and effective shot. This includes choosing the appropriate camera movement equipment, such as a dolly, crane, or Steadicam, based on the desired effect. The camera operator must also coordinate with the actors and other crew members to ensure that the movement is synchronized with the action on screen. Lighting, focus, and framing must also be carefully planned to maintain visual consistency throughout the shot.

How can a tracking shot enhance the storytelling in a film?

Tracking shots can enhance the storytelling in a film by creating a sense of momentum, suspense, or intimacy. By moving the camera alongside characters or objects, tracking shots can immerse the audience in the action and create a more dynamic viewing experience. They can also be used to reveal important information, highlight key moments, or establish a character’s perspective within a scene. In essence, tracking shots can help convey emotion, tension, and narrative depth in a visually engaging way.

What are some famous examples of tracking shots in cinema history?

There have been many iconic tracking shots in cinema history that have left a lasting impact on audiences and filmmakers alike. One of the most famous examples is the opening tracking shot in Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” (1958), which follows a car bomb through a crowded street in a single unbroken take. Another notable example is the tracking shot in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” (1990), where the camera follows the protagonist through the back entrance of a nightclub and into the main room in one continuous shot. These tracking shots are celebrated for their technical prowess, storytelling impact, and cinematic innovation.