HIMM: A Quiet Long-Take Champion (Zhou)

A long take – this is simply a shot that doesn’t cut away to other shots, but is a continuous shot that usually follows the action of the scene as it plays out in real-time. Even if you have never heard of the term, I’m sure you have seen one in action (anything that has top-ten style list dedicated to it is probably something which falls into the category of stuff you have seen)!

In the early years of cinema, it was normal to shoot with long takes – it made production both a little easier, and a bit cheaper. As cinema developed cinematography became more complex, and consequently the pace of editing increased. In what seemed like almost no time, the long take was either done away with altogether, or it directors wielded it as a stylistic badge of honour.

Let me ask you this then: what if you were able to incorporate the long take into your work without drawing attention to the fact? How would you do it?

With 55 directorial credits spanning four decades, Steven Spielberg knows how to. The Hollywood giant has used this classic technique so frequently that it is definitely a signature move – yet many of us may not have realised it.

While other purveyors of the long-take usually parade the shot, Spielberg has managed to have many of his ‘oners’ fly under the radar – allowing audiences to become immersed in the dramatic energy of a scene without noticing the technique being used. Love him or hate him, that is a rare cinematic skill that ought to be celebrated – if not emulated.

So today on How It’s Made Monday, I want to share an excellent video essay on the Spielberg ‘oner’ by one of my favourite online commentators, Tony Zhou. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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