The six-minute ‘True Detective’ tracking shot, and the night TV changed
December 23, 2014 12:09 PM   Subscribe

"Over the course of eight episodes, Fukunaga essentially rewrote the visual language of a televised cop show. Gone were the traditional establishing exterior shot of a police department, leading to an establishing shot of an office, a two-shot of the players, and a series of reaction shots between them as a conversation takes place. Here we had a director who seemed to take every frame, every movement, every bit of shadow, and every movement of the camera as seriously as the story."
posted by Brandon Blatcher (33 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
I admire the technical side of it, but I really didn't like this episode. It was this ridiculous action movie dropped into what until then had been a tense, relatively low-key show.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:22 PM on December 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


That was an absolutely amazing shot, though. I would be really interested in knowing how they planned for it and what the rehearsal sessions were like in order to get it right.

What strikes me also about this shot is that already this was one amazing TV show. You were already riveted to the developing plot. They didn't have to do anything like this to make it better. But it's like they said, let's do this amazing thing in this thing that is already amazing, because it would just be a cool thing to do.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:29 PM on December 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


But it's like they said, let's do this amazing thing in this thing that is already amazing, because it would just be a cool thing to do.
"One of the most difficult things about the 1995 storyline in terms of danger is that we see Hart and Cohle in 2012 so we know that neither of them die. The question was: how do you create a feeling of dread and suspense? I needed to think it through.

"Of course, one of the things you can do is stick with them through every single moment of potential danger. The idea of potential danger is always more scintillating than the punch or the missed bullet, and the idea of sticking with Cohle through that whole section, as things start to fall apart, was particularly exciting. Perhaps most exciting was that it could be done through soundwork; not being able to clearly see what was going on outside but being able to hear it, and hearing the people outside beginning to build up. It became clear quite suddenly that we could do it in a oner. We could create this gauntlet that Cohle had to run in order to survive and it would be awesome. I just didn't know it was going to last that long – it turned out to be an eight-minute sequence when we were walking through it.
-How we got the shot: Cary Fukunaga on True Detective's tracking shot
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:35 PM on December 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


Robert Altman ruined the long tracking shots for me. Now they all come across as dick-waving. But it was a nice shot though.
posted by cazoo at 12:40 PM on December 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I watched this episode while really baked and had no idea what I was in for. I think I just about had a heart attack by the time the credits rolled.
posted by naju at 12:42 PM on December 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


That's good stuff, Brandon Blatcher. Also, this was great from the article:
It took a lot of planning; there was a lot of talking with my grips, the gaffer, the cinematographer, the operators, just to lay down the things I wanted to do. I wanted to see a helicopter. I wanted to go through houses, I wanted to go over fences, and I wanted it to be unbroken. To achieve that, we required the involvement of every single department, like a live theatre show. We had make-up artists hiding in houses so they could dash out and put make-up on [Cohle's hostage] Ginger's head. We panned away for a second to do that – when Cohle calls Marty. We also had ADs peppered around the neighbourhood with extras who had specific things to yell and specific places to run. We had stunt guys coordinating with stunt drivers to pull up at the right time, special-effects guys outside throwing foam bricks and firing live rounds. And then obviously we had to have Woody in the right place and at the right time so that he could pull up just as Cohle and Ginger came to him.

If the whole thing wasn't working I knew I had to abort it really quickly, and so we only got through seven takes. The first three takes were aborted and that was disheartening but finally, on the fourth, we went all the way through and pretty much almost everything landed. The euphoria from the hundreds of people who were around the blocks was pretty amazing. But it was exhausting, at least for everyone but Woody. He was just stuck in his car most of the night, waiting to pull up and screech.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:43 PM on December 23, 2014 [6 favorites]




And other TV tracking shots, as reported last March, when the episode aired. AV Club also runs down some earlier great shots.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:13 PM on December 23, 2014


It was well acted and shot but I couldn't have been more bored and repulsed by the hackneyed and lazy "woman found raped and murdered in the woods" mystery. Hell it was cliché and parody when twin peaks did it. Every show begins with a murdered woman like there is no other plot point to use. It takes more than a 6 minute tracking shot to overcome basic storytelling shortcomings.
posted by milarepa at 1:23 PM on December 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Easy...easy...easy"
[everything goes to hell]
posted by angrycat at 1:28 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I couldn't have been more bored and repulsed by the hackneyed and lazy "woman found raped and murdered in the woods" mystery

Right? I can't turn on the TV anymore without seeing women with antlers affixed to their heads and surrounded by creepy symbols and statues getting murdered by weirdo cult members.
posted by Hoopo at 1:34 PM on December 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Hey, it's just two shows.
posted by Artw at 1:35 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Someone should do a show where a man gets murdered!
posted by Mister_A at 1:50 PM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


In fairness our current ongoing antler murder show is fairly even handed in it's victim of weird staged murders.
posted by Artw at 2:09 PM on December 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, this accretion of sensory experience and feelings, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody's nobody. I think the honorable thing for our species to do is to deny our programming. Stop reproducing. Walk hand in hand into extinction. One last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.

I got an idea, let's make the car a place of silent reflection from now on. Okay?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:21 PM on December 23, 2014 [23 favorites]




Got through 2-3 episodes, only mystery that seemed important was why they were being interviewed in the future. But a big tracking shot, maybe that's enough to keep watching.
posted by sammyo at 2:34 PM on December 23, 2014


Here's a link to an episode of Tony Zhou's Every Frame a Painting (also on Tumblr) on long takes and Spielberg's non-ostentatious use of them: The Spielberg Oner - One Scene, One Shot.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:59 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I liked the tone of this show a great deal, and the tracking shot is pretty damned cool from a technical perspective. I did find the show a bit uneven in terms of pace and a bit weak on resolution, with a few too many dead ends in terms of the mythology they seemed to be building up and the weird apparition/hallucination business. The tracking shot episode in particular came totally out of left field for me. Nothing wrong with it, it just didn't feel like part of the same show somehow.

I will be watching the next season for sure.
posted by Hoopo at 3:06 PM on December 23, 2014


to me, the final episode abandoned everything interesting about the series. i really enjoyed how smart the guys were about lots of things (including covering up their own mistakes). but in the last show they could not have been dumber ("let's split up! i'm going to go into this dark labyrinth all alone!"). it was a serious disappointment for me.

but that tracking shot was exhilarating.
posted by bruceo at 3:20 PM on December 23, 2014


"Fukunaga... [is] preparing an adaptation of Stephen King’s It"
Oh boy.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 3:45 PM on December 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Fucking spider...
posted by Artw at 3:51 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really wish the story, mostly the ending really, of this show was as good as the setup was.

And you know, the actual rest of the show. the cinematography, characters, everything. It was awesome.

The ending just ruined it for me almost as much as the ending of BSG.
posted by emptythought at 3:56 PM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


but in the last show they could not have been dumber

Y'know, they'd already proved themselves wrongheaded daredevils at the drug house in the swamp. Rust and Marty were smart in each their own way, but neither were ever any good at assessing/handling a live situation in the field as shown several times in the series (including the shot this post is about). It's a mistake to hold up the detectives as shining examples of anything other than tiny pinpricks of light in the utter darkness. Emphasis on -pricks.
posted by carsonb at 4:01 PM on December 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


On second viewing I was pretty sure there were edits during this shot, there are a few places where the camera goes black behind walls and things don't quite match up on the other side.
posted by belling at 5:43 PM on December 23, 2014


Every time I see a camera stunt like this, I think of Johnny LaRue drunk on Christmas Eve, ranting about how he wants a crane shot.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:48 PM on December 23, 2014


They built on in edits to the shot so they could mix multiple shots. But they did run a single shot
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:17 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Y'know, they'd already proved themselves wrongheaded daredevils at the drug house in the swamp.

My 'already' is wrong here, that part came after this scene. No matter, still the same conclusion of 'dumbasses in the field', but it was bugging me.
posted by carsonb at 9:22 PM on December 23, 2014


I should rewatch True Detective in a true single-day binge sometime here soon. I really loved the series, but I was watching it week by week, and my brain leaks a lot, so I'm sure I missed a lot of things that carried across episodes.

It was very literary television. Fargo season 1 was also.

I was a die-hard NYPD Blue fan... watched every season first airing from 1 to the end. I sort of miss having a cop/detective show that I enjoy to turn to weekly. I know that neither TD nor F are going to have the same cast or setting or even time period for their second seasons.. but I was glad to, even for short viewing seasons, to have such shows on that I truly enjoyed.

I hope the trend continues.
posted by hippybear at 1:51 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


So I like Colin Farrell but I can't imagine what this next season will be like. Also, is it just me, or has Woody Harrellson long been under-rated as an actor?
posted by Mister_A at 5:54 AM on December 24, 2014


So I like Colin Farrell but I can't imagine what this next season will be like.

He's really awesome playing jerks. It's going to be great.

Contrary to comments above, I think season one was really cohesive with a great ending. The mythology was never part of the plot, it was part of the setting. I'm really, really glad it didn't try to do a Lost-style, fan-service literal mythology wrapping up. Carcosa in True Detective served the same function it did in the Yellow King stories.

The whole story was about an archaic, chaotic nightmare time that's still under the surface of our civilization and this particular scene really shows how quickly everything can fall apart, how easy violence resurfaces, how quickly control evaporates. I think it perfectly fits the tone of the show.
posted by spaltavian at 7:58 AM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


I can't turn on the TV anymore without seeing women with antlers affixed to their heads and surrounded by creepy symbols and statues getting murdered by weirdo cult members.

Didn't the first episode of Hannibal involve antlers?

The fury of the Baratheons...
posted by Apocryphon at 5:34 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]




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