How Tracking Shots Work: 6 Examples of Tracking Shots in Film

In the world of film and video production, the artistry behind capturing the perfect shot can often be as compelling as the narrative itself. Among the myriad of techniques utilized by filmmakers, the tracking shot stands out for its ability to immerse viewers directly into the scene.

This technique is not merely restricted to the glitzy world of Hollywood; it’s a critical component in the toolkit of any video production service, including those nestled in the bustling entertainment hub of Las Vegas.

A video production service in Las Vegas leverages tracking shots to transform ordinary scenes into extraordinary cinematic experiences, blurring the lines between the viewer’s reality and the narrative unfolding on the screen.

The Allure of Tracking Shots

The allure of tracking shots extends beyond the camera’s movement, touching upon the meticulous planning and execution it demands. This is where the role of production supplies rental becomes invaluable.

Cinematographers rely on an array of specialized equipment to achieve these dynamic shots, from dollies and cranes to steadicam rigs. Production supplies rental companies offer access to this essential gear, enabling filmmakers to draw their audiences deeper into the cinematic experience.

Whether a project is situated in the heart of Las Vegas or on a remote location elsewhere, the availability of high-quality production supplies for rent is a game-changer in the pursuit of visual storytelling excellence.

The Significance in Film History

The origins of the tracking shot can be traced back to silent cinema, where it provided a means to bridge various scenes without the need for heavy editing. It began as a practical solution but soon evolved into an artistic approach that influenced generations of filmmakers.

Cinematographer Karl Freund’s work in German expressionist cinema is a prime example of the early impact tracking shots had on narrative. Freund’s famous work in films like “The Last Laugh” (1924) and “Metropolis” (1927) demonstrated the emotional depth and spatial awareness that tracking shots could lend to a story.

The Art of the Tracking Shot

Cinematographic artistry is at the heart of tracking shots, amplifying the storytelling quotient of any film they grace. Think of them as the invisible hand that not only guides the viewers but also unpacks the narrative, layer by layer.

Mastering the Dance: Technical Aspects

A successful tracking shot requires precision in camerawork, coordination between actors and crews, and a thorough understanding of the scene’s geography. The camera can ride on a dolly for smooth movements or be carried by the camera operator for a more dynamic, yet controlled, approach.

Handheld tracking shots are notoriously challenging to execute due to the need for steady and sustained movement. On the other hand, mechanical or remote-controlled dollies offer smoother and more predictable results, yet potentially lose the raw energy of a human-guided camera.

The Artistic Choice

Beyond the technical know-how, a tracking shot is a bold statement by a filmmaker about the story being told. It signifies moments of revelation, character depth, and the exploration of space.

Directors strategically use tracking shots, placing them where they believe the audience’s emotional connection is most profound.

Directors such as Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese are renowned for their liberal use of tracking shots. Kubrick’s measured and precise movements add an eerie stillness to his narrative, whereas Scorsese’s frenetic tracking shots in “Goodfellas” are as much a part of the story as the characters themselves.

Examples of Tracking Shots in Classic Films

The Race Against Time in “Touch of Evil” (1958)

Orson Welles’ three-minute opening tracking shot in “Touch of Evil” is arguably the most famous in film history. Beginning with a bomb’s chaotic construction, the shot follows the bomb into a car’s trunk, introduces the main characters, and traverses an entire Mexican border town.

This impressive, unbroken shot serves to immediately draw the audience into the film’s dark and complex web of crime and corruption.

“The Exorcist” (1973): Confronting Demons

In a film renowned for its shocking moments, the tracking shot during young Regan’s medical examinations is one of subtlety and dread. The slow, creeping movement mirrors the unseen malevolence at work while showcasing the helplessness of the girl and her mother.

It’s an example of a tracking shot that, when used judiciously, becomes a powerful narrative device.

The Overlook Hotel’s Haunting History in “The Shining” (1980)

Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is a veritable masterclass in cinematic tension, and the tracking shots through the Overlook Hotel are an integral part of its unsettling atmosphere.

One shot, in particular, navigating through the hotel’s labyrinthine halls, underscores the isolation and madness that grip the film’s protagonist, Jack Torrance.

Hop on in “Goodfellas” (1990)

Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” uses tracking shots to provide a living diary of criminal life. The long, fluid movements mimic the glamorous and chaotic world of the mafia, including the legendary Copa shot where Henry Hill and his companions enter through the kitchen and into the heart of high society.

These tracking shots ingeniously connect the audience with the lifestyle’s allure and eventual reckoning.

Tracking Shots in Modern Cinema

With advancements in technology, modern filmmakers have more freedom than ever to experiment with tracking shots. Drone technology and Steadicam rigs have broadened the canvas on which these vibrant, continuous shots can be painted.

Gravity-Defying Sorcery in “Gravity” (2013)

Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” redefines the tracking shot, as the entire film feels like a single, uninterrupted sequence. Achieved through a mix of on-set innovation and digital trickery, the film’s seamless exploration of space provides an immersive, edge-of-your-seat experience that’s as much about visual storytelling as it is about technical wizardry.

“Birdman” (2014): Theatrical Verité

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman” presents an almost otherworldly achievement of simulated continuity. Seamlessly blending scenes together to create the illusion of a single shot, the film ties the protagonist’s mental state to a constantly moving camera.

This ‘one-shot’ aesthetic not only propels the narrative forward but also peels back the layers of theatrical artifice in a uniquely cinematic way.

The Role of Tracking Shots in Storytelling


Tracking shots are as diverse as the films in which they appear, yet they share a common thread of continuously guiding the viewer through a cinematic narrative.

Through celebrated examples in film history and the innovative approaches to tracking shots in the modern era, we’ve seen that their potential in storytelling is as boundless as the human imagination and technical prowess.

Filmmakers continually find new ways to utilize tracking shots, but the emotional and narrative power they hold remains a constant lure for filmmakers and viewers alike.

About OnLocation Production

At OnLocation Production, we recognize the pivotal role of tracking shots in crafting striking and dynamic visual narratives. Our extensive expertise extends to mastering the art of the tracking shot, a technique that transforms ordinary footage into cinematic brilliance. 

To achieve the outstanding fluidity and depth that tracking shots are known for, we deploy a versatile arsenal of equipment including dollies, jib arms, Steadi-Cams, and Easy Rigs.

Additionally, we pride ourselves on our support and guidance, assisting clients in choosing the right tools and techniques for their unique needs.Experience the difference that OnLocation can make to your production. Discover more about our services and offerings at OnLocation Production.

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The equipment onboard OnLocation Production’s truck is a brilliant demonstration of how cutting-edge technology can be utilized to create a complete, versatile, and cost-effective production package. From the production supplies to the camera department, every element has been carefully selected to provide the most advanced and efficient solution for all production needs.

The department packages encapsulate the demands of most productions and underscore the strong link between OnLocation Production’s offerings and the industry’s demand for state-of-the-art equipment. These packages have been meticulously designed to incorporate the knowledge and skills acquired in the industry, providing the highest production value possible.

Below please find individual department lists. If you need anything additional for your production pelase don’t hesitate to ask.