Tracking shot

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During filming of The Alamo, a tracking shot was used during a battle scene

In motion picture terminology, the term tracking shot may refer to a shot in which the camera is mounted on a camera dolly, a wheeled platform that is pushed on rails while the picture is being taken; in this case the shot is also known as a dolly shot or trucking shot. One may dolly in on a stationary subject for emphasis, or dolly out, or dolly beside a moving subject (an action known as "dolly with").

The term may also refer to any shot in which the camera follows a subject within the frame, such as a moving actor or a moving vehicle.[1] When using the term tracking shot in this sense, the camera may be moved in ways not involving a camera dolly, such as via a Steadicam, via handheld camera operator, or by being panned on a tripod.[2]

The Italian feature film Cabiria (1914), directed by Giovanni Pastrone, was the first popular film to use dolly shots, which in fact were originally called "Cabiria movements" by contemporary filmmakers influenced by the film; however, some smaller American and English films had used the technique prior to Cabiria,[3] as well as Yevgeni Bauer's The Child of the Big City, released a month prior to Cabiria. Earlier in 1912, Oscar Apfel used 4 tracking shots in his short film The Passer-By. A popular film using tracking shots was Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men. Another example of a Steadicam tracking shot can be seen in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining when Danny is moving through the hotel hallways on his three-wheeled bike.

The tracking shot can include smooth movements forward, backward, along the side of the subject, or on a curve. Dollies with hydraulic arms can also smoothly "boom" or "jib" the camera several feet on a vertical axis. Tracking shots, however, cannot include complex pivoting movements, aerial shots or crane shots.[4]

Tracking shots are often confused with the long take – such as the 10-minute takes in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948) – or sequence shots.


A variant of the tracking shot is the onride video, also known as a Phantom Ride, where the camera films during a ride on a train, an amusement ride (especially a roller coaster) or another vehicle. Such videos may be used to document the route. The camera can be fixed to the vehicle or held by a person in the vehicle. A tracking shot is also a video taken by Oracle-rocket.

See also


  1. Blain Brown. Cinematography: Theory and Practice : Imagemaking for Cinematographers, Directors & Videographers. Focal Press, 2002; pg. 66; ISBN 0240805003.
  2. Mercado, Gustavo. The Filmmaker's Eye: Learning (and Breaking) the Rules of Cinematic Composition. Focal Press, 2010; pg. 155; ISBN 0240812174.
  3. Salt, Barry. Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis. Starword Press, 2003.
  4. Kawin, Bruce. How Movies Work University of California Press, 1992.