Six Minutes Of Madness – Most Incredible One Shot Scene Ever? (NSFW/Spoiler)

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Please - do yourself a favor. Stop whatever you’re doing and go and watch the scene from True Detective I’ve linked in this article right now. It is not only possibly the greatest one shot I’ve ever seen, but it’s one of the most stunning pieces of cinema I've seen in recent memory. 

Television shows today have the ability to surpass film in terms of the cinematic impact they can muster. With smaller cameras, greater, more effective and cheaper stabilization options like MoVI coupled with brilliant DP’s who are willing to take risks to get great shots, we're seeing some of the most exciting television in years (anyone currently embroiled in Season 2 of House Of Cards will know what i mean - that's another show where the cinematography is absolutely off the charts).

Without exception, the scene we’re looking at today is quite possibly the best one shot takes I’ve ever seen. Forget television - this sequence tops many one shots from films that have budgets far in excess of a TV show. The first time i saw it, I called it as fake - there HAD to have been edit points in there. Right?


In case you’re wondering, I’m referring to the new HBO show True Detective. You don’t have to have seen any of the show to “get” this shot. It’s just outstanding in every regard.

MILD SPOILER ALERT - the scene features in Episode 4, so you may want to check that first.

Someone who apparently worked on the show, revealed the following interesting info over at Nofilmschool:

“Stunts and actors rehearsed on a mock up of the 1st house for probably a week. The entire run through, we had two days: one to rehearse, one to shoot. It was very well coordinated so there wasn’t much room for improv as far as the course of the shot. I cant speak for actor nuances though. We shot the entire show on film: Millennium XLs, excluding this shot. We went with an Alexa just because the length of the scene was longer than a 400′ mag. We stripped the weight of the camera to a minimum so no cinetape or matte box. The focus puller did an incredible job. I believe it was a 28mm at a 2.8.”.

Cary Fukunaga, the young Director of the show, was interviewed by MTV and he gave a little detail about the over-the-fence shot that was used towards the end of the take. Because the scene was filmed on a real housing project, none of the fencing could be removed or taken away to aid filming. The solution turned out to be relatively simple:

 "At one point, we were going to build a ramp, and the operator was going to walk up it," Fukunaga said. "But that wasn't very safe."

The solution ended up involving placing the Steadicam operator on an elevated jib, or a weighted crane, which carried him over the fence and back down to earth. Fukunaga continues with further insight:

"We had ADs [assistant directors] all over the neighborhood because we had to release extras, crowd running background, police cars, stunt drivers. There were actual gun shots and stones being thrown through windows. There were a lot of things to put together," Fukunaga said. "Even the action, the stunt sequences were complicated. We're working on a television schedule. It isn't like a film where you can spend a lot of time working the stunts out with the actors. We only had a day and a half to get Matthew and everyone else on the same page."

Apparently they ran through the whole sequence seven times, and while Fukunaga built in several edit points in case the scene had to be made up of two takes, he never actually used them. To run through the entire sequence only 7 times and nail it without the need to use edit points, is amazing.

For a bit more general BTS action of the concept and execution of True Detective Season One, check out the video below:

What do you think of the one shot take here? Seen any others you really like? Please let us know and share your inspiration  in the comments below.

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Long take with a lot of cgi.

Mark Weikert's picture

def not a true one shot, but I did love this. David Fincher is great. I loved these moving scenes in Fight Club as well :)

kevin nnnnn's picture

i love true detective and i was stunned when i watched this amazing scene... hitchcock's Rope is made up entirely in long takes and carefully choreographed scenes... amazing film

Tam Nguyen's picture

Ummm spoiler alert much? I'm only up to episode 3!!!!!!!!

David Geffin's picture

Oops good call!

At the midpoint at about 3:00 when the Camera tilts up to the sky there COULD have been a cut. Who knows.

David Geffin's picture

that was one of the potential edit points i believe. You're right, i thought the same, it's almost too good to be true, but apparently Fukunaga said there were no cuts so i'm inclined to believe him.

That was Children Of Men good. Television can certainly be cinematic but will never surpass cinema. Their cues derive from it and I'm glad that shows have leaned more toward this direction. What I think TV and Internet can revolutionize, is a better chance of independent films/series being made and successful. That would give cinema a run for its money.

I loved this scene with the exception of the fight at 3:44. It looked like some old school WWF.

When that episode ended, I looked over at my wife and said "That was the single greatest episode of a television show I have ever seen." My opinion has not changed. Remarkable work.

David Geffin's picture

haha i did the same thing the first time i saw it. My wife gave me that knowing "here we go again" look.

Jeff Ladrillono's picture

The opening scene for Pretty Sweet is hard to mess with. Someone had to 50-50 a pretty big rail for that one shot.

David Geffin's picture

yeah great point, that is awesome - it also came at a time before everyone was flying drones around so seemed super fresh. The timed confetti explosion at the end is an amazing way to end that incredible opening sequence.

David Vaughn's picture

Citizen Kane did long takes before it was cool. Haha.

Most Incredible One Shot? 96 minutes in one take:

Kristi Woody's picture

That's what I thought of too, Heath! Incredible film. For TV though, this scene is pretty impressive.

Thank you! My first thought after reading the article. Sokurov is insane.

Craig Oesterling's picture

I was just about to post this. Amazing film.

lets also not forget John Woo's masterpiece Hard Boiled

It pisses me off when I read such things. A small french canadian police show called "19-2" made one that was over 12 minutes long depicting a school shooting. TWICE as long....

Wish I could link it through youtube but I can't find it....

I think what a lot of people are missing from this article is that there is no cgi in this take. Yea it was shot on digital (did not know the series was shot on film, makes it more amazing) but to get the number of actors synced up the way they did is remarkable, and esp with the small window of time they had. Some of the responses are showing 3 minute action clips with a couple actors. This scene had a lot of extras over a 6 minute take.

This show is one of the best I have ever seen. The performance McConaughey is giving is beyond words amazing. I'm sad its only one season.

Jason Ranalli's picture CGI. Amazing this all was so tightly rehearsed and coupled...simply amazing.

There's a place for CGI but I'm glad they didn't use it is beyond impressive.

speaking of stunning cinematography on tv.... how about Hannibal? The second season, first episode was amazing. the scenes with Mads and Gillian talking, razor thin dept of field and apparently only natural light... yummy!!

David Geffin's picture

thanks Harold, been meaning to check that out - this is a good push for me to do so

Very impressive scene.

The Restuarant fight scene in The Protector is pretty crazy.