Learning From Spielberg: The Elegant Dolly Move in a Long Take From 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'

Long takes are one of the trademarks of Spielberg. Using a camera on a dolly, here's how he made a visually engaging scene from the famous "Raiders of the Lost Ark" film.

If you've watched most of Steven Spielberg's movies, you can find a stunning resemblance to some of Andrei Tarkovsky's camera moves and long takes. Filmmaker Vashi Nedomansky took a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and made an overlay that shows the camera move on the dolly track, which makes it quite easy to understand the power of a simple stabilization setup.

Watch the scene without paying attention to the overlay and see how moving actors close and farther away from the camera (as well as zooming in and out) feels like creating seamless smooth cuts to wide shots and close-ups. If you don't have the luxury to own a cine zoom lens, you can always use the distance between the subjects to the camera as a means for framing. If you want to make a similar camera move, you can use a standard slider. Watch the overlay. The camera is moving back and forth, not just in one direction. However, the secret is not just in the way the camera moves, but in the way the actors are positioned during the sequence. This positioning is called "blocking." That's one of the most important aspects in creating a dynamic and engaging scene in any film.

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9 Comments

The video seems to freeze at around 00:39. Is it just me?

In case anyone else has this problem, the video worked for me in this twitter post

https://twitter.com/vashikoo/status/1163981567980478465

I had the same problem. Thanks for the link!

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I had issues with Vimeo in the past and I contacted them and turned out to be some of their data servers (depending on your location) that had issues. Could be the same thing here.

Have you tried the twitter link?

Andy Day's picture

Vimeo's playback of video has always been terrible, and continuous to be woeful. Given how long this has been a problem, you would think that they'd have fixed this by now. I don't remember the last time I played a Vimeo video all the way through without it stalling.

I actually haven't had many problems with vimeo in the past, but then again I don't use it a lot.

David Love's picture

This is called the Steven swore he wouldn't go over budget like he did on his last few films so less takes and less shots. They just shot it as fast as they could. I think there are reasons behind techniques others pick out in movies besides thinking the director is sitting there like a genius planning out cool camera moves.