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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.