Key Elements for a Perfect Long Take in Films

Long sequences without cuts have been always fascinating to the viewers, whether or not they realized it was a continuous take. In this video, filmmaker and director Vincent Laforet breaks down two famous long shots and shares his opinion on why they are so engaging.

Ryan Connolly from Film Riot gives us the opportunity to take a look at a directing class on MZed by Vincent Laforet. Long takes, or "oners," as many call them, are a true piece of art that combines not only the masterful work by the camera operator, as many young filmmakers only tend to notice, but the directing, blocking of actors, lighting by the DP, set design, and most importantly, the actors' performance, There are many other invisible members of the team who help place such jewels in the crown of filmmaking, but the only way to realize that is to try it yourself in your own films.

In that part of the course, Laforet talks about several key elements of a successful and impactful long take. One of them is keeping the camera motion motivated by the performance of the actors, which is compared to the force of a magnet pulling the attention in a certain direction. Another important element is the set design and blocking that should not allow any "dead spots" in the frame or compositions that are void or not contributing to the story. The remedy to dead spots is adding actors and extras that are performing in the context of the environment.

Applying the principles Vincent Laforet talks about does not depend on the size of the project you are working on. If you follow those simple rules and you have a scene that is suitable for one continuous shot, you can pull it off without expensive cranes or other motion stabilizers. You can have a handheld oner or with a camera on a tripod.

As an addition to the masterful long takes shown in the video, let me share my personal favorite from the film "Atonement" above. 

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2 Comments

Kang Lee's picture

My favorite long takes is from The Haunting of Hill House episode 6, a whole 18 minutes of genius in one take. They even managed to explore different timelines in that one single take. It is my all time favote episode of all time of any series and I don't even like horror.

Rod Kestel's picture

Oww, this would take a huge amount of planning and rehearsal. Then one goof and you have to start over.