When filmmakers, film students and film fans talk about famous and memorable steadicam shots, there is a narrow list of shots that always come up, like for example the Copacabana shot in “Goodfellas”, the chase sequence of “Carlito’s Way” or the title fight shot of “Raging Bull”. But now the steadicam has been used in movies for more than 30 years and directors have been getting better in incorporating it as a storytelling tool in a more subtle and artistic way. Here we take a look at 10 less talked about steadicam shots that are however very interesting either for the artistic choices behind them, their dynamic framing or the way they make a difference in telling the story.
This is an interesting shot as the steadicam here is used in a more artistic way than usual. Here we follow Jim Morrison at party thrown Download InShot Pro APK v1.840 by Andy Warhol. There’s people of all kind, slow music, drugs, colorful lighting, movie projections on the wall. Think of a typical Fellini shot but with the protagonist on drugs. The camera also, through dutch angles and variable frame rates, seems to be the POV shot of a person who is experiencing disorientation after taking drugs and helps the audience feel the emotion of the scene very effectively.
The intro shot of David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” has one of the most interesting steadicam shots in film history in terms of the use of steadicam as an artistic choice. It’s basically just a POV shot of a car on a highway at night. Not wanting to have a straight camera mounted or dolly shot, which would have been too boring, and not wanting to have a hand held, which would have been too shaky, the director chose to use a steadicam which gave a distinct left-right shift that has an eerie feel to it, a good anticipation of the almost surreal story that is to come.
The Hallway shot in Donnie Darko is a great example of how a steadicam can make a simple scene visually interesting and memorable. Remember the Copacabana shot in Goodfellas? It was supposed to be a “guy and girl walk into a bar” but, thanks to the use of steadicam, ended up being one of the most memorable shots in film history. Well, this shot may not be on the same league but it’s very effective in the way that it makes a simple shot of a “guy walks into the school hallway” into a shot that is visually cool and subtly introduces various characters who are given short actions who reveal things about them in a matter of seconds. Also to note is that this is a technically difficult shot to pull off because of the frame rate changes that speed up and slow down the action as the characters are introduced. The speed changes, together with the fast pans make this shot not only artistically effective but also technically impressive.
This shot, by operator Kyle Rudolph, shows how the steadicam can be effective when used in a dynamic shot that varies pace and composition. Here we are trying to enhance the feeling of paranoid the protagonist is feeling. He has a compulsive/paranoid mind and here is having a breakdown in a public place. We start with an intense POV shot of a character yelling at the camera, then with a fast whip pan we see the character, who is flipping out. Then a two shot, a single again, and whip pan back to the first character. Another person comes to the protagonist’s rescue, trying to make him reason, but he won’t listen and in a slow beautiful shot, with the camera in front of him, the protagonist leaves the scene walking slowly and revealing all the people present at the scene who witnessed the breakdown.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s movies are known for its dynamic shots and one of the ways he accomplishes that is through the use of steadicam. This shot in particular is not continuous but is visually striking because of how he uses low-mode steadicam shots together with crane and dolly shots. All combined, it gives a very original and unique flow to the shot. We start in a train station with a low-mode steadicam shot of Amelie and a man running after another man. Cut to a similar shot from outside and onto a crane to give a beautiful wide shot of the chase. Cut to a low-dolly shot and then a low shot again of the man they are chasing getting in his car and the man on his tail on a motorbike. Then we finish with Amelie finding a bag and a great crane shot into close up. Technically impressive for the synchronization required with the crew and talent and visually unique.
Just like the shot in “The Doors”, this one is of interest because of the artistic decision behind it and the way it tells a story rather that the ability of the operator. It is a slow and consistent shot in front of a character (Michelle Pfeiffer) as she walks out of the bathroom into the hallway, then the living room and back into the bathroom again. To make the story short, the character thinks that her lakeside house in Vermont is haunted. But everybody thinks it’s all in her mind.
Strange things start to happen and this is one of them. This shot in particular is a subtle build up and reveal of the presence of the ghost. And to make it a steady and continuous shot just made the life of the crew a lot harder as the bathroom where we start the shot basically received a complete makeover in about a minute. As it starts the character leaves a candle by the empty bathtub and exits the bathroom with some objects in her hands. She drops them off and slowly walks to the living room. There she notices fog coming out of the bathroom and reenters from another door. Now the bathroom is fogged up and there’s water up to the brink in the bathtub. Special effects create a reflection of the ghost onto the fogged up mirror and when Michelle yells “What do you want! “, the ghost writes “You Know” onto the same mirror..
Did it have to be a continuous steadicam shot? No, but this artistic choice created a very subtle and suspenseful build up to the appearance of the ghost. We never take our eyes off the character and when she sees the fogged up bathroom and the ghost, it’s definitely a step up from any previous ghost reveal in movie history.
This shot is very brief but the use of steadicam significantly enhances the intensity of the drama. We don’t need to know much about the movie to appreciate the shot. All we need to know is that we are in WWI, in the trenches, and a group of French soldiers is getting ready to battle. When the captain yells to the soldiers to prepare the bayonets, everybody puts on the blade on the rifle as the camera moves along the trench. The genius of this shot is that with the use of steadicam, the director, in a 30 second shot, gives a stunning visual representation of the hell of WWI, a war that many remember for the use of trenches and the wide use of the bayonet, which was a rifle with a blade attached to it for use in close combat. Do you want a strong visual and dramatic experience of WWI in less than 30 seconds? What this steadicam shot.
Well, if not for the execution, this steadicam shot had to be included only for the fact that we get to see Times Square completely empty during the day. This probably meant that the shot had to be completed fast and there was little room for error. Shot by legendary steadicam operator Larry McConkey, we start with a shot of Tom Cruise arriving at Times Square in his hip Porsche. The place is empty on this side of the square. The camera moves slowly closer and closer to Tom Cruise and then around him to reveal the other side of the location, also completely empty. Tom Cruise leaves his car and runs on the street, faster and faster as a crane shot reveals the whole location.
Well, this may be from a major blockbuster movie but it’s a steadicam shot that is not talked about too much. Even if technically very simple as it’s only the Terminator’s POV as he walks into a bar, it’s context makes the use of steadicam a perfect choice for the shot. The Terminator walks naked into a bar and scans objects and people that encounters on its way. The POV steadicam shots are infra red images with computer data as the machine analyzes its surroundings, and we follow the Terminator up to his delivery of one of the coolest lines in film history, “I need your clothes, your bootz and your motorzicle”.