Into the series of tubes!
May 11, 2014 1:41 PM   Subscribe

You know this shot: someone places a call, or plugs something in, or taps a command on their keyboard, and the camera zooms into the infrastructure for a brief effects sequence. We follow a pneumatic message across the city in The Shadow, and an undersea telecom cable in the opening of Trois Couleurs: Rouge. I remember this being a thing in hacker/cyber-thriller movies of the late 1990s but can't find any examples right now. Is there a name (à la TVTropes) for this kind of shot? Can you remember other examples (all kinds of infrastructure welcome!)? I'd like to put a supercut together of this kind infrastructural adventure sequence, try to find the first of this kind, etc. Thanks for your help!
posted by deathmarch to epistemic closure to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This happens in the Simpsons when Lisa buys a copy of Al Gore's book, "Sane Planning, Sensible Tomorrow".
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:49 PM on May 11, 2014

I don't know what you'd call this - other than a tracking shot of pneumatic tubes - but I do know it when I see it.
posted by eschatfische at 1:50 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes! Also adding to the list: the sequence in the opening of The Matrix where we zoom in on the mouthpiece of the pay phone handset and through the telecom network to Keanu Reeves's desk.
posted by deathmarch to epistemic closure at 2:02 PM on May 11, 2014

Would you count the brief tracking shot of smoke in the Vatican at the end of ANGELS AND DEMONS when they've successfully elected a Pope?

Monty Python also did this a couple times in their animated sequences on the show, but their "pneumatic tubes" usually involved things like naked Boticelli statues or clockwork sheep or whatever else Terry Gilliam's demented brain coughed up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:08 PM on May 11, 2014

Just as another famous example, this pnuematic tube sequence from Truffaut's 1968 "Stolen Kisses".
posted by bfields at 2:10 PM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if this fits the bill, but Fight Club's opening sequence springs to mind.

Also, Mission Impossible's burning fuse in general. Here's Ghost Protocol's opening sequence.

I'm also not sure if this is what you had in mind, but Lord of War's "life of a bullet" intro is phenomenal.
posted by phaedon at 2:10 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Along the same lines, this type of effect happened in pretty much every episode of "House;" wikipedia calls it the "Fantastic Voyage Effect."
posted by kinetic at 2:18 PM on May 11, 2014

Dial M for Murder a great cut away to a step-by-step telephone switch when, well, dialing for murder.
posted by kiltedtaco at 2:22 PM on May 11, 2014

Response by poster: Yes, these are all wonderfully useful. I certainly don't want to limit things to just tubes (my title's attempt at a joke was a bit misleading) -- and y'all know exactly what I'm referring to. It's the attempt to take something huge, abstract, and hard to represent, like planet-wide logistics or the Internet, and put it in a movie by following something (a package, a packet, a signal, a call) from one point to another with a little montage. It's an interesting filmmaking challenge. Thanks again for all the examples!

(Another for the list: the box-eye view of a FedEx shipment from the opening of Cast Away.)
posted by deathmarch to epistemic closure at 2:25 PM on May 11, 2014

The lovely animated short When The Day Breaks.. sorry not to find a time stamp for you, I think about halfway through?
posted by Erasmouse at 2:46 PM on May 11, 2014

There's the sequence in Brazil when Sam has a fight with the pneumatic tube system in his office at the Ministry of Information Retrieval which might yield a few bits.
posted by pompomtom at 2:55 PM on May 11, 2014

Not sure if it's what you're looking for, but there's a sequence in Enter the Void where the camera zooms into penetrative sex to witness the moment of conception, gestation, and birth.
posted by naju at 4:35 PM on May 11, 2014

In Bourne Identity there's the "activate the secret assassins" sequence that doesn't follow wires but has a fast series of establishing shots followed by... people answering pagers and getting phone calls?

Also, I can't decide whether this one is a fit or not:

During the opening credits of Thirteen Days, we look through the U2 camera lens along with the pilot while he takes the first flyover pictures of missiles in Cuba. Over several scenes, we see the film get removed from the plane, follow the canister through the chain of custody as it makes it's way to the Pentagon and see it get examined by an analyst, who is finally shown flipping through a munitions book and pointing at the page with that specific missile type. It's not bad for showing a bureaucratic process but it isn't really showcasing technological infrastructure, if that's your emphasis. Maybe some of the shots of armed marines carrying the secret crate around would be useful?
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:46 PM on May 11, 2014

The opening credits for the TV show NOW, and maybe the opening credits from Burn After Reading.

Along the same lines, this type of effect happened in pretty much every episode of "House;" wikipedia calls it the "Fantastic Voyage Effect."

See also, the CSI franchise.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:59 PM on May 11, 2014

posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:01 PM on May 11, 2014

Opening credits of the IT Crowd
posted by sexyrobot at 1:49 PM on May 12, 2014

Ooh, hey, this sort of thing kinda happens on CSI a lot where they have a "trace the impact path of the bullet/sword/table leg/ninja throwing star/toy duck while they're speculating how someone died" sequence. At least they used to.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:30 PM on May 12, 2014

Does the tubes of time stuff count from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure?
posted by freezer cake at 10:30 AM on May 13, 2014

A low-tech version from the Return of the King.
posted by bfields at 12:16 PM on May 13, 2014

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