The Little Traveling Shot
September 18, 2007 10:05 AM   Subscribe

What is the earliest generally-accepted use in commercial cinema of the following three shots: a lens-based zoom, in or out; a traveling shot using a dolly to follow a scene's protagonist (as in moving from room to room laterally); and a traveling shot using a dolly to effectively create a zoom, in which the framing of the protagonist becomes tighter as a result of a shorter distance to the subject?

I am interested in citations, if possible, and with regard to the dolly shots, it doesn't matter to me if the dolly cart is on tracks or not (although the history of dollying per se, tracked or otherwise, is of interest to me).

My question is prompted by the startling observation of an apparent dolly-based zoom in a Chaplin Mutual short, The Count, dating to 1916. The frame-tightening can be seen beginning at 15:28. It ends just as the scene cuts away at 15:42.
posted by mwhybark to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well the zoom lens wasn't even built for a movie camera until 1932, and didn't really become common place until the '50s.

But dolly shots are *early*. Heck, as far as moving the camera goes, the Lumieres put theirs on boats moving around, and trains and things.
posted by MythMaker at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2007

As a rather alternative technique, which may or may not be of interest, Man With A Movie Camera (1929) used double exposures to get zoom type effects.
posted by wackybrit at 10:21 AM on September 18, 2007

a traveling shot using a dolly to follow a scene's protagonist

This is called a tracking shot, which was used in Cabiria in 1914.
posted by four panels at 10:26 AM on September 18, 2007

By the way my intro film studies class used Understanding Movies by Louis Giannetti, and I can't recommend it enough. Very easy to follow. Makes movie watching a totally new experience.
posted by four panels at 10:42 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think four panels is on the right track. My film history text (Film History by Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell, 2nd ed) says this:
Cabiria [...] consistently used innovative slow tracking shots toward or away from static action. Camera movement had appeared in the early years of the cinema, particularly in scenics. Filmmakers also occasionally used mobile framing for expressive purposes in narrative films, as when D.W. Griffith began and ended The Country Doctor (1909) with pans across a rural lanscape.
Wiki backs this up; Pastrone wasn't necessarily the first guy to do it, but he was probably the best-known.
posted by SoftRain at 12:04 PM on September 18, 2007

« Older Need to be restrained...   |   What can I do to help slay the sadness demon? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.