Crane shot

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In motion picture terminology, a crane shot is a shot taken by a camera on a crane. The most obvious uses are to view the actors from above or to move up and away from them, a common way of ending a movie. Some filmmakers like to have the camera on a boom arm just to make it easier to move around between ordinary set-ups. Most cranes accommodate both the camera and an operator, but some can be operated by remote control. They are usually, but not always, found in what are supposed to be emotional or suspenseful scenes. One example of this technique is the shots taken by remote cranes in the car-chase sequence of To Live and Die in L.A..

During the last few years, camera cranes have been miniaturized and costs have dropped so dramatically that most aspiring film makers have access to these tools. What was once a "Hollywood" effect is now available for under $400.

Famous crane camera shots

  • The Western High Noon had a famous crane shot. The shot backs up and raises, in order to see Marshal Will Kane totally alone and isolated on the street.
  • The television comedy Second City Television (SCTV) uses the concept of the crane shot as comedic material. After using a crane shot in one of the first NBC-produced episodes, the network complained about the exorbitant cost of renting the crane. SCTV writers responded by making the "crane shot" a ubiquitous symbol of production excess while also lampooning network executives who care nothing about artistic vision and everything for the bottom line. At the end of the second season, an inebriated Johnny LaRue is given his very own crane by Santa Claus, implying he would be able to have a crane shot whenever he wanted it.
  • Jean-Luc Godard, in his film Sympathy for the Devil, used a crane for almost every shot in the movie, giving each scene a 360 degree tour of the tableau Godard presented to the viewer. In the final scene he even shows, on camera, the crane he was able to rent with his budget by including it in the scene somewhat. This was one of his traits as a filmmaker - showing off his budget - as he did with Brigitte Bardot in Le Mepris (Contempt).
  • Director Dennis Dugan frequently uses top-to-bottom crane shots in his comedy films.
  • Orson Welles used a crane camera during the iconic opening of Touch of Evil. The camera perched on a Chapman crane begins on a close-up of a ticking time bomb and ends three-plus minutes later with a blinding explosion.
  • The closing take of Richard Attenborough's film version of Oh! What a Lovely War which begins on a single war grave, gradually pulling backward to reveal hundreds of identical crosses.

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