Fanny trolley
Dunkirk from the Train Station to Malo-les Bains. (1913)

Fanny (1932), dir. Marc Allégret

In 1913, someone passed through this town with a moving motion picture camera. A twenty-first century sound track here accompanies his tracking shots. Did those gambolling boys perish at Dunkirk, June 4, 1940?


Moving Camera

This shot never existed, but picture it as if it did:

We track ahead as hammers smack into plywood in darkness. Saws cut, lathes turn, voices shout. We advance while arc lamps near the roof of the studio light up like airplane portholes. We track past plaster elephants, hieroglyphs, and extras in desert robes. We dolly into the center of the set, closing in on four men who are attempting to rotate a wheel beneath a cart-like contraption. When we are close, one looks quizzically towards the camera.

This is the man we have come to see— the minority shareholder of Itala Films, the producer, director, writer and creative force behind Cabiria. Wiry, intense, 30 years old, he is a small man wearing an overcoat and a fedora to ward off the cold. He has bet the future of Itala Films on this sandals and toga movie. We continue to track towards him until his eyes fills up the entire the screen. He regards us curiously. Music rises. This is GIOVANNI PASTRONE.

You Did It Then: 

Motion quickens movies. View seven tracking shots in Giovanni Pastrone's Cabiria (1914).

Then create an animatic (sketch simulation) illustrating the tracking shot described above. Adjust the “motion” to a pace that seems right to you. Compare this “tracking shot” to other animatics covering the same material using a camera that does not move. Choose the approach that seems best for your “movie.” Step by step instructions and the component shots are in this button.


You Do It Now: Create a scene of your own choice using at least one human actor. Shoot it first with a stationary camera. Then shoot it with moving camera. Keep all other elements the same. (You don’t need to get fancy. Jean Luc Godard rented a wheelchair to shoot the dolly shots in Breathless.) Consider how the moving camera changes the feel of the film.