Tracking shot

Tracking shot
During filming of The Alamo, a tracking shot was used during a battle scene

In motion picture terminology, a tracking shot (also known as a dolly shot or trucking shot) is a segment in which the camera is mounted on a camera dolly, a wheeled platform that is pushed on rails while the picture is being taken. One may dolly in on a stationary subject for emphasis, or dolly out, or dolly beside a moving subject (an action known as "dolly with").

The Italian feature film Cabiria (1914), directed by Giovanni Pastrone, was the first popular film to use dolly shots, which in fact were originally called "Cabiria movements" by contemporary filmmakers influenced by the film; however, some smaller American and English films had used the technique prior to Cabiria.[1]

The tracking shot can include smooth movements forward, backward, along the side of the subject, or on a curve. Dollies with hydraulic arms can also smoothly "boom" or "jib" the camera several feet on a vertical axis. Tracking shots, however, cannot include complex pivoting movements, aerial shots or crane shots.[2]

Tracking shots are often confused with the long take -- such as the 10-minute takes in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948) -- or sequence shots.


A variant of the tracking shot is the onride video, where the camera films during a ride on a train, an amusement ride (especially a roller coaster) or another vehicle. Such videos are a good way to document a railway, a road or a roller coaster. The camera can hereby be fixed to the vehicle or held by a person in the vehicle. A tracking shot is also a video taken by Oracle-rocket.

See also

  • When combined with a zoom, a tracking shot can become a dolly zoom, famously used to create a sense of vertigo in the church tower scenes in Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958).
  • The zoom feature is also known as "A poor man's dolly."
  • Walk and talk, a film technique which makes use of the tracking shot
  • Steadicam


  1. ^ Salt, Barry. Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis. Starword Press, 2003.
  2. ^ Kawin, Bruce. How Movies Work University of California Press, 1992.

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  • tracking shot —    In video and cinematography, a film segment photographed with a camera moving steadily along a track or on a dolly, usually following a subject s movement. This term has been in use since about 1940. It s also called a trucking shot, or… …   Glossary of Art Terms

  • tracking shot — noun Etymology: tracking from present participle of track (II) : trucking shot * * * Motion Pictures, Television. See dolly shot. Also called trucking shot. [1940 45] * * * tracking s …   Useful english dictionary

  • tracking shot — Motion Pictures, Television. See dolly shot. Also called trucking shot. [1940 45] * * * …   Universalium

  • tracking shot — track′ing shot n. sbz a camera shot taken from a moving dolly …   From formal English to slang

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  • tracking shot — noun Date: circa 1940 a scene photographed from a moving dolly …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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  • shot —   the basic building block or unit of film narrative; refers to a single, constant take made by a motion picture camera uninterrupted by editing, interruptions or cuts, in which a length of film is exposed by turning the camera on, recording, and …   Glossary of cinematic terms

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