Tracking shot
In motion picture terminology
Motion picture terminology
The film industry is built upon a large number of technologies and techniques, drawing upon photography, stagecraft, music, and many other disciplines...

, 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
Camera dolly
A camera dolly is a specialized piece of filmmaking and television production equipment designed to create smooth camera movements . The camera is mounted to the dolly and the camera operator and focus puller or camera assistant, usually ride on the dolly to operate the camera...

, 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
Cabiria is a silent movie from the early years of Italy's movie industry, directed by Giovanni Pastrone . The movie is set in ancient Sicily, Carthage, and Cirta during the period of the Second Punic War . It follows a melodramatic main plot about an abducted little girl, Cabiria, and features...

(1914), directed by Giovanni Pastrone
Giovanni Pastrone
Giovanni Pastrone, also known by his artistic name Piero Fosco , was an Italian film pioneer, director, screenwriter, actor and technician.Pastrone was born in Montechiaro d'Asti...

, 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, as well as Yevgeni Bauer
Yevgeni Bauer
Yevgeni Franzevich Bauer was a Russian film director of silent films, a theatre artist and a screenwriter. His work had a great influence on the aesthetics of Russian cinematography at the beginning of the 20th century....

's The Child of the Big City, released a month prior to Cabiria.

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
Jib (camera)
In cinematography, a jib is a boom device with a camera on one end, and a counterweight and camera controls on the other. It operates like a see-saw, but with the balance point located close to the counterweight, so that the camera end of the arm can move through an extended arc. A jib permits the...

" the camera several feet on a vertical axis. Tracking shots, however, cannot include complex pivoting movements, aerial shot
Aerial shot
Aerial shots are usually done with a crane or with a camera attached to a special helicopter to view large landscapes. This sort of shot would be restricted to exterior locations. A good area to do this shot would be a scene that takes place on a building. If the aerial shot is of a character it...

s or crane shot
Crane shot
In filmmaking and video production 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...


Tracking shots are often confused with the long take
Long take
A long take is an uninterrupted shot in a film which lasts much longer than the conventional editing pace either of the film itself or of films in general, usually lasting several minutes. It can be used for dramatic and narrative effect if done properly, and in moving shots is often accomplished...

 -- such as the 10-minute takes in Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

's Rope
Rope (film)
Rope is a 1948 American thriller film based on the play Rope by Patrick Hamilton and adapted by Hume Cronyn and Arthur Laurents, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Sidney Bernstein and Hitchcock as the first of their Transatlantic Pictures productions...

(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
Oracle (rocket)
Oracle is the name of a model rocket with built-in digital camera, manufactured by Estes Industries, for aerial photography. In contrast to the camera rocket Astrocam, the Oracle allows the making of a complete film of a rocket flight...


See also

  • When combined with a zoom
    Zoom lens
    A zoom lens is a mechanical assembly of lens elements for which the focal length can be varied, as opposed to a fixed focal length lens...

    , a tracking shot can become a dolly zoom
    Dolly zoom
    The dolly zoom is an unsettling in-camera effect that appears to undermine normal visual perception. It is part of many cinematic techniques used in filmmaking and television production....

    , famously used to create a sense of vertigo in the church tower scenes in Hitchcock's Vertigo
    Vertigo (film)
    Vertigo is a 1958 psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. The screenplay was written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A...

  • The zoom feature is also known as "A poor man's dolly."
  • Walk and talk
    Walk and talk
    Walk and talk is a distinctive storytelling-technique used in filmmaking and television production in which a number of characters have a conversation en route. The most basic form of walk and talk involves a walking character that is then joined by another character. On their way to their...

    , a film technique which makes use of the tracking shot
  • Steadicam
    A Steadicam is a stabilizing mount for a motion picture camera that mechanically isolates it from the operator's movement, allowing a smooth shot even when moving quickly over an uneven surface...

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