February 12, 2014

Watch the Amazing 6 Minute Single Take from HBO's 'True Detective' & Learn How They Pulled it Off

6 Minute Take HBO's True Detective - No Film SchoolIf you aren't watching one of the most talked about shows on cable, True Detective, directed entirely by Cary Fukunaga, don't feel bad (or maybe you should?). Either way, the slow burning anthology series turned up the heat over the weekend with a masterful one take scene that will likely be one of the best you'll see all year. We've got some more information about how it was actually created, but if you haven't seen it, there is a video of the entire scene (beyond just the one take) below. The scene really doesn't spoil that much, especially since it's mostly out of context, but here is your warning either way.

For some background on the show, and to provide some context to the scene if you haven't seen it, here's a BTS for True Detective:

And here is the fantastic (very NSFW) one-take scene, which happens from 1:25 to 7:28 in the video below (the whole clip adds to the tension better than just showing the single take):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_HuFuKiq8U

[Update]: Thanks to B Dizzle in the comments, here is more on how the scene was accomplished, which included shooting on ALEXA because of the length of the scene:

Stunts and actors rehearsed on a mock up of the 1st house for probably a week. The entire run through, we had two days: one to rehearse, one to shoot. It was very well coordinated so there wasn’t much room for improv as far as the course of the shot. I cant speak for actor nuances though. We shot the entire show on film: Millennium XLs, excluding this shot. We went with an Alexa just because the length of the scene was longer than a 400′ mag. We stripped the weight of the camera to a minimum so no cinetape or matte box. The focus puller did an incredible job. I believe it was a 28mm at a 2.8.

There are a couple of parts that feel like they could have been cuts, but apparently they were not. I would venture a guess that it's just the stabilization used during a few of the frames to make the movements smoother. MTV spoke to Fukunaga about the scene, and what seems like the most impossible portion of the scene for just a steadicam operator involved a pretty smart solution:

Watching just the fences portion of the oner back, the camera floats over the high barrier in a movement that almost looks effortless. Getting the shot, however, was anything but. Because the location was an actual housing project, the "True Detective" crew wasn't allowed to take down any portion of the fence, so they had to improvise. "At one point, we were going to build a ramp, and the operator was going to walk up it," Fukunaga said. "But that wasn't very safe." The solution ended up involving placing the Steadicam operator on an elevated jib, or a weighted crane, which carried him over the fence and back down to earth.

Shooting on real locations is always tricky, so they actually had built a replica of the first house in order for the stunt team to practice. The entire shot lasts around 6 minutes, and while Fukunaga did build edit points into the scene if he needed them, the entire shot is one complete take, which they attempted 7 times. They only spent a day and a half getting everything in order, including shooting the scene.

With higher and higher quality small cameras, and stabilized gimbals like the MoVI (and many others), we're going to see shots that are even crazier than this, which would be either more difficult, or impossible with a traditional steadicam.

Link: 'True Detective': How Did They Pull Off That Final Shot? -- MTV

[via IndieWire]

Your Comment

71 Comments

Acting was pure turd.

Impressive camera work but I gave up a few minutes into it.

February 12, 2014

0
Reply
Amber Read

Sigh.

February 12, 2014

-1
Reply

And this reaffirms why NFS just makes me depressed reading the comments section.

February 13, 2014

2
Reply
Isaac

To clarify, I meant regarding Amber's comment, not yours, Luke.

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
Isaac

Deep breaths, Luke.

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
alex

Luke, I feel your pain. Also, please keep in mind many who post about acting don't actually know what the job description entails.

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
Jerome

yeah i agree that one cop with the beard was kinda over acting and the fights looked really cheesy. but this is still really cool

February 13, 2014

-1
Reply
Chrs

If you had seen the episode you would know thati he is no real cop and that he is not over acting.

February 13, 2014

0
Reply

Yup. Agreed. Comments here are genuinely depressing.

February 13, 2014

1
Reply
Will Gilbey

And like you can do better, what a joke

February 13, 2014

1
Reply
Silton

You wouldn't know good acting if it kicked you in the nuts.

February 13, 2014

-1
Reply
Gavin

Well, not everyone can have taste. Good luck on your projects!

February 17, 2014

-1
Reply
Muh

Some of the best content out there is now on TV. That was a visceral scene that was a kick from the more laid back nature of the previous episodes.

February 12, 2014

0
Reply
moebius22

Yes! The shot definitely added to the tension of the scene. So good to see Woody and McConaughey together! I don't normally watch TV but it's pretty dang good lately :)

February 13, 2014

-1
Reply
Miles

This shot is awesome. Achieving such a long track is not a joke and that is why you deserve appreciation. It artistically adds tension to the scene and clear expounds on the realism of the action that is in a single shot. That puts it on a real radder by directly putting the audience in the scene to experience an 'on set action'. The action, on my view is not controlled and that is exactly what to expect from such a scene. The setting too is fantastic and aesthetically compliments the whole scene validating the whole flow of action.

February 13, 2014

-1
Reply
Brian Mandela

Mad skills!!

February 13, 2014

0
Reply

i literally just watched that episode last night, and was wondering how they pulled it off, you guys rock!

February 13, 2014

-1
Reply
Tyler

Bu the show is fantastic. Too early to say it's the best thing since The Wire? Great shot, great article. Thanks guys.

February 13, 2014

2
Reply
Will Gilbey

Decently shot but easily forgettable, I mean it'd be unfair to compare it to a Johnnie To or John Woo's action sequence but even for Television standards we have seen better conceived single shots,I remember this episode from Indian Detective series C.I.D which was a 111 minutes long single shot filled with suspense, good acting, plot twists and a bomb blast. I mean that was something near to the word 'epic'.
Here's the episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGSK7MhbKCg

February 13, 2014

-1
Reply
Ritwik S

The overall quality of True Detective is far above what parts I've seen of this television episode ...

If you're just watching this scene by itself and out of context, I can see why one would quickly jump to comparing other films and television shows who have done similar one take scenes, but it's this entire episode where many of the plot lines gear right up to this huge climax at the end of this episode that has people talking.

February 13, 2014

1
Reply
Kori

While technically impressive, this segment nearly killed the entire appeal of the series for me. What up to that point had been a genuinely intriguing, realistic and gritty crime drama somehow descended into a "the lead is suddenly superman" romp that felt straight out of a B-movie. It was borderline parody.

February 13, 2014

1
Reply
Swissted

Last year in the Québec's (french canadien) cop show named 19-2, they did a 14 minute shot showing a crazy killer in a school purchased by police. That was the most intense scene I've never experienced in a tv show. Wasn't able to breath. If I find a link, I will post it. Otherwise it's the first episode of the second season, disponible on iTunes. It's a must watch for tv creator.

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
Seeooh

HK action sequences used to be hands down the best out there but Thailand and latterly Indonesia also producing absurdly detailed well-worked fight sequences in unbroken takes. With this many elements to manage it's always going to be hard to maintain full believability but, for an episode of TV it's mightily impressive. It's also entirely appropriate for the scene. If we're talking epic one shots then Russian Ark is the pinnacle but man I was crawling up the walls for a different shot size by the end of it.

One shots are incredibly difficult to pull off and this one was pretty good. Cuaron is the benchmark and you've got shots like the beach scene in Atonement as well. Try choreographing anything longer than a couple of minutes and takes get very edgy very quickly.

February 13, 2014

1
Reply

February 13, 2014

3
Reply

Yeah, that is a good one.

February 15, 2014

1
Reply
Gene (not the 3...

Hey NFS. I worked on True Detective and was there for this incredible shot. If anyone has any technical questions about the shot, I can try to answer them for ya.

February 13, 2014

-1
Reply
B Dizzle

How long was the rehearsal period? Was there any improvisation compared to the planned storyboards, or camera diagrams? I assume the show is filmed on Alexa — was this a 28mm lens? How many days did this shot take to set up?

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
Jerome

Stunts and actors rehearsed on a mock up of the 1st house for probably a week. The entire run through, we had two days: one to rehearse, one to shoot. It was very well coordinated so there wasn't much room for improv as far as the course of the shot. I cant speak for actor nuances though. We shot the entire show on film: Millennium XLs, excluding this shot. We went with an Alexa just because the length of the scene was longer than a 400' mag. We stripped the weight of the camera to a minimum so no cinetape or matte box. The focus puller did an incredible job. I believe it was a 28mm at a 2.8.

February 13, 2014

-1
Reply
B Dizzle

Amazing, thanks for the info

February 13, 2014

-2
Reply
Marcus

That's bloody awesome! I didn't know the entire show is shot on film, that's fantastic! And, that was a night shot, so that must of been rough. The camera op and focus puller deserve manna from Heaven. Kudos to the entire crew! Stunning work.

February 13, 2014

-2
Reply
Jerome

From watching the shot, I guess it goes without saying, but the steadicam Op did an outstanding job also. He's one of the best working today.

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
B Dizzle

Who was the Steadicam operator for this shot?

February 21, 2014

0
Reply
Tom M

Haven't seen the episode yet but sounds like what they did in Boogie Nights.

February 13, 2014

1
Reply
Slippery_Jim

The action was nothing too special in this. For me, what made it nice to look at was the lighting and the gritty set design.
Very nice the information is available on how they did it.

This one is my favorite singles take for the movie: Hard Boiled.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bozxgVQ9m0

February 13, 2014

-1
Reply
VinceGortho

This movie is at a different level only...it's a pure WOW.

February 14, 2014

0
Reply
Ritwik S

That really is amazing, particularly knowing the back story behind that film. Utterly amazing.

February 14, 2014

1
Reply

It's not about the action.

February 17, 2014

-1
Reply
Muh

Loved it. The fighting was fake but I loved they did it all in one take except for the last shot when Matthew says "Go!"

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
Kristi

They went OVER the fence?!? Amazing. I just... I just can't...

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
Nick

It was a Titan crane (basically a crane on the back of a flat bed truck that can support an operator) with the extension and the 10 foot drop down. Plus the Steadicam Platform. The operator stepped on, went over, then stepped off while another person jumped on to support the balance.

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
B Dizzle

One of my favorite one shots. Goes to show that it's not all about movement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kPurV5qsL0

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
Kenneth Merrill

Never saw that movie. That is a good one!

February 15, 2014

0
Reply
Gene (not the 3...

February 13, 2014

-1
Reply
brent

I vote for Tarkovsky.

February 19, 2014

2
Reply
Jerome

Pulling off a 111 minute long single shot, keeping the suspense-drama alive at 1/10th of the budget of any American Cop show that also a decade back is not 'Silly' at all. You might not like bollywood, I share the similar feeling to an extent but that doesn't mean you'll blindly condemn even really good stuff from them.
I enjoy watching True Detective alot and this single take really made sense with the storyline but as I said before I've seen much better single takes than this.

February 13, 2014

-2
Reply
Ritwik S

Its interesting that the 'one shot' aspect of this turns so many people on... why is that? Is it the choreography or the fact that it sort of uncommon or... I don't really get it. Its fine, whatever but I don't find it exciting... as posted above people have been doing it for years and though the TD is a bit of set piece I've seen some really nice single shots in film that have a series of story points in them that warrant a one shot feel - see opening shot of boogie nights etc.... Anyway, I'm not sure what the fuss is.

February 14, 2014

1
Reply
Tim

I think I can answer this. Film is often a very bitty, piecemeal process. One shots allow filmmakers to emulate theatre and other live performance like dance or music which creates this sense of a 'live' show. Because of that they're really exciting to choreograph and create because they're so risky and demand so much of you in terms of design and planning. Very often they just come out as wankoffs but even just a sixty second one shotter can be immensely satisfying because no matter how good an edit, it's still a disruption. Dispensing with them creates a tension of continuity that can be incredibly effective.

The fuss is the fact that they're relatively rare and actually very difficult to pull off.

February 14, 2014

1
Reply

Because your brain has basically been "trained" to recognize cinema as a series of cut-together sequences. To see everything happen without that moment of pause/shift/cut is a bit jarring, and consequently it tickles the brain in a unique way.

February 14, 2014

-1
Reply
Swissted

This just reminded me of a one-shot short film I watched yesterday. It is in French, but it is still interesting to watch. The concept works perfectly in the frame of the "48 hours short filmmaking festival" it was conceived and done.
http://vimeo.com/75467715

February 14, 2014

-1
Reply

Loved the scene. Reminded me of the Children of men one take, especially with people running and shooting.

February 14, 2014

1
Reply
Harry

Pages