If 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):
[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.