Watch How Spielberg Shot This Classic 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' Scene
Spielberg's directorial choice here is proof that they don't shoot, or edit, "oners" like this anymore.
No one shoots movies like Steven Spielberg. His CV is full of movies that showcase not just his signature vision, but also his scary-good knack for giving a scene the exact amount of whatever it needs both kinetically and emotionally. And the guy loves his oners, especially those subtle long takes -- like this one from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
While the clip below isn't the most "famous" oner from the classic Indiana Jones film (that would arguably the epic dolly shot tracking Belloq across the Ark's desert dig site, or the static shot where Belloq confronts Indy in a bar after Marion's "death.")
The animation illustrating how Spielberg and DP Douglas Slocombe shot this sequence is an inventive and easy reference for the craft depicted here. While the shot seems simple, and goes off smoothly in the final cut, the animatic shows a somewhat complicated camera choreography needed to execute the scene. We take for granted when something this polished projects before our eyes, and you can see that the camera crew and the actors had to achieve synchronicity between each others' respective blocking and movements.
Also key here is the one edit -- an insert shot of Indy's gun -- that interrupts the oner. The work of Spielberg's long-time editor Michael Khan, coupled with the second unit or insert crew that picked up this shot, shows how critical the below-the-line team's efforts are to making this exposition scene sing. This clip is also a testament to the old school way of studio filmmaking; the oner here is near invisible. From a time before Hollywood cut their movies Michael Bay-style, with rapid fire shots and edits that often fail to capture or convey the two key elements to any scene: Physical and emotional geography. Two things Spielberg has made a career out of pulling off exceptionally.
And Vashi Nedomansky knows his filmmaking and editing inside and out. This isn't the first look at Raiders that he has shared with filmmakers; check out his video below about the aforementioned bar confrontation between Indy and Belloq and marvel at the beat-by-beat breakdown of all the shooting and editorial choices employed to pull off one of Raiders' most emotionally compelling scene.