If you want to make movies, you could do worse than study the technique of arguably the most successful moviemaker of all time, Mr. Steven Spielberg. And you could also do worse than watch the videos of the less well-known but excellent Tony Zho, who has just put together a detailed and nuanced look at an overlooked aspect of Spielberg’s directing: the “oner,” or long single takes.
“Oners” may not spring to mind as a hallmark of Spielberg’s cinematography, but then, what does spring to mind as a hallmark of Spielberg’s cinematography? Not much, probably, because he is a master of unobtrusive, unshowy camerawork that serves the story rather than the other way around. Zhou’s video neatly shows how this is especially true of Spielberg’s long shots, which make frequent appearances in his films but never seem to draw attention to themselves. This is in contrast to the way most directors use them, especially nowadays—we discussed some of the most famous and showy examples a little while ago. That list didn’t (and indeed shouldn’t have) include a Spielberg shot, because his fly below the radar in most instances. But to be reminded of just how well-constructed some of them are, check out Zhou’s video, which unspools the amazingly fluid take through the ruined house in “Saving Private Ryan” (a sequence understandably but unfairly overshadowed for all time by the beach scene), the almost homely scenes of ET going about his alien business, and the utterly fantastic conversation on the ferry at the beginning of “Jaws.” Watch and learn. [via No Film School]