i wrote this blog post in one take // 25 Jan 2010

At GeekWeek, Mike Le offers up his 20 greatest extended takes in movie history. Don't say I didn't warn you, but you'll be on that page for a while.

The one on that list that slays me every time I see it is from Children of Men. (Le has it at #4 on his list.) Don't watch if you ever plan on seeing the film; it's spoilerful, and the experience of seeing it in the middle of the movie is mind-blowing.)

children-of-men

Alfonso Cuarón reportedly used digital effects to stitch that scene together. Via Wikipedia comes this piece on the film at Animation World Network. I'll quote at length, just to turn this into a continuous shot blog post:

The shot was filmed in six sections and at four different locations over one week and required five seamless digital transitions. Moreover, the camera records the action with a continuous movement that would actually be impossible to create in reality. ...

The plates were shot from a "doggy cam" shooting through the cut-off roof. The director, the cinematographer and the camera operator were actually seated on top of the car, thanks to a special rig, while the vfx crew and other technicians were hiding out of camera range around the traveling car. ...

Given the length of the scene, the team opted to use as much of the original plates as possible, re-timing, warping and painting to reposition actors and parts of the vehicle where they didn't quite line up from section to section. Photographic textures of the entire interior of the car were taken to create a 3D model that could be used to align the 3D tracking data for each section of the shot. The roof was replaced throughout the entire shot, while the dashboard, windscreen and parts of the front doors had to be created in CG in several instances to allow for a smoother transition between plates. ...

The live-action ambush was greatly enhanced by CG Molotov cocktail, a shattering digital windshield, a bullet hit and blood spurt and even a CG biker and motorcycle to augment a stunt performed during plate photography.

Frankly, for me all of this digital post production makes the shot more impressive. Cuarón and his team had to know what's possible with the technology, and plan, shoot and stitch together accordingly. Hitchcock (whose Rope comes in at #19 on Le's list) and Welles (Touch of Evil at #2) would have loved to have the tools that Cuarón has at his disposal today...

Related point. I'm not a big music video watcher, but three of the ones that have stuck with me over the past couple years are from Feist: 1234, My Moon My Man and I Feel It All are all one take vids.