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Long unbroken shots in TV and movies, or at least the appearance of such, seem to be becoming more popular in recent years. The most recent example of a long shot, without any cuts or edits, is a two round fight sequence in Ryan Coogler's Creed. While some may think that editing tricks are being used, the sequence really is a single shot, which the cinematographer believes was important to the film to give the audience the feeling of being alone in the ring, just like the character they were following.
Maryse Alberti was the cinematographer for The Wrestler so she had experience showing realism in a fight situation. She brought this same feeling to Creed and believes that the single take can make for a much more emotional scene.
With one take, I think you don’t need to rely on movie editing to dictate emotion. When it’s well done, when it’s not virtuosity, when it’s not too self-aware, it’s powerful. Sometimes the virtuosity of one take can take away from the richness, but in Creed, you are in the ring with this boxer and I think it’s emotionally powerful.
According to Variety, there were 12 different takes of the fight scene, and the tenth was the one used in the film. That’s a long sequence to be done a dozen times. Alberti says that many people assume that editing tricks were used to make the scene appear to be one take without actually being so, similar to what was done in Birdman, but that’s not the case. It actually was a single shot.
The key to the scene was that the shot needed to be successful in making the audience feel like they were in the ring. Otherwise it’s just camera tricks for the sake of camera tricks. That’s what Alberti means by being too "self aware." If you’re looking at the scene the cinematographer is doing their job, if you’re looking at the shot, then they’re just showing off and you’re being taken out of the movie. If you’ve seen the movie and this is the first time you’re realizing the scene was filmed in a single shot, then it worked.
In addition to the apparent single take of Birdman we’ve also seen long unbroken scenes in Netflix’s Daredevil series as well as the opening of the newest James Bond film Spectre. In addition to the technical achievement in making the shot work, it also requires strong actors to be able to pull off these long sequences without any errors. It appears that both cast and crew are starting to have much more trust placed in them to do this sort of work successfully.
What do you think of the increased use of long unbroken takes? Is it impressive filmmaking, or is everybody just showing off?