4 Ways to Successfully Create Cinematic One Takes

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

As filmmakers, we are in love with the art and craft of one takes.  Way back in film school we saw how the legends used them such as Martin Scorsese in “Goodfellas” and Orson Wells in “Touch of Evil”.  

There is something so inherently exciting and challenging about creating films with one takes and the results of using them in storytelling is captivating.  

In this short blog, we will share with you some of our tips for successfully using one takes. 

1. A Genius Camera Operator and Focus Puller

For a one take to successfully occur, you must have the best possible camera operator and a highly skilled focus puller.  A focus puller’s job is to focus the camera remotely.  This one crew member can mean the difference between success and failure.  

In the video you see here, “Driftwood” for talented signer and performer, Jesse Jo Stark we had 3 different camera operators handing the camera off to each other.  The cinematographer Damian Horan worked with us so skillfully to move in 360 degree movements, following the artist through the club and moving onto and off of the stage.  This was extremely complicated and the focus puller made no errors whatsoever.  

When you have a focus puller that isn’t skilled enough, it can waste hours of time and cause massive frustration.  You will be in the middle of a shot and 2 or more minutes into it the camera will go out of focus.  Now everyone has to go to position one, touch up hair and make up, re-slate etc.  So make sure your focus puller is the best you can find.  Lastly, use any rehearsals or downtime to have your focus puller practice as practice makes perfect. 

2.  Performance

Really having your talent understand how the camera will be moving and the frame size and walking through the whole choreography is the key to success.   You can shoot the rehearsal and play it back so everyone including talent is really understanding the flow.  It’s all a dance in a way, choreographing the action.  The more you practice the timing of it, the better it all works. 

With Jesse Jo Stark, we did 17 takes because of the level of complexity but she always knew what to do and in fact nailed it on her performance. 

Work with actors who are extremely talented and compelling because with one takes you cannot edit their performance so cast well and practice, practice, practice. 

3. Equipment

One takes can be done with either a full Steadicam system or Ronin.  The key thing is that you match the camera weight and lens type to the system you are using.  Always work with a camera operator who has done one takes successfully before.  There is no room for error or trying things out when you’re basing your storytelling on a one take. 

Ensure you are using a remote focusing system.  A highly skilled camera operator or Assistant Camera Person will know how to rig it all and get all the needed equipment. 

Lastly, having a big monitor on set is critical because you can only truly check focus with a big monitor. 

4. Post Production

One of the additional amazing results of doing a great one take is that you don’t have to edit the project.  This saves both time and money in post production. 

In summary, study the masters of cinema and what they have accomplished and don’t be afraid to push in bold new directions as well.  With a vision, an amazing camera operator and an expert focus puller you will win.  

Check out the full video with these tips and more below! 

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About the Author

Dream Team Directors
Dream Team Directors
In 2007, the dynamic husband and wife filmmaker duo of Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir founded Dream Team Directors. Their vision was to combine imagination, humor, beauty and a desire to positively impact the world through their stunning creative work.

They started their collaboration as writer/directors with the viral hit “Text Me” which won multiple awards, was featured in Teen Vogue, Seventeen, NY Press and voted for honors by Execs at Fox Searchlight, DreamWorks, MTV, New Regency. The film quite literally captured the texting and Facebook generation and was praised by Producers such as Martin Brown "Moulin Rouge".

In their 13 years of working as a stellar team, they have had the opportunity to collaborate, direct and produce with great talents such as Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo, Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis, Golden Globe nominee Anthony Mackie, Lea Michele of Fox's "Glee” and "Scream Queens", Coldplay, P. Diddy, Paris Hilton, Lindsey Stirling and top model, Bella Hadid.

Their company motto, "Let our dream team manifest your dream", symbolizes the expansion and positive attention they win for their celebrity and high-profile brand clients such as Adidas, Atlantic Records, Smashbox Cosmetics, Chrome Hearts and more.

Their most recent inspiring drama, “Tombstone Pillow” , shot in a Manila cemetery where 6,000 families live received a flood of awards including Best Inspiring Film, Best Drama, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Short Film which brings their total festival wins to over 50.

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