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An On-Line Glossary of Film Style

& Its Metaphors

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crane shot any shot achieved by a camera mounted on a mechanism known as a crane (adapted from farm and building construction machinery) extended vertically several feet to several stories. Helicopter or other airflight-mounted cameras can accomplish "super-crane" effects as well. The use of crane shots often requires a big budget.

General Significance:General Significance: An ascending crane shot away from an object, person, or scene can confer to viewers a sense of effortless, priveleged superiority, escape, or alienation. It often serves as closure or poignant commentary inviting contemplation at the ends of films. A descending crane shot toward an object, person, or scene can confer to viewers a sense of increasing observation and interest accompanied, nonetheless, by a certain detachment.

Example of stylized of stylized crane shot

shadow.jpg (31054 bytes)   Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock 1943)


Description: In the library reading room. From a choker close-up of young Charlie’s (Teresa Wright) face we cut to a close-up of her hands removing the ring centered over the Santa Rosa newspaper article Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) prevented her from reading with the diversion of tearing it up to make paper dolls. Cut to her point of view, an extreme close-up insert shot of the ring he gave her. She rotates the ring in order to read the inscription, comparing the initials on it, "B.M." (allegedly an inside Hitchcock toilet humor joke), to those of a recent victim of the Merry Widow murderer listed in the article. We return to the previous close-up of her hands. As she clasps the ring in her right hand and exits the reading room deep in thought or in a daze, the camera begins to pull or zoom back while simultaneously ascending up a great distance as Dimitri Tiomkin’s soundtrack begins its bittersweet, slightly tragic melody. As young Charlie’s exit is nearly complete we lap dissolve to Uncle Charlie’s recurring image of gentlemen and ladies waltzing and Tiomkin’s score changes to Franz Lehar’s "Merry Widow Waltz." This brief scene dissolves to Uncle Charlie strolling on the sidewalk in front of his neice’s family home reading presumably another copy of the same newspaper as young children run past him on either side.

Significance: The result of the zooming out and ascending crane shot shows young Charlie’s image getting smaller and smaller as the "forbidden knowledge" of her beloved uncle’s true identity sinks in. The effect of this scene depicts the formerly naive girl gaining knowledge and participates in classic Western culture’s iconography and ideology of "falling from grace," as did Adam and Eve in Genesis.