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In Children Of Men, there is an uncut scene wherein a camera moves freely inside a car full of people. It starts with a front shot with the camera in the dashboard position facing back towards the passengers, then the camera moves forward through the front seats and towards the back seat area and turns around to face the windshield.

Movement looked seamless with no visible rigs, and no room for a cameraman inside. So how do they do it?

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  • The car probably had an open top or similar, you really need to see the scene in order to check what they are not showing (side windows or roof), maybe it didn't have a windshield, any way you get the point. Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 11:06
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    There is an amazing sequence like this in War of the Worlds. Here's the clip: youtube.com/watch?v=EUv7iRaWOOQ Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 14:22
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    Wow, that War of the Worlds shot is next level! It may not be the one the OP was thinking of, but I'd sure like to see how it was done!
    – Steve-O
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 14:35
  • There can be a wipe every time it passes a window pillar. That would be the most obvious place to cut. getting the camera car/crane lined up to get in & out the [missing] window is very nicely done though. best guess is it's at least 3 shots, wipe entering & leaving the car, so the internal shot was actually done from inside the car. Very nicely done.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 15:43

1 Answer 1

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For Children Of Men, a film that features several lengthy single-shot sequences, they built an extensive rig on top of the car, and also modified the car seats so the actors that weren't on screen could get out of the way of the camera.

According to the movie's Wikipedia page:

Cuarón's initial idea for maintaining continuity during the roadside ambush scene was dismissed by production experts as an "impossible shot to do". Fresh from the visual effects-laden Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Cuarón suggested using computer-generated imagery to film the scene. Lubezki refused to allow it, reminding the director that they had intended to make a film akin to a "raw documentary". Instead, a special camera rig invented by Gary Thieltges of Doggicam Systems was employed, allowing Cuarón to develop the scene as one extended shot. A vehicle was modified to enable seats to tilt and lower actors out of the way of the camera, and the windshield was designed to tilt out of the way to allow camera movement in and out through the front windscreen. A crew of four, including the director of photography and camera operator, rode on the roof.


This is of course best explained visually, and they did so in one of the extras on the DVD/Blu-ray called "Under Attack":

(The relevant section starts at 4:40.)

In this photo you see how the car was actually a massive rig:

Children Of Men: fake car used to film attack scene

This is the camera:

Children Of Men: camera inside the car

Here is a shot where you can see Julianne Moore's seat is completely reclined so she is out of the way and the camera can be in her place, i.e. where she would sit in the car. In the clip you can see her lying down and getting up.

Children Of Men: Julianne Moore's seat is down to allow camera to move in her place


But these single shot action scenes are still composites of multiple shots. Again citing the movie's Wikipedia page:

However, the commonly reported statement that the action scenes are continuous shots is not entirely true. Visual effects supervisor Frazer Churchill explains that the effects team had to "combine several takes to create impossibly long shots", where their job was to "create the illusion of a continuous camera move." Once the team was able to create a "seamless blend", they would move on to the next shot.

[...]

the car ambush was shot in "six sections and at four different locations over one week and required five seamless digital transitions"

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