Panic Room
In the inescapable trailer for "Panic Room", there's an awesome continuous shot with the camera moving all the way from upstairs to downstairs, into the kitchen and then THROUGH the handle of a coffee pot and it keeps going.
How do they do this? Is it CGI? I believe there was a similar shot in "Citizen Kane" from the top of the building and through the hotel sign and down into a lounge.
Thanks, Anup Sugunan

I am afraid the Panic room trailer hasn't hit the UK yet but I did look at it in low resolution on the Columbia web site.
I think your guess about CGI is right as no camera is going to fit through the handle of a coffee pot!

In pre-CGI days, elements were made to split apart and this is how the Citizen Cane shots were done. Windows, doors, walls and ceilings were made to move once a shot was designed. The moment the object passed offscreen then the grips would quickly wheel it away on bearings, trolleys, ropes or whatever it takes.

Not actually a question, but I thought I would mention a response you gave to a previous column from April 5, 2002. A person asked how in Citizen Kane they did the shot moving through the roof, much like the one in the trailer for Panic Room where it moves through the coffee pot handle. The shot the person was referring to actually had nothing to do with grips moving set pieces or the like. It was done with an optical printer, creating the roof and moving through it. The optical printer was used extensively in many shots in Citizen Kane, including Kane's castle at the beginning, the statue in the bank, and a few other places which I can't remember off-hand. Perhaps you should include a column educating readers about the old optical printer days, as it was an important advance in post-production at the time, the equivalent of CGI today.

Thanks for pointing that out Andrew. Apart from pointing out that an optical printer was what everyone used before the computer came along, anyone who wants to know about it should either get Raymond Fielding's "The Techniques of Special Effects Cinematography" or type in "Optical Printer" to Google which will yield 29,200 results. It's worth learning the principles of how it worked as it's a good way to see how similar techniques are used in Photoshop etc: it's the mechanical version of something that is now invisible in its process unless you are a programmer.

There is a shot in Panic Room at the very end, where it seems if the camera is pulling away and focusing at the same time, but nothing moves. I've seen this technique done in Raging Bull also. How is it done?

It's a curious thing about the Panic Room..all I have ever heard discussed about the movie is how a shot was done: I've never heard anybody mention anything about the movie itself... the story, script, acting etc.

This goes to show that if you shoot something in a flashy way it detracts from the movie itself. My guess is that it is "Trombone Shot" first done by Hitchcock (I think!), then Spielberg (Jaws) then MANY OTHERS and now Fincher. You track out and zoom in, or track in and zoom out, depending on what you want the background to do. The foreground framing stays the same, but the background either comes towards you or moves away from you.

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