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Which camera am I on?

Terry writes ...

In 1971, the 24-year-old Steven Spielberg was directing the film ‘Duel’ which originally was to be made for TV, but when universal studios saw the finished film, they gave it a cinema release.

It starred Dennis Weaver as a man driving alone through the desert who finds himself being followed - and threatened by a huge truck. Because of the restricted budget, it was shot on one stretch of road, but from many different angles, giving the impression of travelling many miles. There were numerous life-threatening scenes before the truck was forced over a cliff.

Spielberg was asked, “How did you manage to have the truck go over the cliff?” He replied, “I don’t know how they did it - I was working out camera positions. We only had one truck so it had to be done in ONE TAKE. We had SEVEN cameras positioned at various points on the cliff to make sure I had the shots I needed in the edit. There could be no TAKE TWO. However, I ended up using the footage from JUST ONE of the seven cameras which was placed to take the shot ALL THE WAY DOWN the cliff, The cameraman deserves a medal - he followed the truck all the way down, including the large cloud of dust and the truck coming through it and continuing down the cliff. It was an extraordinary shot and that’s the one I used.

The entire film was shot in 13 days, Spielberg was absolutely correct to use seven cameras for this shot. The discarded film footage from the other six cameras was far cheaper than the cost of another truck if things had not gone to plan.

However, the story does prove that, with a lot of skill and a bit of luck, it could - and indeed was - done in this case, with one camera. I’m not trying to start an argument - just stating fact. At the end of the day Necessity is the Mother of Invention. So you have to make your own decisions - and perhaps take a few chances.

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