A “Oner” is a lengthy single-take shot. Famous examples include classic shots from movies like Goodfellas, Touch Of Evil and, more recently, Atonement. Impressively mounted, choreographed, and captured, Oners generally draw attention to themselves (for good reason).
Then there’s The Spielberg Oner. It’s different in nature than the traditional Oner because of how deceptive it is. The whole intent for Spielberg is to create different “normal” shots, not one forward-moving epic sweep. He captures these “different” shots by utilizing movement, re-framing, and re-staging within the frame, but not editing.
A Spielberg Oner doesn’t keep “moving forward”; it shifts from one static frame to another, and sometimes back and forth between two (or more) framings. These frames are not composed of ostentatious angles; they are framed like traditional shots. Within a single Oner, Spielberg can frame and re-frame, change angles, and shift between a wide, a medium, and a close-up – all without cutting.
In essence, The Spielberg Oner captures one scene in one shot but with multiple setups. With Spielberg’s subtle precision, the viewer often doesn’t realize that the scene they’ve just watched was all captured in a single take; one that may have lasted as long as 2 minutes or more.
We’ll be referencing The Spielberg Oner off-and-on throughout the “30 Days Of Spielberg” retrospective, both within the reviews themselves as well as in some Trivia notations.
Here are three videos, produced by Tony Zhou, that breakdown The Spielberg Oner with detailed analysis.
The Spielberg Oner
(caution: Zhou’s narration, while offering a superb academic perspective, does employ profanities and vulgarities from time to time.)
The Spielberg Oner – Twelve Quick Examples
The Spielberg Oner – Eight Lengthy Examples