Scaling up – Truck in (Part 1)

Trucking in (or tracking/dollying/moving in) is moving the camera towards a subject along an axis, scaling its shape much like a zoom-in. But unlike zoom-ins, truck-ins make the audience feel they are moving in space, as the foreground grows faster than the background on screen. In order to showcase the differences between both approaches, this article will follow the same structure as previous article.


Pointing to a subject from an objective POV

Like a zoom-in, trucking in on a subject naturally draws our attention to it, especially when that subject is too small to see from a distance. In Jurassic Park (S. Spielberg, 1993), the camera trucks in on Rostagno’s face, then on the chunk of amber he is holding in his hand. At such small scale, it would be difficult to figure out what the characters are so interested in without coming very close. Trucking in can even draw our attention to a subject that is not yet visible, as in The Last Battle (L. Besson, 1983), when the camera is brought close to the trunk of a car from which ‘The Dwarf’ gets released by ‘The Captain’.

More than just pointing to a subject, a truck-in can be used to designate that subject so that we understand something about it, something that is not apparent on the screen. For instance, in The Silence of the Lambs (J. Demme, 1991), Hannibal Lecter seems to be very interested in Dr. Chilton’s pen (see the excerpt on this page). A moment later, Chilton seems to be looking for his pen without success. As a sudden, the camera trucks in on Lecter’s face. We instantly feel that the character has something to do with that ‘loss’. In this case, not only does the camera move point to the character, it implicitly designates him as the culprit.


Pointing to a subject from a subjective POV

The same holds true with subjective POVs. In Jurassic Park (S. Spielberg, 1993), Tim leans over and looks at a plastic cup of water sitting on the dashboard of the car. Immediately after the boy moves forwards, a subjective camera trucks in on the goblet, showing the audience ripples on the water surface from the character’s POV. In Minority Report (S. Spielberg, 2002), John Anderton and Agatha head to Crow’s apartment door. The number on the door has a distinct shape that both characters have seen before. Their eyes are fixed on the number, which is why a subjective camera — representing their POV — trucks in on it.


Accentuating a subject’s presence

Owing to a camera actually moving in space, truck-ins convey more dynamism than zoom-ins, as a foreground character increases in size faster than the background, pushing the former forwards. In For a Few Dollars More (S. Leone, 1965), Monco interferes with a duel between Col. Mortimer and El Indio to ensure that odds are even. The camera slowly trucks in on the character to let him fill the screen and depict him as a ‘game-changer’, in full control of the situation. In Goodfellas (M. Scorsese, 1990), the camera trucks in on Paulie Cicero — a local godfather — to let him fill the frame, as the narrator sings his praises in voice over. This move forwards makes the audience feel the character’s power, in spite of his deceptive casual look.

Empowering a character by trucking in on his face doesn’t always mean that the character is evil-minded or even powerful. In TV series episode Sherlock – A Study in Pink (P. McGuigan, 2011), the camera trucks in on Watson — listening to his counselor’s recommendations — to let him take the screen over and deliver his humorous line (read more in Off-centered characters – Facing the wall (Part 1)). Trucking in on a character facing away from us ensures that she will produce maximum impact the moment she turns around in Close Shot (CS) and takes control of the frame, as in Terminator 2 – Judgment Day (J. Cameron, 1991), when Sarah Connors shows her face for the first time.


What’s up?

In the first page of this article, we saw that trucking in and zooming in had a lot in common. Both can be used to point to a subject — objectively or subjectively — and let a character dominate the screen. Whereas zoom-ins magnify the whole image on screen, truck-ins convey more dynamism by pushing forwards foreground subjects, increasing their apparent size faster than the background. In part 2, we will truck in on characters to bring out their mental activity.


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