Scaling up – Truck in (Part 3)

The emotional meaning of some truck-ins we came across in parts 1 & 2 can be extended in a variety of ways to thrill or scare the audience, sometimes in conspicuous and sophisticated designs. As a reminder, in order to let you compare the differences between truck-ins and zoom-ins, this page and its zoom-in counterpart share the same structure.


Thrilling power

Like zoom-ins, truck-ins can be pushed to their limits to thrill the audience. In Goodfellas (M. Scorsese, 1990), Henry — who is involved in the horrendous murder of a mafioso now lying in the trunk of a car — triggers a truck-in on his face as he closes the trunk. In this case, quickly trucking in on the character exaggerates his unexpected reaction. In Run Lola Run (T. Tykwer, 1998), Lola screams like crazy with excitation as the roulette wheel of a casino is spinning. This time, the camera trucks in on the character while slightly zooming out — a technique known as dolly-zoom or Vertigo effect — bringing the foreground closer while pushing the background away.

Trucking in on characters heading towards the camera is another common way to thrill the audience. In The Usual Suspects (B. Singer, 1995), Keaton and his lawyer and girlfriend Edie walk out of a police precinct after a lineup. To bring out that the situation is tense, the camera trucks in on both characters as they walk towards us, dramatically increasing the speed of magnification. The effect is even more stunning when a character runs to the camera, as in Basic Instinct (P. Verhoeven, 1992), when detective Curran arrives too late to prevent his partner from being assaulted in an elevator. Note how those truck-ins take place at the beginning of a shot (instead of closing a shot, which is more frequent).


Scaring power

Trucking in on frightening characters scares the audience and makes them recoil. In Max Payne (J. Moore, 2008), Max can’t believe that the man he was arresting has been shot by a security team. The audience gets even more scared as the camera trucks in in slow motion on the team leader turning and pointing his weapon in their faces, making them realize that Max is about to be treated the same way. In Jurassic Park (S. Spielberg, 1993), the camera trucks in on a raptor watching Lex and Tim run for their lives. Bringing the audience so close to its snout empowers the raptor on screen in a scary way (read more on characters invading our physical comfort zone in Scaling up – Have subjects come to the foreground (Part 2)).

Moving towards characters — as opposed to zooming in — allows for intricate framings. In Scanners (D. Cronenberg, 1981), the camera trucks in on Revok who is staking out an apartment where other ‘scanners’ are meeting. Similarly, in The Hitcher (R. Harmon, 1986), the camera trucks in on Ryder at road level after he was knocked out of a car. In both cases, the camera — trucking in from a relatively low position — ends up framing characters in extreme low angle, empowering their frightening figures.


Design power

In a way, each example on this page is sophisticated enough to be considered as shot design. But some techniques deliberately ‘go overboard’ so that the effect becomes apparent. In The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring (P. Jackson, 2001), the camera trucks in twice in a row on Boromir as he realizes the deadly kind of place he and the fellowship have stepped in. In Wanted (T. Bekmambetov , 2008), the camera trucks in twice at the beginning and the end of the same shot across windows and street as Wesley’s superpowers allow him to mentally probe his environment. The complexity of this shot shows that truck-ins can be integrated in more complex moves, as suggested before.


What’s up?

Like their zoom-in counterparts, some extreme truck-in techniques we’ve gone through in this page might not be indicated for all kinds of movies, but the thrilling, scary or stylized effects they provide are invaluable indeed when used in the right context. Now that we have covered the three most common ways to magnify subjects on screen (i.e. truck in, zoom in or having them come to the foreground), let’s see what cut-ins can bring to the table.


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