Track 45 left, part 2

Deckard: Enhance 224 to 176. Enhance, stop. Move in, stop. Pull out, track right, stop. Center in, pull back. Stop. Track 45 right. Stop. Center and stop. Enhance 34 to 36. Pan right and pull back. Stop. Enhance 34 to 46. Pull back. Wait a minute, go right, stop. Enhance 57 to 19. Track 45 left. Stop. Enhance 15 to 23. Give me a hard copy right there.

The above is the entire dialog of one of the greatest scenes in all of movies. In a way, it is about movies. The scene starts out with deceptive simplicity. Harrison Ford, as the classic brooding anti-hero shamus on a case, is nursing a stiff drink and peering at some sort of electronic photo enlarger. He issues commands, the machine zooms and pans in response.

Except that he doesn’t say “pan” — he says “track”. Filmmakers know that this means “move the camera”, not “turn the camera”. And it’s something you cannot do with a photo enlarger.

We don’t really notice this odd terminology at first. After all, what we are seeing is so familiar, so much like the panning across a shot that we are used to. Then the view seems to look around a corner, which is impossible.

But wait — it’s not looking around a corner, just zooming into a mirror in the photo. All perfectly reasonable. Sure, the photograph must be super-high resolution for him to be able to zoom into a reflection like that, but why not? This is a sci-fi movie after all.

And then, near the very end, Ridley Scott drops the other shoe. Deckard says “Track 45 left.” And unmistakably, astoundingly, the camera tracks to the left, as though the person taking the photo had literally moved sideways.

At that moment, my friend Josh and I, seeing the film together in the cinema, both practically jumped out of our seats. It was a moment that changed everything. And continues to change everything, even today.

More tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “Track 45 left, part 2”

  1. Cynthia: Thanks. I wasn’t sure whether to include it, because you never know how long these YouTube links stay around.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *