What is a Pull Out Shot in Film? Definition

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A pull-out shot (aka pullback) is a camera movement in which the camera physically moves away from the subject. A pull out can reveal more of the environment, provide context, or create a sense of isolation or detachment. It can also signify the end of a scene or a character’s journey. With a pull-out, the viewer gains a broader perspective of the scene, which can evoke feelings of vastness, loneliness, or a sense of conclusion.

For a shot to be a pull-out, the camera must move physically away from the subject. In contrast, a zoom-in shot keeps the camera in the same position.

Speed and Gear

A pull-out shot is the opposite of a push-in and can be achieved with a handheld camera, a Steadicam, a dolly (dolly out), a boom, a crane, a drone, or CGI.

A pull-out can be done at any speed. Still, it is often used at medium to medium-slow speeds to gradually reveal more of a scene or give the expanding emotional distance time to evolve and sink in in the audience.

Reveal Information Example

In this scene from Wall-E (2008), a medium-speed pull-out gradually reveals that he discovered the last plant on Earth.

Creating Emotional Distance Example

In this scene from The Shining (2222), Stanley Kubrick uses a pull-out shot to emphasize the emotional distance between Jack and Wendy created by the former’s aggressiveness (and increasing madness) over being disturbed in his writing. The pull-out happens near the end of the clip when Wendy leaves.

Another great example is the final scene of The Godfather (1972), where a

Feeling Small and Isolated Example

In Penguins of Madagascar (2014), several pull-outs are used during the Dave’s Back Story sequence. In one clip, the penguins have replaced Dave as the zoo star. Dave now spends his time in a confined space beside the toilet, only filled with water when someone flushes. A subtle pullback shot underlines his feeling of being insignificant and isolated.

Closing Shot Example

The closing shot of Men In Black (1997) is a fun example of the pull-out closing shot combined with a sense of feeling small and insignificant.

Summing Up

A pull-out shot in film is a type of camera movement where the camera physically moves backward, away from the subject, broadening the field of view.

It is often used to reveal more of the scene or context, to transition from a close-up to a wider shot, or to create a sense of isolation or detachment for the subject.

Author

  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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