Understanding the dynamics of frictional motion is essential to fields ranging from nano-machines to the study of earthquakes. Frictional motion involves a huge range of time and length scales, coupling the elastic fields of two blocks under stress to the dynamics of the myriad interlocking microscopic contacts that form the interface at their plane of separation. In spite of the immense practical and fundamental importance of friction, many aspects of the basic physics of the problem are still not well understood. One such aspect is the nucleation of frictional motion commonly referred to as the transition from static to dynamic friction. Here we review experimental studies of dynamical aspects of frictional sliding. We focus mainly on recent advances in real-time visualization of the real area of contact along large spatially extended interfaces and the importance of rapid fracture-like processes that appear at the onset of frictional instability.