Confused About Shooting Fight Scenes at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Open DV Discussion

Open DV Discussion
For topics which don't fit into any of the other categories.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old May 22nd, 2012, 09:29 AM   #1
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Freeport, FL
Posts: 39
Confused About Shooting Fight Scenes

OK, so I'm thinking about doing a short little movie with some MMA scenes in it. I want to take the viewer "into the ring," so to speak, so I've read a lot of advice on shooting action scenes here and elsewhere.

I've never shot an action/fight scene, so bear with me.

From what I've read, the advice tends to follow something like this:

1. Shoot the entire fight scene wide, using two cameras
2. Shoot the entire fight scene again, medium, again with two cameras
3. Shoot the entire fight scene a third time, this time tight
4. Shoot again, looking for "unique" or different angles

This should give you tons of shots to work with in editing.

OK, fine, sounds good. But then how do you handle sound? If you use the sound recorded, say, from the first take, the actions in the 2, 3, and 4 takes won't match up to the sound. So should I use the sound track from each take? If yes, won't that cause the audio to sound...inconsistent?

And then how do folks handle the inconsistencies of the shots? Let's say your fight calls for one fighter to have the other guy in a headlock. If you do multiple takes like I described above, as you transition from shot to shot, continuity will break. Subtle differences in how the fighters have their hands positioned or where their heads are positioned will show glaringly, won't they?

Any advice or thoughts would be very much appreciated.
Norm Kaiser is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 22nd, 2012, 11:57 AM   #2
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Belfast, UK
Posts: 4,121
Re: Confused About Shooting Fight Scenes

In fight scenes the sound is often replaced by foley effects, since the actors or stunt people aren't hitting each other. Also, the real sounds aren't usually that impressive anyway.

Use the recorded sound as a guide track, use any dialogue and replace or reinforce the rest.
Brian Drysdale is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 22nd, 2012, 02:49 PM   #3
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Novato, CA
Posts: 1,771
Re: Confused About Shooting Fight Scenes

Hi Norm,

The sequence of shots you've described is closer to how you would shoot a performance music video than an action sequence. I've choreographed and shot many fight scenes (mostly martial arts based scenes, with and without weapons) and the last thing you want to do is approach it with some formula for picking up coverage.

First, shooting an action sequence, especially a fight scene requires a great deal of planning and practice. Depending on the skill level of your stunt people, you may need to also use some post effects to make it look realistic. To start with, you have to choreograph the movements with the camera angles available. The way I choreo a scene is to start with the general flow or directions that the sequence needs to go. Then I identify specific techniques or strikes that need to be in the scene. Maybe a particular character has a signature move. Also, identify the length of time that you will need the scene to run.

Now you have the basics to begin choreographing the scene. Look at the start and finish. What precipitates the beginning of the fight and what strike(s) will end the fight. From there you can choreograph various techniques that will logically get you from the start to the finish. I like to work very closely with the people who will be performing the fight scene during my choreography because most people have a few natural moves that they revert to under stress. So I want to figure out how to use those so that the scene is as realistic as possible.

Once you have the choreography set up, you need to discuss with your director and DP the best angles to shoot each strike from. This is where an understanding of angles and body movement come in. Your goal is to make it look like the strikes are actually impacting the combatants while maintaining the maximum distance possible. Why? Because the further away they are from hitting each other, the more comfortable they will be and that will allow them to throw their strikes with more force and realism. Timing becomes very important. And that's where practice comes in. Repetitive practice. If you're working with trained stunt people they will be use to this, if not, don't settle for good enough. That's how people get hurt. Start having them work slow, moving at half speed. Then, slowly speed up so that they build a rhythm together.

For shooting, you'll need to break down the entire fight scene into individual shots. You may film two punches and a kick from one angle, then move onto filming the next set of strikes from another. Then, maybe you'll have a really forceful kick that sends one of the people flying backwards. You could cut to a wide shot showing them getting kicked and flying back. The important thing is that you've got the the entire scene already edited before you start to shoot. Each shot should require only 2 to 3 takes at a maximum. The higher danger moves you will strive to get in one take. Sometimes you only have one take. Breaking a bottle over someones head adds up if you have to do 5 or 6 takes (each bottle cost about $20).

So why don't you want to shoot it as a formula of master, medium, cu, etc.? A couple of reasons. One is safety. You're actors will most likely not be able to do the entire sequence without mistakes all the way through unless they are highly trained stunt fighters, in which case you would be working with a stunt coordinator and wouldn't have to ask how to film it. With mistakes comes the risk of injury. So, you'll either get a lot of coverage of sloppy work, or fighters moving in slow motion controlling their movements. Either one will make your scene not work. Second, you will not be able to capture the correct angles so that the strikes look realistic. Minute changes in angles are what make a stunt look real or fake.

Preparation and practice are required for any action sequence and for fight scenes I generally require a minimum of a month to work out the choreography and camera angles, And, get the actors or stunt people to practice and get comfortable with the scene. That's for a very simple fight sequence of maybe 10 to 15 strikes. Just remember that safety is the first concern and that doing the scene over and over will tire out your actors. That's when more mistakes will occur, and usually when people are tired that's when injuries happen. And, as you already have thought about, how you cut from one shot to the next becomes an issue. As I mentioned, all of the cuts should be predetermined so that you get the required coverage and if needed any cutaways to make the scene work. It's a lot of work but can be a lot of fun too.

As Brian pointed out, almost all sound for fight scenes are added in post. People getting hit sounds a lot more boring than in the movies. A lot of times too, the director will be calling out queues for when certain things like various camera moves are suppose to occur.

Sorry for the long post but filming a fight scene is one of those things that people take for granted and there are a lot of things that need to be worked out.
__________________
Garrett Low
www.GLowMediaProductions.com
Garrett Low is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 22nd, 2012, 04:01 PM   #4
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Freeport, FL
Posts: 39
Re: Confused About Shooting Fight Scenes

Wow, this is really some great information. Thanks so much. So you think it would be best for me to break down the fight shot by shot, yes?
Norm Kaiser is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 22nd, 2012, 05:00 PM   #5
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Novato, CA
Posts: 1,771
Re: Confused About Shooting Fight Scenes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Norm Kaiser View Post
Wow, this is really some great information. Thanks so much. So you think it would be best for me to break down the fight shot by shot, yes?
Definitely. And go through some half speed test shots to check out the best angles and lighting requirements. If you have the equipment and ability at your disposal you might think about opportunities for using slow motion or some other kind of affect like placing a bit of power on the top of a shoe before executing a kick. If your fighters are trained they can actually make contact to the chest or stomach area and if they know how to throw the kick and how to receive it, they won't get hurt, and the puff of powder with the right lighting can be a very nice affect.

A word of caution about any strikes to the back area. This is one target I am very careful with and only let it go at full speed after I'm confident that no contact at all will be made. A slight miss and the spine can be hit and permanent damage can result. So I always make people practice extra for any sticks to the back. In fact I usually hide the actual hit so that no contact needs to even be simulated. A quick last minute cut to just the attacker coming down with his elbow or a weapon can be framed so that you can have them hitting a bag out of frame. That way they can come down with force and the strike stops, looking like they actually hit the other person. Then a quick cut to the person hitting the floor with the attacker in their last position is an effect way to pull this off.

Break down the fight sequence into manageable sequences. There will be some combinations of attacks that naturally go together and will lend themselves to being shot form one angle. Then you'll notice that holding that camera position no longer works. In general, wide shots of fight scenes don't stand up for long durations. Part of what you want to capture is the chaos and general disorientation that goes on with a fight. Some POV shots of the person getting hit and the person throwing the strikes are always a good ways to get from one shot to the next too. And remember, fight scenes are one of those times that you don't need to pay real strict attention to the 180 degree rule.
__________________
Garrett Low
www.GLowMediaProductions.com
Garrett Low is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 22nd, 2012, 06:44 PM   #6
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
Re: Confused About Shooting Fight Scenes

Regarding sound, my approach is to add everything except dialog in post - and when the dialog doesn't work, that gets replaced too.

Record the real-time audio so you'll have a timing reference for the sounds that happened in real time (steps, shuffles, grunts...), but don't worry about getting production-level quality. It all gets replaced anyway. But for dialog, if you can get it captured up close on a quiet set with good equipment, it not only eliminates the need for ADR, but can be more authentic when recorded in the moment.

Keep in mind that if you have dialog and movement at the same time, sounds due to movement can ruin the dialog track. If you can limit the motion when dialog is spoken - and maybe remove shoes and try not to rustle clothing - you have a higher chance of success.

Also, record a couple minutes in the space with everybody silent. You can use this room tone between and behind other elements. Also consider recording your actors grunting and breathing while in the space but when there is no filming going on. You can record anybody's footsteps, but everybody's voice is unique - even when making not making words.

One other trick is to film a fight at 20 or 22 fps, rather than 24. That slight speed up will make the action crisp without looking fake. If you shoot on a DSLR, a used T1i is an interesting option. It *only* shoots at 20 fps. It's a fight cam! :)
__________________
Jon Fairhurst
Jon Fairhurst is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Open DV Discussion

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 11:38 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network