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Hal Huntsman August 1st, 2003 04:04 AM

fight scene tips please
I'm thinking about shooting a movie that includes a few fight scenes. I've never really done this before and I definately want to make it look realistic. Does anyone have any basic tips that I should keep in mind while setting up these shots?


Hal Huntsman

Andres Lucero August 1st, 2003 08:00 AM

1.) Protect your lens. :)

Bill Pryor August 1st, 2003 09:18 AM

Hire only actors who have been trained in stage fighting.

John Threat August 1st, 2003 09:18 AM

1. Cover the action in a wide master shot.

2. Break the action up into smaller chucks and shoot medium and closeup shots of specific action.

3. Go Handheld and get tight close ups (either from far away and zooming in (perferrable) or coming in phsyically close (watch the camera as was said before) of different action and struggling. This will intercut with the other footage nicely where a transition between action might not be tight and also give you a nice feeling of being in the intense action.

Dylan Couper August 1st, 2003 10:32 AM

I spent 11 hours yesterday shooting two fight scenes for our Lady X movie, and have shot several martial arts projects with master level martial artists.

A couple of tips
1) keep the action simple. The more complexe it is, the more it looks faked.
2) Keep the fight standing up, stuff on the ground rarely looks good.
3) Align your cameras so you see everything but the point where the punch or kick impacts.
4) Keep lots of space between your actors. The camera can't tell the difference if you follow #3.
5) The reaction is more important than the action. It's the flinching of the person that gets punched that makes a fight look good, not the punch. Have your actors overreact to getting hit, it'll make it more convincing.

As far as shots go, John Threat covered that perfectly.

John Locke August 1st, 2003 10:34 AM

Go to Quicktime and watch the "Kill Bill" trailer for inspiration.

Frank Ladner August 1st, 2003 11:04 AM

speeding footage
I have heard of some people removing frames, say, right before
a punch is delivered, giving it a quick impact.

Obviously this wouldn't do if the camera was moving, though,
because you'd get an undesirable jerk in the entire footage.

I have done some tests with footage using Twixtor in After Effects, with the Motion Blur setting bumped up in Twixtor and the speed being increased considerably, and it looked realistic.
(IE, it doesn't just look like one of those old black and white
films where all the motion was fast. (due to the framerate, I suppose))

It won't work if you go overboard, though, and on small increases in speed, you may be able to use AE's native Frame Blending.

Let me know if this doesn't make sense.


Frank Ladner August 1st, 2003 11:09 AM

Another trick that I have heard of is to have the actors fight slowly, and then to speed the footage up.

I'll bet you can get some nifty shots, especially on closeups where you can actually have the hand make contact with the other person.

You obviously couldn't use this for the entire sequence though. Imagine telling the actor to 'fall slowly'.

Anyhow, just throwing another idea out there.


Frank Granovski August 1st, 2003 11:28 AM


fight scene tips please
Keep in simple and keep it realistic. Perhaps use a 1/30th or 1/15th shutter like they used in Gladiator. :)

Keith Loh August 1st, 2003 11:29 AM

On the speeding up stuff. In Hong Kong this was fairly common so that the actors and stunt actors became very well schooled in fighting slow which actually is quite a lot of work. Imagine keeping slowly making a circle kick, holding it for three times as long as you would normally.

John Threat August 1st, 2003 12:16 PM

Actually, I would probably shoot the stuff at 1/1000 shutter speed.

Glenn Chan August 1st, 2003 01:41 PM

Jeff Centauri (professional stunt man) has an excellent article on this sort of thing. It's very important to practice a lot!


If you've seen Walker Texas Ranger, you'll know that the fight scenes SUCK even though Chuck Norris is very good at martial arts. He isn't very good at movie fighting.

Hal Huntsman August 2nd, 2003 05:14 AM

Thanks for all your advice and the links. It has been very helpful. I want to do a convincing job and I have also noted that some excellent martial artists have awful movie fight scenes.

I have a Canon XL1s and I was wondering why there was a suggestion of shooting 1/30, 1/15, or 1/1000 shutter.
How would this be preferable to shooting at 1/60? Also, would you recommend shooting in frame mode? and using the 16:9 mode?



Glenn Chan August 2nd, 2003 09:13 PM

Shooting with a high shutter speed will mean less motion blur, and vice versa. A high shutter speed could be advantageous for certain special effects.

Frame mode will give you better resolution and crappier looking motion. It might also affect the sensitivity of your camera. Shooting with frame mode could be good if you are planning to make DVDs (so you don't have to de-interlace when you encode).

16:9 mode is if you want to do a film transfer or if you want that widescreen look or if you want to shoot for HDTV. I would stay away from it.

Frank Granovski August 2nd, 2003 09:44 PM

Do you recall those neat fight scenes in the movie, "Gladiator?" They were done with low shutter speeds of 1/30 and 1/15.

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