You are viewing an archive of the old fxhome.com forums. The community has since moved to hitfilm.com.

How do you make action in films?

Posted: Sat, 15th Mar 2008, 10:10am

Post 1 of 27

b4uask30male

Force: 5619 | Joined: 22nd Feb 2002 | Posts: 3497

Windows User

Gold Member

Hi,
Trying to work out what makes an action scene in a film.

So far I'd say fast cuts, close ups and if possible break things.

Do you guys do anything different?
Posted: Sat, 15th Mar 2008, 10:12am

Post 2 of 27

Atom

Force: 4300 | Joined: 9th May 2004 | Posts: 7014

EffectsLab Lite User FXhome Movie Maker Windows User

Gold Member

Handheld camera movement, impacting music, and general tension.
Posted: Sat, 15th Mar 2008, 10:39am

Post 3 of 27

Mellifluous

Force: 5604 | Joined: 6th Oct 2002 | Posts: 3782

EffectsLab Pro User Windows User

Gold Member

I personally think that all the stuff about fast cuts, closeups etc aren't a given for action movies. They're just part of a style that certain movies have adopted and so have become quite popular. I think you could make a successful action movie without them. These techniques started out as a style people developed. It's about the style you decide to go for.

Just as a general action movies recommendation, a great book is The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap

It's 300-odd pages long and written by Stu Maschwitz, co-founder of The Orphanage (visual effects co that's worked on Sin City, Harry Potter and Superman). With a cover recommendation by Robert Rodriguez, you know it's got to be good. I got my copy cheap off Amazon.

Maschwitz set up a forum to support the book and it's a great place for getting more info about effects etc.
Posted: Sat, 15th Mar 2008, 1:29pm

Post 4 of 27

DavidLittlefield

Force: 1905 | Joined: 10th Oct 2006 | Posts: 469

VisionLab User VideoWrap User Windows User

Gold Member

Distinct grading style that is more intense than the rest of the film, perhaps high contrast, and a distinct overall color. Also, there tends to be a lack of dialog in action scenes, besides the occasional "one-liner kick-ass" phrase. Check out some action films and take notes on what you see. Make sure to watch it a few times and try to think of every aspect of the scene. Notice the lighting, music, grading, camera movements, how much time takes place over the course of the scene. What I mean by this is: from what I can remember, action scenes are more or less in real-time. They like to show a lot of detail in terms of where the character moves and where everyone else in the scene is at a given time. Whereas in most scenes of a movie you skip over a lot of minute details. I hope that makes sense.
It may also be helpful, if you want more details, to outline the specific scene your looking for.
Posted: Sat, 15th Mar 2008, 2:04pm

Post 5 of 27

Biblmac

Force: 852 | Joined: 12th Jun 2007 | Posts: 1513

EffectsLab Lite User Windows User

Gold Member

One thing to remember is that you want your veiwer to know what you are doing. Don't look above there head or at there ankles or it will make it less interesting. For instince when Batman busted the illegal drugs in Batman Begins you can't see a thing when he fights the whole crowd. It is better if the veiwer can actually see what is going on, don't over do it. biggrin
Posted: Sun, 16th Mar 2008, 1:31am

Post 6 of 27

Tommy Gundersen

Force: 530 | Joined: 25th Jan 2005 | Posts: 471

EffectsLab Lite User Windows User MacOS User

Gold Member

Biblmac wrote:

One thing to remember is that you want your veiwer to know what you are doing. Don't look above there head or at there ankles or it will make it less interesting. For instince when Batman busted the illegal drugs in Batman Begins you can't see a thing when he fights the whole crowd. It is better if the veiwer can actually see what is going on, don't over do it. biggrin
Unless it's *meant* to be uber-nonseeing pwnage as in Riddick, when he turns of the lights and play around with the guards.
Posted: Sun, 16th Mar 2008, 1:38am

Post 7 of 27

Biblmac

Force: 852 | Joined: 12th Jun 2007 | Posts: 1513

EffectsLab Lite User Windows User

Gold Member

Tommy Gundersen wrote:

Biblmac wrote:

One thing to remember is that you want your veiwer to know what you are doing. Don't look above there head or at there ankles or it will make it less interesting. For instince when Batman busted the illegal drugs in Batman Begins you can't see a thing when he fights the whole crowd. It is better if the veiwer can actually see what is going on, don't over do it. biggrin
Unless it's *meant* to be uber-nonseeing pwnage as in Riddick, when he turns of the lights and play around with the guards.
Yea I guess but it sometimes gets anoying to the viewer when you don't know what is happening. And I have never seen Riddick so I think I will see it. ty.
Posted: Sun, 16th Mar 2008, 1:45am

Post 8 of 27

Rocinante

Force: 1430 | Joined: 28th Jun 2007 | Posts: 116

VisionLab User Windows User MacOS User

Gold Member

Biblmac wrote:

Tommy Gundersen wrote:

Biblmac wrote:

One thing to remember is that you want your veiwer to know what you are doing. Don't look above there head or at there ankles or it will make it less interesting. For instince when Batman busted the illegal drugs in Batman Begins you can't see a thing when he fights the whole crowd. It is better if the veiwer can actually see what is going on, don't over do it. biggrin
Unless it's *meant* to be uber-nonseeing pwnage as in Riddick, when he turns of the lights and play around with the guards.
Yea I guess but it sometimes gets anoying to the viewer when you don't know what is happening. And I have never seen Riddick so I think I will see it. ty.
It's pretty quick in riddick and you can see everyonce and a while things that happen in a purple flash. It was a cool effect (and tactic wink) But was short so it wasnt over done the rest of te movie was full seen action though.
I'm pretty sure a quick pace will help keep it actiony and usually some interesting stunts razz Also not to that this makes an action movie but cool sets might give the actiony feel to the scene

Rocinante
Posted: Sun, 16th Mar 2008, 2:34am

Post 9 of 27

Axeman

Force: 17995 | Joined: 20th Jan 2002 | Posts: 6124

VisionLab User VideoWrap User PhotoKey 5 Pro User MuzzlePlug User PowerPlug User PhotoKey 3 Plug-in User FXhome Movie Maker FXpreset Maker MacOS User

SuperUser

Rating: +1

I think a good action scene is to a very large extent dependent on the choreography and blocking. It's called an action scene because the characters are active, so every move they make has to be carefully planned and well rehearsed. Fast cuts can add intensity when used properly, and make the whole process significantly easier on the actors, as they can get away with memorizing shorter sequences of action. But they are by no means necessary; have a look at any of the fight scenes in Crouching Tiger or Hero, for example, and you will see shots that are incredibly long, but still definitely action. Essentially though, the editing style, the grading, the selection of shots, and all the other elements are dependent on having some honest to goodness action on the set. If your actors don't do the action well, you'll have a hard time turning it into a good action scene no matter what you do.
Posted: Sun, 16th Mar 2008, 4:09am

Post 10 of 27

jmax

Force: 260 | Joined: 17th May 2006 | Posts: 671

MacOS User

Member

The best action scenes are the ones where the audience feels for the characters involved. Anybody can do explosions and guns.
Posted: Sun, 16th Mar 2008, 4:21am

Post 11 of 27

EvilDonut

Force: 200 | Joined: 22nd Feb 2008 | Posts: 595

Member

word with jmax.

script, suspense, intrigue, breathtaking moments.

the rest if just thrown together is useless.

but once u have all that first - loud sounds, fast cuts, interesting camera angles, effects, etc. etc.

you're getting into the level of big budget movies. they own that genre. so be careful. people are accustomed to hollywood-style action scenes - so if you throw together a cheesy low budget version - you'll turn off your audience at how cheap it looks. i don't know anyone in hollywood who can create inexpensive action films and these guys are pros.

d
Posted: Sun, 16th Mar 2008, 9:38am

Post 12 of 27

b4uask30male

Force: 5619 | Joined: 22nd Feb 2002 | Posts: 3497

Windows User

Gold Member

thanks guys, what about different frame rates, has anyone successfully speeded up action footage without it looking silly? or have you go used the camera to change frame rates?
Posted: Sun, 16th Mar 2008, 1:15pm

Post 13 of 27

Avenging Eagle

Force: 765 | Joined: 9th Apr 2005 | Posts: 375

CompositeLab Pro User EffectsLab Lite User FXhome Movie Maker

Gold Member

Not faster frame rates, no, but using a higher shutter speed helps greatly.

AE
Posted: Mon, 17th Mar 2008, 1:39pm

Post 14 of 27

petet2

Force: 2899 | Joined: 27th Dec 2005 | Posts: 1043

VisionLab User VideoWrap User Windows User

Gold Member

As the answers above show there is no one way to film an action sequence becase there is no one action sequence! What might work for a fist fight wouldn't work for a car chase or a wild west shoot out for example.

I would suggest a lot of time watching movies which have the type of action sequence you are trying to achieve (and pick bad movies as well as good ones - seeing what doesn't work is as useful as seeing what does). Watch the sequences over and over then go through on frame advance to see how long certain shots are and how often the angle and shot composition (LS, CU, BCU) is changed.

In the main it is true that action sequences will have a shorter average shot length than a love scene for example. Intercutting between different angles and view points can increase the pace and tension of a sequence and frequently you will see the shot length decreasing as a sequence builds to its climax.

Don't forget cutaways just because it's an action sequence (e.g.: a pot shattering during a shoot out in a house, a bystander screaming during a car chase).

I would also not agree fully with the advice regarding shutter speed. A fast shutter speed is great if you think you might want to add a slow motion effect in post (a la Sam Packinpah shoot out trade mark effect) but this will increase the risk of a Keystone Cops look if you speed up footage later.

Also motion blurring of the image can enhance the action look for certain sequences. Watch the train/car chase from The French Connection and you will see some shots of only a few frames duration which contain nothing identifiable at all, just a total blur yet as part of the whole they add to the panicked out-of-control feel of the sequence.
Posted: Mon, 17th Mar 2008, 2:00pm

Post 15 of 27

Simon K Jones

Force: 27955 | Joined: 1st Jan 2002 | Posts: 11683

VisionLab User VideoWrap User PhotoKey 5 Pro User MuzzlePlug User PowerPlug User PhotoKey 3 Plug-in User FXhome Movie Maker FXpreset Maker Windows User

FXhome Team Member

petet2 wrote:

I would also not agree fully with the advice regarding shutter speed. A fast shutter speed is great if you think you might want to add a slow motion effect in post (a la Sam Packinpah shoot out trade mark effect) but this will increase the risk of a Keystone Cops look if you speed up footage later.
Shutter speed has nothing to do with slow motion (or normal motion). It relates directly to the amount of time the shutter is open (at which point the image is recorded onto each individual frame).

A slow shutter speed will result in a large amount of motion blur, as the subjects will move about while the shutter is still open, and all the movement will blur together onto the image.

A fast shutter speed will only be open for a tiny fraction of a second, so there will be very little motion blur. In fact, motion blur can be removed almost entirely with this technique.

'Normal' shutter speeds fall somewhere in between, simulating a similar amount of motion blur to the human eye.

As for the main topic, there's no specific way to shoot action. It depends on two things - the film itself, and the style/effect you're going for, and the skill of the people involved.

If you've got untrained mates in your film, chances are they aren't trained stuntmen, and don't have the ability to fight convincingly on camera. You probably also won't have a decent choreographer. As such, you action sequence would probably benefit from fast cuts, inventive camerawork etc, as they can disguise the lack of skill on the part of the actors.

If you're working with highly trained people, however, you have many more options and can open things up a bit. Check our Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - great action, but a lot of it is very slow in terms of camerawork, relying instead on the skill of the performers. Same goes for The Matrix.

That's not to say that's always the case, of course - the people involved in the Bourne films are no doubt professionals, but they went for a particular wobblecam style for atmospheric reasons.
Posted: Mon, 17th Mar 2008, 6:32pm

Post 16 of 27

petet2

Force: 2899 | Joined: 27th Dec 2005 | Posts: 1043

VisionLab User VideoWrap User Windows User

Gold Member

Tarn wrote:

petet2 wrote:

I would also not agree fully with the advice regarding shutter speed. A fast shutter speed is great if you think you might want to add a slow motion effect in post (a la Sam Packinpah shoot out trade mark effect) but this will increase the risk of a Keystone Cops look if you speed up footage later.
Shutter speed has nothing to do with slow motion (or normal motion). It relates directly to the amount of time the shutter is open (at which point the image is recorded onto each individual frame).

A slow shutter speed will result in a large amount of motion blur, as the subjects will move about while the shutter is still open, and all the movement will blur together onto the image.

A fast shutter speed will only be open for a tiny fraction of a second, so there will be very little motion blur. In fact, motion blur can be removed almost entirely with this technique.

'Normal' shutter speeds fall somewhere in between, simulating a similar amount of motion blur to the human eye.

I wasn't suggesting that shutter speed has anything to do with fast or slow motion. What I meant was that if you film action with a "normal" shutter speed (i.e.: a person running) then you will find that there is motion blur on the moving parts of the frame. If in post production you then slow that footage down you will emphasize that blurring and make it obvious that you are merely duplicating frames (rather than having filmed in slow motion). If you use a fast shutter then, as you say, there will be little or no motion blur so the post production slow motion effect will look better.

Shutter speed is more of a still camera term than for movie film in which exposure time is more relevant. If you are using film rather than video then to achieve slow motion you increase the frame rate of the camera at the time of shooting (overcranking) and this does shorten the exposure time (which has the same effect on an individual frame as increasing the shutter speed).

Standard film speed is 24 fps but if you increase the filming speed to 48fps then the exposure time is halved. To calculate exposure time is not as simple as dividing time by frame rate as the shutter has to be closed to allow the next frame of film to be drawn into the gate.

Movie cameras have rotary shutters which are basically a disc with a sector cut away. When the cutaway sector lines up with the gate the frame is exposed. While the gate is obscured by the rest of the shutter the claw moves the film on by one frame so that an unexposed frame is in the gate when the open sector of the shutter comes round again. How much of the disc is cut away will effect the exposure time or shutter speed.

For Super 8mm cameras a low light camera may have a shutter with an opening as big as 220 degrees meaning that over 60% of each 24th of a second is used to expose the frame of film. This gives a shutter speed of around 1/40th of a second. If you shoot at double speed then the exposure time/shutter speed drops to around 1/80th of a second.

I still think in film (which is what I grew up with) rather than video where shutter speed is not directly related how you are filming as for most video cameras the frame rate is locked at 25fps for PAL and 29.97 for NTSC.
Posted: Tue, 18th Mar 2008, 1:40am

Post 17 of 27

Bryce007

Force: 1910 | Joined: 5th Apr 2003 | Posts: 2609

VideoWrap User Windows User

Gold Member

b4uask30male wrote:

Hi,
Trying to work out what makes an action scene in a film.

So far I'd say fast cuts, close ups and if possible break things.

Do you guys do anything different?
Oh...oh no...


(I didn't detect sarcasm..I wish I had...)
Posted: Tue, 18th Mar 2008, 9:24am

Post 18 of 27

Simon K Jones

Force: 27955 | Joined: 1st Jan 2002 | Posts: 11683

VisionLab User VideoWrap User PhotoKey 5 Pro User MuzzlePlug User PowerPlug User PhotoKey 3 Plug-in User FXhome Movie Maker FXpreset Maker Windows User

FXhome Team Member

Don't forget, Bryce: If possible, break things.

I feel that's always been missing from your movies.
Posted: Tue, 18th Mar 2008, 9:41am

Post 19 of 27

b4uask30male

Force: 5619 | Joined: 22nd Feb 2002 | Posts: 3497

Windows User

Gold Member

Bryce007 wrote:

b4uask30male wrote:

Hi,
Trying to work out what makes an action scene in a film.

So far I'd say fast cuts, close ups and if possible break things.

Do you guys do anything different?
Oh...oh no...


(I didn't detect sarcasm..I wish I had...)
No sarcasm from me.

Thanks for the input guys, it's helping me get my head around it a little easier.
I've seen John Carter do some great action scenes and to be honest i'm quite jelous, yes he blows (breaks) things but somehow he has an eye for action, I think maybe part of it is in the eye of the maker? if this is the case then for me I think i'll take the advice mentioned on here and get good people that can do stunts, DP etc.

Thanks
Posted: Tue, 18th Mar 2008, 9:47am

Post 20 of 27

ben3308

Force: 5210 | Joined: 24th May 2004 | Posts: 6433

VideoWrap User FXhome Movie Maker Windows User

Gold Member

Also remember, if your punches aren't as planned as they can be, even breaking things still might not bode well for a fight. This can be seen in Redemption where even though I bought two vases, a painting, and some picture frames (all of which broke during the fight) it didn't really help the fact that I poorly directed/advised some of the action.
Posted: Tue, 18th Mar 2008, 11:04am

Post 21 of 27

b4uask30male

Force: 5619 | Joined: 22nd Feb 2002 | Posts: 3497

Windows User

Gold Member

Hi Ben, it's great i'm not the only things don't go right for , (i don't mean that in a funny way) have you learned from that, what would you do different now?
Posted: Tue, 18th Mar 2008, 2:25pm

Post 22 of 27

Jabooza

Force: 2743 | Joined: 21st Jul 2006 | Posts: 1446

VisionLab User VideoWrap User FXpreset Maker FXhome Movie Maker MacOS User

Gold Member

ben3308 wrote:

Also remember, if your punches aren't as planned as they can be, even breaking things still might not bode well for a fight. This can be seen in Redemption where even though I bought two vases, a painting, and some picture frames (all of which broke during the fight) it didn't really help the fact that I poorly directed/advised some of the action.
I don't believe it.... are you, Ben3308 actually admitting you did something wrong?! smile
Posted: Tue, 18th Mar 2008, 2:29pm

Post 23 of 27

Simon K Jones

Force: 27955 | Joined: 1st Jan 2002 | Posts: 11683

VisionLab User VideoWrap User PhotoKey 5 Pro User MuzzlePlug User PowerPlug User PhotoKey 3 Plug-in User FXhome Movie Maker FXpreset Maker Windows User

FXhome Team Member

Jabooza wrote:

I don't believe it.... are you, Ben3308 actually admitting you did something wrong?! smile
NEWS POST!!!

wink
Posted: Tue, 18th Mar 2008, 4:49pm

Post 24 of 27

ben3308

Force: 5210 | Joined: 24th May 2004 | Posts: 6433

VideoWrap User FXhome Movie Maker Windows User

Gold Member

Of course, we all make mistakes. That does not, however, mean they are not without reason or excuse, but sometimes things turn out badly nonetheless. biggrin

If you'll notice in Redemption, the breakable stuff actually makes the scene better; I'm just recommending making sure most of the other necessary provisions (like planned angles and choreography: both of which my movie had, but probably not on the scale I wanted) before spending 2 hours shopping around the dollar store for props you want to break.

Redemption was 16 takes from two cameras for just the fight scene, and that took 3 hours, what with getting everyone packed into the small kitchen, setting up lights, and making sure everyone knew what to do. The direction happened as I filmed, and I probably should've given the actors a better idea of what intricate actions to perform before I rolled the camera. It didn't help that I spent a lot of time (45 minutes) buying the painting, the vases, and the picture frames.

Basically, get a LOT of planning out of the way before you do action. General blocking of the actors as they relate to the camera angles is obligatory, but even with that the scene may not come out how you expect. I personally like the fight in Redemption (sans the improper sound effects) but I realize that its faults were due to disproportionate designation of time and planning in the right areas.

PLANNING is what makes action good. Not angles, not editing, not props, but planning.
Posted: Tue, 18th Mar 2008, 5:43pm

Post 25 of 27

JUIDAR

Force: 1525 | Joined: 10th Feb 2006 | Posts: 502

VisionLab User Windows User FXhome Movie Maker

Gold Member

I've heard alot of great advice but and maybe I'm wrong here but the first word that comes to mind with me is:

Choreographing
Posted: Tue, 22nd Apr 2008, 4:00pm

Post 26 of 27

matchyman

Force: 387 | Joined: 24th Dec 2007 | Posts: 75

CompositeLab Pro User

Gold Member

There is A book By Andrew Hater Called How To make an action film for $99 it's great i own it u can make great bullet hits and realy everything
Posted: Tue, 22nd Apr 2008, 5:13pm

Post 27 of 27

EvilDonut

Force: 200 | Joined: 22nd Feb 2008 | Posts: 595

Member

What makes a good action scene?

Sound.

Have a nice day. smile

d