Welcome back to the “How to film a Fight Scene” series!
I am writing this series from my personal experiences in the action film industry, as I attempt to breakdown the science of how to make your own fight scene and learn fight choreography! If you missed it, make sure to read the first two parts to the series..
While there are no real “rules” to any art, you will still want to practice the guidelines before you venture into breaking them.. here are a couple of the most common rules to keep in mind.
The 180 degree rule. This is the technique that is used to film dialogue scenes in films. Once you establish the geography of a scene and show the position of the characters, you want to make sure your camera doesn’t cross an invisible line which is formed by the interaction of two players.. so if Fighter 1 is on camera left (left side of the screen) and Fighter 2 is camera right, you want to make sure that whichever angles you choose will stay on one side of the “180 line”. (See the fancy diagram below)
The way you can break this rule without jarring your audience is to either use a “cutaway” shot (show something completely different, then come back), or to have the “switch” happen all in one shot on the screen (ex, one of the fighters crosses camera to the other side of the screen, establishing his new position.)
Stacking your hits. This is the secret to selling your punches and kicks. Unless you are using specialized lenses, cameras can’t tell distances very well. This is the key to what lets us stack our hits. Let’s say you want to sell a punch to the face.. what you need to do is make sure the fighter’s fist crosses in front (or behind) the head at one point during the move, and the person getting hit reacts with the correct timing and in the correct direction. You can be up to a foot away and BAM, you have a solid hit.
It will take you some practice getting used to all of the different possible angles you can sell a hit from, and the distance and timing required between both performers.. but if you study a lot of fight scenes, you will start thinking of the possibilities intuitively!
Playing with eye movement. Remember that we are putting on a show for the viewer. So it is important to keep in mind where their eyes are looking during your fight. If one character kicks the other on the right side of the screen and you decide to continue filming from another angle, try to keep the last action in around the same screen space to make it easier for your viewer’s mind to overlap.. this is something that you could play around with during editing, (adding in camera movement to match your movement in post) but that would benefit you immensely to keep in mind during filming. (Look at pic below for reference.)
Start filming with the last action when moving to a different take. If you’re filming a fight scene creatively, you will have the cutting points already settled in your head. When you’re actually on the set, make sure to overlap the last action at the beginning of each take. For example, you decided to switch angles right after someone got kicked in the face.. start the next take with the whole kick in the face again, that way you will have a nice, fluid cutting point.
These 3 takes, filmed starting with the last action, flow well together.
And that’s all you need to know for basics! As soon as you get out there and start filming, you will start coming up with your own rules and tricks that are unique to your style. Don’t be afraid to play around! Remember, we’re just putting on a show
For the complete beginner, I will now walk you through the basic filming structure. This is a super safe way to film a fight with almost no creativity required on the camera-man’s part. I would only recommend this way of filming to beginners..it’s safe and you will get everything you need, but this will create A LOT of editing work.
– Film one or two MASTER SHOTS from a wide angle so you can see both fighters the entire time. Have them run through the fight a couple of times and try to catch each beat, but don’t stress over selling all of the hits from here.
– Film the fight over each fighter’s shoulder. This is where you want to try and make sure each hit sells.
– Film some CLOSE-UPS and INSERTS on hits that you weren’t able to catch in your other takes, and which you feel will help tell the story of your fight.
Following this route, when you get to editing your fight scene you will have a choice of ~3 different ways to sell each hit. If you do have some creative ideas on how to film your fight, I would recommend you to film the vision in your head and only get the shots you need. That way you can see how it all goes together in the edit, and you won’t spend extra time filming stuff for safety (although I recommend filming a master shot in any case).
“This is how I used to film fights when I first started. It helped me dial in my performances and movement, but my personal style soon outgrew the ‘safe’ way in favor of telling each story in a different way..”
With today’s availability of cameras, you shouldn’t have anything stopping you! Grab a friend, get out there, and film your first practice fight scene! Aim for 12-20 beats, filming 3-7 beats per take. Any camera will do (even your cell phone camera today is better than the camcorders I started with), and you can find editing software online! (I edit on Premiere Pro CC, which has a 30 day free trial available on their site.)
隨著現今攝影機的便利性，你不應該被任何事給阻擋! 拖一個朋友，走出去，拍攝你的第一個練習的戰鬥場面吧!! 目標12-20次打擊, 每一個鏡次3-7打擊，任何攝影機都可以做到(今天你的手機相機也比我剛入行的攝影機好) 你也可以在網路上找到剪輯軟體 ! (我用Premiere Pro CC,30天免費試用)
My friend Marrese Crump’s epic side kick to Tony Jaa in The Protector 2.
If you have any questions or would like some feedback on your fight scene, leave me a comment below, or feel free to send me a message through my facebook page: fb.com/RusticB
In the next article, we will be learning how to edit your fight scenes, and how to perfect your filming technique by learning from yourself in post-production!
Time to learn some Screen Fighting moves for your fight scenes!
Welcome to Part 2 of my breakdown of how to make your own fight scenes and learn fight choreography!
I am writing this series from my personal experiences in the action film industry, as I attempt to breakdown the science of how to make your own fight scene and learn fight choreography!
Part 1 >> How to study Fight Scenes
Part 3 >> Learning basic Fight Moves
Today we will begin learning some actual screen fighting moves that you can take into your own fight choreography practices, and fight scenes!
Disclaimer: Rustic B is a trained professional working in the Hollywood stunt industry. Anything you learn on this blog, that you attempt, is done so at your own risk. Have fun, and stay safe guys!
Bruce Lee vs Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Game of Death (click to watch the fight)
Good fight choreography that impresses time and again, consists of three components; Movement, Distance, and Timing.
好的戰鬥編排一次又一次的印象深刻，有三個部分組成 : 動作 距離 時機
Movement includes all of the actual moves you see people performing. In hand-to-hand combat these can be further broken down, into Handwork and Footwork. Below, I’ve made a list of essential, basic movements you will need to learn in order to be able to perform and create your own fight choreography. You will want to learn the correct fighting way to perform these moves, after which we will slightly modify them for fight choreography. Weapons is another key for creating impressive fight scenes, but I will cover these in a future article.
You don’t need to use any special equipment to learn the moves below. Unless you have access to some pads to practice on, just focus on getting comfortable moving in your own skin. (Look up tutorials for these moves on YouTube for now, I will film some examples in future.)
– Roundhouse 回旋踢
– Front 前踢
– Side 側踢
– Hook 勾踢
– Spinning Hook 後旋踢
– Fighting Stances 戰鬥站姿
– Blocks for Kicks 以腿封腿
Practice in front of a mirror if you can. This advice was given to me by some of the best stunt people in the industry. Perfect the way your moves look and feel to you, as you flow from one to the next. There are some very misleading fight scenes up on youtube today, where the performance has good energy and the camera, edit, and sound are superb..yet the performers look like they’re punching air, wildly swinging, or holding back..a mirror would help these people!
Imagine some targets in the air in front of you, and practice hitting those marks over and over. This skill will be important on the set, where you and your partner’s safety will depend on how much control you have over your body. Even the most messy looking fights you see on the big screen are performed by people who know what they’re doing and are working together to make it “look” messy, while remaining in complete control.
String together several moves into combos and practice them with a focus on fluidity while also being light on your feet.
“Fight Choreography is a dance, a choreographed performance that comes together when everyone works together and plays off each other’s distance and timing.”
Proper Distance and Timing is the next important key to good screen fighting. The best fighters in the film industry are able to make split-second adjustments in their movements, to adapt to their partner’s style. This comes from working with actors, many of whom aren’t trained in fight choreography, where it becomes the stunt performer’s job to keep their partner safe.
Your knowledge of distance and timing will come with experience, as you work with different types of people and learn which hits sell on camera and which don’t. A good rule of thumb for proper distance and timing in a fight, is if it starts feeling crowded or like you’re going too fast, back up and slow down! Many beginners start crowding the person they’re working with, and the choreography just starts looking bad.
Don’t rush your movements. Most of the fight scenes I have filmed for Movies and TV were actually performed at 80-90 percent speed. In reality, if you get your movements to look fluid, you can film a fight scene at 70 percent speed and still make it look really good.
Keep your hips at a 45 degree angle to your partner, instead of facing directly at them. Keeping your hips at slightly off center will make your punches/swings look bigger and will allow you to look like you’re moving (while all you’re doing is switching your stances in place to adjust for distance).
The best fighters in the industry can make anyone look good. When your fight practice isn’t going too well, and your partner can’t make the necessary adjustments, remember that you can always change something about your own movements to make the necessary hits sell.
Train, Train and Train! It’s time for your screen fighting HOMEWORK!
訓練，訓練 訓練 ! 是時候為你銀幕上的戰鬥做點功課了。
Practice the moves I outlined above in front of a mirror! Once you’re comfortable, start practicing some Shadow Boxing
Learn one “extra curricular” move that impresses you. Start thinking on your feet and take one of the moves you’d like to try (from last week’s notes) and research how you can learn it. (I learned almost everything I know from YouTube, it is truly a “modern oracle”.)
Find some friends who are interested in learning screen fighting! It can seem impossible (it did so for me), but I assure you that if you look hard enough you will find someone who is down to throw down! Once you have a training buddy, start going through some fight choreography together. Start with some simple combinations of jabs, crosses, hooks, while your partner bobs and weaves around your punches. Also, start thinking of where a hypothetical camera could be filming you from and where the best angle in your mind is to sell your hits.
Learning Fight Choreography and how to film your own fight scenes can seem like a daunting task.. but as with anything in life, if you go into it with an open mind and a willingness to “fail your way to success”, anyone can teach themselves the techniques to make a piece of badass action filmmaking!
The Raid (Clicking the images will take you to some cool fight scenes.)
When I started learning this stuff, I didn’t have anyone to teach me, so I hope this multi-part article will get you going in the right direction.. In this series of articles I will walk you through an overall approach, with future posts explaining more in-depth details.
So, let’s say our hypothetical question of this series is “how do I make a fight scene?”. Let’s break this down into several steps..
Watch and study a lot of fight scenes!! Everyone eventually develops their own flavor of what good action film making and fight choreography is. There are hundreds of different ways and styles to film the same story, so you should immerse yourself in as many different types of action films you can think of. My personal favorite sources of good fight choreography and action scenes as of now are The Raid, Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak, and of course the Jackie Chan movies that got me into stunts.
Another good set of resources to get your creative fight choreography and action scene juices flowing, are video games! For example after playing Batman: Arkham City for several hours, I started thinking in Batman’s fighting style. This principle translates to many other fighting games.. it is also the reason you see so many “live action” fight scenes being made as homages to the fans’ favorite characters.
Take notes! Go on, make a list of your favorite action movies.. now look them up on YouTube and find their respective fight scenes. Really study the performers and their fight choreography (use the youtube slo-mo feature or download the video and play it back on your computer), and observe your response to the choreography.
– Which moves catch your eye the most? 哪一種動作最能吸引你 ? – What camera angles are used to sell the hits? 哪種攝影機角度最有賣點 ? – Can you tell which moves are very technical? 你能說哪些動作是非常技術性 ? – Given the chance, would you do something differently? 如果有機會，你能做出不一樣的動作嗎 ?
Pay attention to the camera work, see how the camera man interacts with the performances you are watching.. Write down your thoughts and observations.
“Just as a director who knows how to act will be able to create a believable story on the big screen, and the best actors are ones who can direct themselves.. so must you want to learn everything there is to learn about your subject matter.”
Now for this week’s ‘fight choreography homework’.. have a surf around YouTube and pick 3 of your favorite fight scenes. Then write an answer to each of the questions I proposed above.. or make up your own notes! The point here is to get you observing the choreography and breaking it down in your mind.