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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Action Filmmaking 101

Most short action movies are actually pretty dull. Here are some tips for creating a film that will keep your audience engaged.

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4 Coming & Going. Tight, wide-angle action shots work particularly well when you can get shots coming and going. Don't try to do both at the same time! Shoot a few takes with the action coming, then have your athletes do the same thing while you position yourself to get the "going" shot. You'll edit them together when you're back at the computer. Having both angles, coming and going, makes for a dramatic effect. It will take you several takes of the same action to get both, but it's well worth it.

5 Mix In Some POV. Point-of-view shots have become dead-easy thanks to the proliferation of first-person action cameras like the GoPro HEROs and the Sony Action Cam. These small, fixed-focal-length cameras are capable of recording very high-quality images and they're incredibly robust. There's no shortage of mounting options, which makes it possible to use them everywhere, from a helmet to your wrist to handlebars or a bike frame. When you're using a POV cam, set it up such that you have some of what it's mounted to in the frame. If you're placing it on a helmet, have some of the helmet in the frame; if it's on handlebars, have them in the frame. Because any action will be bouncy, having something in the frame that moves in lockstep with the camera helps keep your viewers from getting motion sick. Also, don't get too crazy with the POV footage. Save it for spectacular action or impressive displays of speed. If you watch auto racing on TV, think of how the coverage constantly cuts back and forth from the POV in-car footage to action shots from around the track.

6 Show The Passage Of Time. Using some time-lapse to show the passage of time is a great transitional element to put into any motion project. Get some action shots with the sun low on the horizon to insert after your time-lapse footage, and you'll get a great sense of moving through the day.

7 Closing Shots. One thing a lot of people have trouble with is ending their film. It's okay to leave it all hanging at the end, but with a little planning, you can easily get a shot that gives a sense of ending. In our example of a mountain biker, showing the athlete off the bike silhouetted against the setting sun is perfect. For any action film, showing your athletes out of their gear—skis, surfboard, bike, etc.—will add a sense of finality. And, of course, a sunset always makes it feel like you've come to the end of the day.


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