Here's What You Need to Know About Shooting Big, Brutal Fight Scenes

Although a film about pacifists going wine tasting in Tuscany is just—riveting, nothing beats a good action flick with a lot of brawls.

If you're gearing up to shoot a fight scene for your project, there is quite a bit to learn before you start, including how to block, choreograph, and edit these high-octane scenes. You can learn a bunch here, here, and here.) Our buddies over at Film Riot explain how they pulled off this excellent action sequence for DJI.

Before we jump into how they did it, here's the full fight scene:

And here's Ryan Connolly to explain the techniques and tools they used to shoot this close quarter fight scene:

This sequence was shot on the A7s mounted onto a Ronin M stabilizer, as well as the DJI Osmo, a 4K camera integrated with a 3-axis handheld gimbal stabilizer. These were pretty logical choices of camera given the fact that the space they had was extremely limited.

Apart from gear, though, Connolly and his team utilized practical lights on dimmers and haze to create the atmosphere—very simple and inexpensive ways to add depth and aesthetics into your shots. The authenticity of the uniforms also add to believability.

One thing the team mentions is how they broke up the fight scene into three sections. This allows those doing the stunts to focus on a smaller portion of the choreography, which results in better performances and a lot more safety on set.

You can also tell that some tricks were used in post to make the scene feel more dynamic and intense, namely one in which a couple of frames are removed right before an impact (a punch, kick, or elbow to the chops). This gives the illusion that those impacts are being administered faster and harder—really selling the idea that it's painful. They other trick—sound effects! Pay close attention to how you design your sounds in fight scenes, because they will really help sell the illusion to your audience that they're watching a "real" fight.

I think one of the biggest lessons we can learn from Film Riot is that fight scenes don't have to be big budget set pieces; they can be done inexpensively as long as you know a few no-budge work-arounds.

What kinds of techniques do you use in your fight scenes? Let us know in the comments below!     

Your Comment


And that's another couple of thousand dollars I just saved on film school. Love stuff like these.

June 5, 2016 at 11:35PM

Sahit Anand
Director and Co-Founder of DO. Creative Labs

It helps to have actual fighters/martial artists on set to help. They are invaluable to help achieving a really effective fight sequence. Rehearsals are key as well. Here, check out this short I made for a 48 Hour film Challenge. The genre was zombie, but we managed to effectively incorporate some action into it-

June 6, 2016 at 8:24AM

Nicholas Ortiz

There are so many times where you sit through a well-choreographed scene in which the actors just look like they're going through the motions and everyone looks like a great fighter (which is fine for certain genres, of course). For a brutal fight scene, you need to desperation of a real life and death fight. Allowing the actors to destroy parts of the set can really add to the realism, and also grabbing anything to hand to use as a weapon. And obviously their reactions to pain and panic really add to the scene. Look at the stairwell fight in Casino Royale as a good example. Clearly very well choreographed, but there's a sense of desperation and randomness throughout. The fighters make mistakes and use any part of their body to gain an advantage.

June 6, 2016 at 12:48PM, Edited June 6, 12:48PM


Here a few sequences from our absolute zero budget action short Nat, followed by some making-of:

No rigs, no stunt team, no DP, no microphones other than embedded to the cameras, and no transport: walked to the public locations - with some snacks in a bag. Just 2 friends with - different - cameras, and a (non-actor) co-fighter.

The shoot was done in half the time I thought it would. Some shots for this short I had to edit in from the rehearsal just before the actual shoot for the action to make sense, but they are by definition slow. Therefore next time I'd rehearse before the day on location with the cameras because: the location and the camera are actors in fight scenes more than in non-fight scenes; and precision of the movements as seen on camera must be thoroughly prepared. Hopefully with equipment and budget for everyone and for insurance.

@Joe Piechura: Yes!

June 10, 2016 at 10:43PM, Edited June 10, 10:43PM