4 Editing Techniques That'll Help You Make a Heart-Pumping Action Sequence

So you had your actors engage in the most epic brawl caught on camera, huh? Well, unless your editing is on point, they might as well be playing pattycake.

There are plenty of things you need to think about when organizing an action sequence: choreography, cinematography, stunts, music, maybe even pyrotechnics. All of these things are important elements in the making of a great cinematic fight, but are essentially nothing without some masterful editing to make it more dynamic. If you need some pointers on how to edit scenes like this, here is Ryan Connolly of Film Riot to give you a few:

Here are the tips Connolly mentions in the video that'll help you make your action sequences more exciting:

Lots of action and reaction

Showing action/reaction shots (or reaction/action) help audiences build anticipation for what's about to happen next—even if it's only built up within the moment between the two shots.

Speed ramping

Not everybody can be Bruce Lee—in fact, in terms of their influence on filmmaking, they're the exact opposite. Instead of forcing filmmakers to slow footage down in order to be able to see his punches and kicks, your typical action hero may need the few frames before impacts sped up in order to make them seem more hard-hitting.

Cut frames out of an impact

Instead of slowing down the frames, you can just cut frames out all together to make them more intense.

Add filters to sound effects

It's not enough to drag and drop sound effects into your timeline to sell the illusion that people are getting pummeled on screen. You need to add some filters to them to make them sound as though they were recorded on location, otherwise it won't be convincing.

These are just a few helpful post-production techniques you can use to make your action sequences more dynamic and thrilling to watch. If you have any others, let us know in the comments below!     

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Martial arts / action films is one of the genre I have work in for years (since 1998) and every project I have done the actors seem to go full force against each other and also using live sharp swords. During editing after watching it a bit they still looked slow and many other filmmaker friends would tell me to speed it up a bit. I can see where he's coming from and Yeap. Sound effect makes an impact how a viewer would react. Here's a martial arts tango we did recently. https://youtu.be/F59YGKfa3AA

July 23, 2016 at 5:16AM

Johnny Wu
Director, Producer, Editor

If I may, I watched your short and while I know your on screen talent are probably great martial artists, they don't seem to be selling the choreography that well. The moves are too tight, their arms and legs need to open up more, swings need to be wider. Impacts are telegraphed and lack any visual impact, falls are okay, but I can see the actors bracing themselves for it. Everyone seems very stiff (I'm assuming from the cold weather). And its very repetitive. Two fighters square up, they fight, break, wash rinse repeat. And the camera work is also repetitive, there's no dynamic to it. It moves in a circle but the coverage is either obscured or just kinda meh. One of the things that the guys from Film Riot nailed was that each action sequence has its own pace, its own look and feel and its own dynamic. There's a purpose to the action and goal to be met. In yours, every fight is the same and I found myself not caring what happens in the end. Action and comedy work best when its short and snappy, which is why those two genres pair well together. Now you can string a series of short action scenes to make a longer sequence, but each smaller scene still has their own mise e scene as well as a story structure (beginning, middle and end).

July 27, 2016 at 2:07PM

Nicholas Ortiz

Great techniques on editing the action sequences.

July 25, 2016 at 2:48AM

Customer of bluedart

Nice tips but too much annoying product placements.

July 26, 2016 at 8:12AM, Edited July 26, 8:18AM

Creative Media Designer

MUST.....STAY....WITH....APPLE......Oh Apple, please release a Mac Pro update that will make my wait worth it.

July 30, 2016 at 8:58AM

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

Thank you very much for sharing this!

September 9, 2019 at 4:34AM

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