October 27, 2015 at 5:25PM


How to Shoot Fight Scenes

How do they shoot fight scenes in movies and TV shows?

Do they shoot the scenes a few times with close ups with the actual actor from the show and then shoot with the stunt people? Very interested to hear how this works!


If I were doing this on my own, I would do a test run by establishing some simple choreography, and choosing shots that will emphasize the action of fighting without the actors having to lay a hand on each other. Try shooting at higher frame rates to get that hyper real look, shoot handheld/shoulder rig to give that breathing effect, make rapid cuts, and get as much coverage as possible. I suppose you could have multiple cameras, each with a different shot size (wide, mcu, cu), or if it is well choreographed/performed, you could approach it with one camera over multiple takes. Just some thoughts...

October 27, 2015 at 5:36PM

Gabe Reuben
Director of Photography

There's a great article contrasting schools of shooting fight-scenes: http://nofilmschool.com/2014/12/jackie-chans-9-principles-action-comedy

Tl;DR version: if you have trained actors who know how to fight, let them do their magic and let the camera capture their rhythm. If you don't, then you have to rely on lots of cutting. If you storyboard well, you don't need tons of coverage, and you will get the look of your storyboard (which, most likely, means it will look like a comic book fight).

Not explained in the video, but a tip I learned at a stage combat workshop: if actors are reasonably skilled at stage combat, it takes about an hour of rehearsal to get 10 seconds of action. With stage combat, strikes never land--it's all illusion.

October 28, 2015 at 2:26AM


I think there is a thing about using perspective, for both illusion and safety, which depends on the lens used. I believe if the camera is behind one guy who punches the other, the actor may in fact be some feet away but the lens used made him seem much closer to the audience, so a 400mm lens might be better than a 24mm for some shots.


Anyone, chime in on that.

October 29, 2015 at 7:44AM

Saied M.

This might help you out: How to Shoot an Indie Film Action Sequence

October 29, 2015 at 8:31AM

Alex Ferrari
Director / Producer

PRE PROD TIP-Establishing a base choreography is key, so if you can schedule a rehearsal or two prior to shooting is helpful. Oh, here something I do with all my action based work. Shoot the fight twice. I mean that I will shoot the rehearsals as if it were going to be in the final movie. This helps figuring out the best angles for the action. I take all the footage and edit, again as if it were going to make it into the final project. Once you have that, upload it to a tablet or phone, even on Youtube as a unlisted link and on the ACTUAL day, all that needs to be done is to recreate the angles and moves you have in that video. Its an incredible time saver and then you only shoot what you already have worked out and know is the best.

PROD TIP- For talent, having some kind of athletic ability is better than none. All hits only have to look good on camera, so swings have to wider, reactions have to be bigger but most importantly, it all has to be moving slightly SLOWER. Tell them to move just a little slower, cuz you can always add speed in post. It also is help with keeping everyone safe from accidents. Accidents will happen, but as long as everyone remains professional (and apologizes) its all good.

POST TIP- When in the edit, say you have a shot that the angle is good and the acting is good, but the hit or hits just lack that particular sting or snapping look to them. To fix that, take a clip with the hit and cut out the frame before the impact. To clarify, if a punch starts on frame 1 and connects on frame 6, cut out frame 5. It really makes a world of difference and has in fact saved a few shots for me in the past. Get yourself a decent fight pack, the guys from FILM RIOT have a good one, but there is a dude on youtube name tony jaa who makes his own that are really cheap and sound amazing, he resounds a lot of fight scenes to demonstrate the quality of his work. Do a search for fight resound, it should pop up.

October 29, 2015 at 10:38AM

Nicholas Ortiz

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