Action Filmmaking 101


Creating a compelling short film is easy, with a little planning and a willingness to stop what you’re doing and position the camera and the action properly. Most motion clips of weekend activities are boring because they’re shot from one vantage point with one focal length so the viewer never gets a feel for visual variety. In this article, we’ll show you how to mix things up to build a film that will entice your audience instead of putting them to sleep. The art of an action film lies in making it look easy to do. In reality, it’s not difficult, but it does take some planning. Have athletes, hikers or skiers, or as in our example, mountain bikers, who are up for doing some stops and starts during the course of your day of shooting.

1 Establishing Shots. These are shots of the big open environment where your action is taking place. An establishing shot sets the stage. For too many would-be filmmakers, the establishing shot becomes the sole perspective. Don’t let that happen to you. When you’re shooting your establishing shot, try some slow pans or tilts to give you something to work with during your edit later. Depending on your establishing shot, it can look like a still frame, and in that case, having a pan across the scene is especially nice.

2 Moving Through The Landscape. Get yourself to a vantage point where you can shoot your main subject moving through the landscape. This serves as a way to transition from your establishing shot to tighter details. You’ve set the stage, now it’s time to bring your players onto it.

3 Dramatic Up-Close Action. Here’s where your audience will really begin to sit up and take notice. Position yourself where you can get dramatic up-close shots, preferably with a wide-angle lens. Many would-be filmmakers rely on longer focal lengths so they can shoot from a distance. Unfortunately, these kinds of shots always look like just that

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