Every filmmaker has their own creative process and reasons for doing things a certain way. There are certain industry standards, however, that are commonly accepted as the best ways to approach certain situations. Action scenes are one example of this that most people know, since they are often associated with fast pace, dynamic shots, and clever use of elements to immerse the audience. But how can you achieve that effect in your action scenes? Keep reading to learn 5 camera tricks that can help you significantly.
Go handheld for more action
While some people would rather use gimbals, Steadicams, cranes, and other gear for added stability, there is nothing quite like the effect of handheld shots in action scenes. That shaky handheld style adds a more dynamic quality to your footage that you wouldn’t get from a still or overly stabilized shot. Of course, some form of support is encouraged to avoid excessive shaking that could end up disorienting the audience.
Use foreground objects to your advantage
When you have a scene or a sequence in which people are running or there is a car chase, your characters or vehicles might not seem like they are going very fast on screen, particularly if you are shooting from a distance. Objects closer to the camera pass quicker in front of it, which in turn make it look as if your actual subjects are moving faster. Use trees, other cars, and even people passing to create this effect.
Bring the audience along with you
Action is more effective when you make people part of it. The audience can come along for the ride if you know how to use your camera correctly for that purpose. For instance, when you have one character following another one, camera angles and lenses influence how immersed people feel in the scene. Framing close to the character’s face or focusing on their hands while they hide will give the audience the feeling of being right there with them or being as anxious as the character is. Shooting with a wide angle lens, will increase this perception as well.
Increase shutter speed for fluid action
All action scenes have something in common, and that is that movement can be blurry if it is too quick for the camera to capture. There are ways to circumvent this, and one of the most useful is to adjust the shutter speed to a higher one so all movement is fluid and can be appreciated properly by moviegoers. You should keep this trick in mind for VFX too, since editing is significantly easier later with footage that is as fluid as possible.
Focus on how action affects characters
A common criticism of action scenes is that they are too focused on catching every punch, kick, and reaction perfectly, which can be a slippery slope and lead to choppy editing or montage that is too monotonous. One way to improve this is to consider the characters’ thoughts and feelings in the middle of the action. Cutting to someone’s faces or gestures ahead of their next move in a fight, for instance, can bring much-needed pause to a sequence and charge the following actions with more meaning if we see and infer the intentions of the characters.