View Full Version : Fight Scene. Long masters or coverage?

10-18-2004, 08:36 PM
I'm getting ready to shoot a fight scene. Should I shoot it with long masters that depict the entire action from begining to end or should I break the action in parts in order to get detailed angles and coverage?

Any advice?

Jim Brennan
10-18-2004, 09:17 PM
I rarely shoot with 2 cameras, but I make an exception here. If at all possible set up one for the master and another for close ups. It will cut down on the amount of takes you need for coverage, and you usually want as few takes as possible when there is risk of injury.

That being said, a short scene can work well all in a master, but most of the time there are close ups.

It has been my experience that the 2 keys to getting a good fight on film (tape) is choreographing down to the last detail, and being sure of your camera angles. Make sure your stunt people can do it as close to the same time after time. This way, even if you have only one camera, the editing goes better. This of course depends on how physical the scene is. You can only ask so much of stunt people take after take. If it's a situation where you have props breaking (Tables and such) I'd run that through in the master shot, then go back for your close ups.

Really what I'd recommend is to take the time, if at all possible, to sit down with your stunt coordinator and run it through with him. Then video tape it at half speed to try out your camera angles. Give yourself enough time to review what you shot to be sure you are geting what you want.

3 Things to remember

1) NEVER compromise safety (it sounds obvious, but still) Listen to your stunt people
2) You will probably need twice as long to prepare and shoot this as you think you will.
3) Simple fights can be very effective if shot well. Don't get too complicated, Just think it through and storyboard if possible

This is more than you asked for, sorry. I'm feeling long-winded tonight

10-18-2004, 09:23 PM
If you want to shoot effective fight scenes, run (don't walk) to get the Fightscenes For Motion Pictures DVD at www.kbproducts.com. It's only $20 and it'll teach you just about everything you'll need to know to make effective (and safe!) Hollywood-style fight scenes.

David Jimerson
10-19-2004, 04:17 AM
I'm reminded of that rooftop fight scene in "You Only Live Twice" where guy after guy comes after Bond and they pull back to a helicopter shot. THAT was art.

Now back your regularly-scheduled thread.

10-19-2004, 10:47 PM
Everyone, thanks for your help. *
Mr. Barry I tried to use paypal before and for some reason I wasn't able to.
How else can I get my hands on this Dvd, check ,money order?
I'm in New York, Is it on sale here?

10-20-2004, 12:56 AM
I can't help too much with answers as to how to order the Fightscenes DVD... it's not my product, it's one that was made by a friend of mine, fellow DVXUser.com member filmmaker58. I helped him a little on his DVD, and he was cinematographer on mine, so we work a lot together (I even put a promo for his DVD on mine!) but he handles all sales of that product himself. I know he's made contact with stunt suppliers, and ads in karate magazines and stuff like that, so it may be in some stores, but I really don't know. The best way to go about it would be to write him directly at
info AT kbproducts.com.

10-20-2004, 06:56 AM
Thank you mister Barry, you are most helpfull.

10-21-2004, 09:46 AM
Hi Braskarkid

I shot a fight scene with a 16mm Arriflex camera two years ago. It was really short, but it turned out pretty decent. You can check it out here:


I went in thinking it through and having a pretty good idea how to shoot it, and then - it turned out really different at the end. Sometimes things just happen on the fly. My best advice would be to think through what you are doing and previsualize as much as possible. Then when you are on the set you can shoot it according to plan and still be open for improv.

10-22-2004, 02:51 AM
I just finished shooting a 4 minute sword fight scene with 26 wire stunts. We shot coverage with one camera and angles with 2 others, then we shot close-up seperately for the fight choreography. All the stunts were shot wide. The whole thing was shot on consumer level DV equipment. I'm capturing and editing now, and we plan to shoot some pickups in the next few weeks. After effects and wire removal, I'll post a link fo you'd like to see it.


10-23-2004, 01:54 PM
The fight itself usually dictates how you shoot it. If the fight is a barroom brawl, wide and master it punch in for coverage. If it is a fight between two people, I usually shoot a master. If the fight is a long fight break it up into sequences. With luck, your doubles will be good ones and you can shoot a master with the stunt people, and punch in for coverage of your actors. I try to do all coverage of actors over the stunt doubles and I usually try to do all coverage hand held. It lends more "action" to the action. You also want to make sure that you get impact shots. Those shots where someone hits the floor or goes over a bar, or through a railing.
The real key here is getting a stunt coordinator that knows fights inside and out as well as camera inside and out.

If your fight is between two actors, you will have trouble doing masters unless they are extremely comfortable with action.

11-04-2004, 03:11 PM
Watch Hong Kong martial arts movies. In my opinion they shoot the best fight sequences. I like seeing it all, none of that CU quick pans shiat.

11-19-2004, 03:26 PM
Get the tight shots! A master is always a good idea, but get the tight shots.

11-24-2004, 08:16 PM
Lately, all movies with fight scenes including gladiator and lord of the rings and starwars episode 1...

seems to rely heavily on close ups to make it look more hectic. which works. but sometimes I can't help but to think that they couldn't have made it look just as good if it was in wide shot.
sometimes it could be story motivated... for example, you want to focus on the characters- they are important, not really the fight itself but the character that is fighting. *so they use close ups to see their face, all the while their swords or sabers are flying in and out of that tight shot.

11-24-2004, 09:07 PM
I agree DvPixl. While I enjoyed LOTR it was sort of annoying to watch the fight sequences at times. I want to see what's going on! IMO you can make a scene plenty dramatic by showing what's actually happening (with perhaps a close up or two interspersed).

11-25-2004, 06:55 PM
I agree back- though never to make the fight itself the subject, a good drawn out fight is nice to look at and adds to the drama like Shaw said.
some good examples -though not the timeliest.
Neo fights Seraph in Reloaded going on top of the tables.
-this is a *two shot, and it shows everything happening- not to mention, the best fight Neo has in all of the Matrix IMO-
-the first fight in HERO- very simple but uses slow motion and accents to create intensity and also a two shot motivated-
-KILL BILL - plenty of two's. lots of detail, though it looks funny to watch uma play with her sword at times. a good balance of medium and ECU's to get the best out of the scene. you can see this during the Go-Go Yubari fight.

most likely, if you want your fans to keep watching your kung fu movies, you have to show them the moves.

* * * * *

11-25-2004, 10:09 PM
Also try to compose your shots so to showcase the fighting style. Sometimes the style is more interesting than the characters. ;)

Beat Takeshi
11-29-2004, 11:16 AM
yeah, i hate when its too close too. Let them see whats happening. The close ups like in the TV version of "Kung Fu" really sucked because you can tell that they really had no skills and it was being covered up by "editing" . But... that might only apply to Kung Fu movies. Someone posted a really good fight scene in the woods a while ago. He had great editing and shots that flowed along with the dust puffs when someone got kicked.

12-01-2004, 11:46 PM
Thanks for the plug Barry. Anyone interested in the fightscenes tutorial DVD can, as mentioned, order from www.kbproducts.com using paypal, or mail a check or money order for $24.95 to:
Kerby Brothers Productions
P.O. box 1790 PMB 32
Pahrump, NV 89041

There is some really great info on this DVD concerning performing, shooting, and even editing fight scenes. There are explanations of the different styles called the Master method (Bruce Lee style), and the Insert Method (Jackie Chan style), the impact line etc. etc. There is a review of it at http://www.kungfucinema.com/reviews/fightscenesformotionpictures.