November 25, 2012

Action Breakdown #21: Film Techniques

A director is probably as important to the action movie as the actor or the effects are. He is the man responsible for bringing the action to life and delivering that spectacle to us when we enter the movie theater. The director will use various camera techniques in order to enhance the movie going experience for us action fans. To put us in the middle of the action so to speak. The director uses various filming techniques in order to enhance the action and they can range from impressive to irritating depending on your tastes.

Shaky Cam: The ever hated shaky cam made popular by the Bourne films. This is used to create tension by bringing the audience into the action by use of erratic movements. This has transformed into one of the biggest pet peeves in action cinema today. It really depends on how it is used and to what effect it is used during the movie.

Slow Motion: A film technique as old as the genre itself. It is used to either showcase a really cool action setpiece or stunt or increase the drama of a particular scene.

Zoom: Used mostly for dramatic effect with the director having the camera zoom in to an object or an actor’s face during a tense scene.

Tracking Shots: Camera shots that follow our actor throughout the action scene. They can be either edited together or done in one take. Think the hallway scene in Oldboy or the shootout scene in Heat.

Split Screens: This is one technique that is barely used in action films nowadays except for maybe some TV shows. It can be an effective technique when used properly in order to increase the importance of an action scene

Quick Cuts: Most often connected with the styles of Michael Bay and Tony Scott, this style is a really popular form of filming to increase that feeling of high stakes that is necessary in action films in order to become effective.

Lens Flares: A most recent film technique used to enhance the realism of the scene by enhancing the light reflections in a scene to put you in the action. It can be really annoying when it is overused (Battleship), but it can still be a cool effect in moderation.

Still Shots: These are probably one of my favorites. The still shot that showcases a fight scene or some sort of action or conversation between two actors. It really feels like you are there watching it unfold before your eyes. It is simply and effective.

Crane Shots: The bird’s eye view shots that are usually seen in fantasy films. Take the wide shots of New Zealand in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

About the Author

My name is Omar and I love action movies. I grew up loving action films thanks in part to my father who would deliver a healthy dose of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, and Seagal in my movie diet. Ever since then, I continue to love the genre more and more and go along perfectly with my love for the horror genre. What other movie genre can specialize in giving you pure adrenaline and excitement in every turn?



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