Even though fight scenes in movies and tv shows are fake, they are still fun to watch. However, there are many fight scenes that are poorly done. Whether it be for bad camera angles, exaggeration etc. Here are some tips to improve the realism and quality of fight scenes.
1.)Good lighting: Some fight scenes have poor lighting that’s it’s so hard to see who’s winning the fight. The audience shouldn’t have to squint their eyes to know know who’s winning. This is why good lighting is important.
2.) Good camera work: Try to avoid unnecessary camera cuts, prolonged zoom ins and shaking. These things can make certain audience members feel motion sickness. Minimize the number of camera cuts, avoid zooming in too much and keep the camera stable. Here’s a example of bad camera work
and here’s a example of good camera work.
3.)Avoid the cliché indestructible brute effect: Some movies like to feature “brute” characters that usually pose a serious threat to the protagonist due to their large size. These brute characters are often featured in a unrealistic and exaggerated manner in which they are invulnerable to many attacks, even to being hit with sturdy objects. It’s so comical that it takes away the serious ambient to the fight scene. In order to make brute fights more realistic, the vulnerability of the brute must be shown by including takedowns, jointlocks and ground fighting. Here is a example of a unrealistic brute fight scene(also note the bad camera work).
Here’s a more realistic brute fight scene(note the ground fighting and good camera work)
It’s understandable that they want to make the brute seem like a serious threat to the protagonist but there are always better ways of doing that instead of ego stroking the big man superiority complex. Having the brute decimate a minor character is one way. The only exceptions where a indestructible brute can be used are if it’s important to the movie plot(Superhuman, supernatural abilities, protagonist doesn’t know how to fight etc) or if it’s meant to be comical.
4.) Make sure the audience can tell who is who: Some fight scenes can be confusing. Mostly because two of the characters have identical outfits. So it’s best for a “marker” to be put in place so people know who is who. The movie called “the one” did a good job with this.
5.)Avoid unnecessary sound effects: There are many fight scenes that use too many sound effects to put more emphasis on the strikes. Some of those sound effects sound more cartoonish. When using sound effects, be sure the sounds are not exaggerated. For example a cracking noise can be used if there are joint locks in the scene.
6.) Use environmental factors for non competitive fight scenes: If it’s a fight scene where the characters are fighting in a non competitive environment, make the characters use the environment to their advantage such as hitting each other with chairs etc.
7.) Avoid plot holes: There are some scenes where the characters just stand there to allow the other character to get the upper hand. For example this fight scene. At around 46 seconds into the video, James Bond has the upper hand but just stands there and points at the Komodo dragon which gives the henchman a chance to recover. It’s never explained why Bond pointed at the Komodo dragons. Although it can be implied that it was the director’s way of showing Bond’s “smart gun” in action.
8.)Include grappling: When people think about fighting, they think about people attacking each other with strikes but forget about joint locks/submissions, manipulations, takedowns, ground fighting and throws. Most fight scenes focus mostly on striking and show very little grappling. Some of the best fight scenes include both grappling and striking. The video below isn’t from a movie but is from an actual BJJ competition, to give an idea of what grappling is about.
These are only some of the many tips for filming a good fight scene.