The brief for our third film is to create an action sequence of a ball rolling off a table. Unlike the last two films, narrative isn’t important to this, and we have to focus much more on getting the video and audio right to make sure that it is understandably an action scene.
Shots: At the start, the shots tend to follow Captain America’s line of sight, showing him looking one way and then showing what he’s looking at. It allows you to evaluate the situation from his perspective, so you see the little things that he sees, like the soldiers hand on his gun and the sweat on another man’s forehead. These are foreboding, and give a signal that they are preparing for something to happen.
When the action starts, the shots become incredibly quick cut, sometimes not even a second. In fact, it’s almost like the shots change every time someone gets hit. It’s kind of disorientating, highlighting the fact that there’s too many people in that lift to really know what’s going on and all that matters is the fighting, because all you can make out are the punches and kicks.
Another thing about the shots is that between the really quick cutting shots, there are a few slightly longer ones. These act as breathers, short breaks between the fighting, so all the energy comes in short bursts. It gives it more dimension, because the viewer isn’t overwhelmed by all the fighting and has a second to breath before it starts up again. If it was non-stop, it may quickly get too boring and repetitive.
Sound: It is very obvious that in this, the audio has been exaggerated, as all the noises are way louder then they would be in real life. This does make each individual sound stand out though, and means that you don’t need the camera work to be perfect steady to understand what’s going on. If anything, it’s the sound that’s telling the story and the shots are just trying to give a general feeling of what it feels like in that elevator.
Shots: The shots in this follow many similarities to the scene from Captain America, as they too start on longer shots and go in to shorter ones. One of the best shots from this is right at the very beginning. It’s a panning shot, establishing the start of the scene and the reason it’s so effective is because it takes 40 seconds to cut to a new shot. As the camera follows the man down the stairs you subconsciously expect there to be a cut there, but instead, it carries on up to the other guy. The expectancy for there to be a new shot is translated into an expectancy that something is about to happen, because you sense that something is not right. Panning shots are used in lots of other films, like The Maze Runner. In this, the pan is used to capture both the events going on around the characters and the fear on their faces in one go, to connect the two and establish where they stand in the situation. Once again this creates an expectancy, as you are waiting for them to run.
The audio in this scene from The Untouchables is very effective. During the actual fighting, most of the audio is cut out, apart from the gun shots, pram and music. Because of this, the sound of the gun shots are highlighted, and the viewer becomes more aware of them. With their focus on the sound of the bullets, it can make the audience feel as if they are there during the fight, with the bullets whizzing past their ears. The sound of the pram bouncing down the stairs is very repetitive, and because of this the sound is drilled into our heads. It acts as a constant reminder that the baby is in danger, and you have an emotional reaction to this as you fear for it’s life. It adds to the tension, as you become anxious for the fight to finish so the child can be saved.
An example of how NOT to handle audio is this scene from The Bourne Identity. This scene isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just cruder than other movies. In good action scenes, the sound is always exaggerated, but in this scene the sound effects are so over the top that they are almost ridiculous. Because it isn’t realistic, the sound becomes too prominent and noticeable, throwing the audience off and meaning they don’t connect with the scene as much. Also, it goes on too long. The first few seconds are effective, with quick cuts similar to those from Captain America, but after a while it becomes repetitive. There isn’t enough variation, and you lose the pace and energy that were created in the beginning, meaning you end up getting a little bored watching it, because it doesn’t spark any emotion. If they had cut down the fighting a bit, added some pauses in to break it up, and also added some energetic music to build up, this scene would have been more effective.
Summary: conventions of an action sequence
- Build-up of audio. Both the music and sound effects are layered up, building up the tension beforehand as you wait for the release and reaching the highest and loudest point during the actual action. Sound effects are also enhanced, so they take over and you almost feel them yourself.
- Silence. Used as pauses or breaks, often just before something big is about to happen. You find yourself holding your breath in anticipation because it suddenly goes quiet.
- Conflict (the heart of drama). Conflict is common to action scenes as it can be used as a tool to build up the energy. A few seconds of conflict can be stretched out to a couple of minutes through the use of editing, for example, you can cross-cut the same move/punch/fall/etc multiple times, showing it over and over, and every time the energy jumps up a notch.
- Slow motion/time remapping. Speeding up certain parts of the action and slowing down others focuses the viewers attention on certain parts. If you sped up a generic fight then slo down a certain punch, the viewer automatically assumes that that punch is going to have a big impact to the fight. Slow motion also causes anticipation, as you are watching something slowly happen, you become expectant of the end result.\
- Pace and energy.
- hand held/shaky camera. Used to convey disorientation and also throws the viewer into the action. If the camera was still, the viewer may feel disjointed from the action and not be able to connect as much with the events.
- Predictable chain of events. Shots before the action hint at what is about to happen, so you can anticipate the action. They may show long close ups
- WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF. When a viewers actively ignores the fact that they clearly know something isn’t true in a film so they can becoming emotionally invested in the sequence of events. For example, if the film threatens the death of a main character, you know it’s not going to happen because they are key to the plot, but you suspend your disbelief so you still worry for them.