Elements of an Action Scene
by James Jaeger

The following elements may be present in an action scene - especially in the cinemascope aspect ratio:

1) High contrast lighting with rich color saturation.

2) Smoke

3) Hissing sounds

4) Moving camera (Panaglide or hand held)

5) Bright (moving) lights shining in the camera (HMIs)

6) Impacts mixed to the bass end

7) Moving objects in the foreground of frame as we see action

8) Close ups mixed with long shots to jar the scene around

9) Dripping sparklers to simulate severed electrical lines

10) Red and orange general lighting

11) Red highlights against steel blue

12) Water dripping or running

13) Slow-mo as a metaphor for super-fast action (such as in THE MATRIX)

14) Random fires, particles and debris flying around

15) Intense emotional language

16) Protagonist gets hurt gradually over span of picture thus increasing the desperation and vulnerability of the character. This psychologically compresses time thus making it go faster

17) Allusions to other action movie clichés

18) Dramatic music

19) Very formidable antagonist

20) Built in time element and/or high expediency for the protagonist

References: Jan De Bont's DP work on DIE HARD; James Cameron's work on ALIENS; Wachowski Brothers work on THE MATRIX

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