When faced with filming a sport as exciting to watch as parkour, it can feel as if it’s hard to go wrong; however, that’s exactly why many filmmakers end up with material that’s not nearly as dynamic as it should be. Parkour is fantastic stuff for an action film but a bit of planning goes a long way in helping to bring out its full potential. Hollywood action scenes are meticulously planned and taking the same approach can, with today’s equipment, produce material that looks equally exciting even on a very low budget.
Showing the space
The first thing to think about when shooting parkour sequences is how to illustrate the space being used. If it’s high up, viewers need to know that so that they can fully appreciate the danger involved. Vertical shots up or down the building make good preliminary material – getting in close to the wall makes it look steeper. If there’s movement towards or away from the camera, the photographer needs to have sufficient depth of field to capture that. It can be helpful to have other objects of known size (other people will do) in the field of view so that the viewers can subconsciously use them to judge distance.
Consistency and movement
First person parkour shots can be fun, though in this more than any other action sport, it’s important to think carefully about where the camera is positioned on the body and how that might affect safety issues in the event of a bad landing. The most impressive shots are generally those taken by another person, and as a rule that individual should be moving as little as possible. The steadier the camera, the more the movement of the performer is emphasised. This doesn’t mean that panning or tracking shots are problematic, but they need to be smooth and proceed at an even pace even if the speed of the performer is changing.
Creating a storyboard
To make the most of these strategies, it’s well worth sitting down and devising a storyboard for the parkour film before shooting, rather than just going out there and seeing what happens. This makes it possible to work out the best way of using available locations and framing particular stunts. It can also make it easier to work out how a series of stunts might be combined into a film, even if the help of an extreme sports video production expert is needed in the editing stages to make it all come together as planned.
Where to cut
Many amateur filmmakers make the mistake of cutting where they think the editor will cut. In fact it’s always best to have a bit of extra film at either end of a scene in order to give the editor some flexibility, although it’s still helpful to have those cuts in mind. The film will not necessarily be all action, but everything else should be in service of the action. Thinking about what’s going to be important to the viewer will give the film the impact it needs to be a hit online.
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