Coordinating and conducting stunts doesn’t have to be a challenge once you know these eight common stunt tricks.
If someone says they don’t like action sequences in movies or on TV, they are lying. There’s no way someone couldn’t be in awe of someone running at superhuman speeds or drifting in Tokyo. One of the many benefits of filmmaking is the ability to recreate or reinvent some of the best action footage from television and film.
A great place to start is learning the most common stunt tricks used in Hollywood. While common, they are reliable, simple, and sometimes handy for your shot. Many of these stunt tricks are performed with the intent to tell a dynamic story or to keep the pace of the story without worrying about the safety of your crew.
It’s a simple shift that we’ve seen (or not seen) over and over again in the film.
During the action, the actor and the double switch are placed behind an object to make it appear as if the actor is performing the stunt. For the change to look believable, the stunt crew, camera crew, and director must work closely together to cover up where the actor is hiding.
A great example of a simple Texas switch would be with Buddy (Will Ferrell) walking out of the picture and then jumping on the Christmas tree Eleven. The stunt double takes Ferrell’s place as he walks out of the picture.
Hiding the actor behind objects such as a large stone or a pillar in a parking garage are two practical and natural ways to hide the switch. This stunt has also become a comedic staple for action comedies like. become The Naked Gun: from the files of the police command! There are so many ways to play with the Texas Switch to suit your movie.
In films where the characters fly, a tuning fork is used to control the actors or stunt doubles in the air and to hang them securely. Two prongs are attached to either side of the performer’s body. The rig is then controlled by a steering wheel controlled by stunt people in blue or green suits. The steering wheel allows 360 degree rotations to make it look like the character is flying.
In films like Live Action, you can see the tuning fork at work Mulan when Mulan (Liu Yifel) does full spins in the air during her fight scenes. The tuning fork is not a complete substitute for wires. The tuning fork can help direct the legs as the wires lift the performer. This allows the performer to move their torso and make flying look as natural as walking.
Ratchet pull and dead man
To achieve the violent motion of a performer who is pounded 20 feet into a wall, many stunt coordinators use a ratchet pull.
During a ratchet pull, a double is tied to cables that are driven by a compressed air cylinder. These cables can move forward or backward and, depending on how much air pressure is in the cylinder, can start the performer as far as necessary.
in the The Twilight Saga Eclipse, Monique Ganderton was thrown 20 feet forward after a CG wolf attacked her.
When an easier option is needed, a dead man is the stunt trick. Instead of tying a performer to a complex rigging system outside the camera, the performer is connected to a stationary object in the frame with a wire. When the performer is fully committed, run, jump, and hit the end of the line. The tote is also used to pull a performer off a horse. The effect is an effective and violent stunt when the performer’s body is knocked to the ground.
Have you ever broken your hand on glass? The small pieces are so sharp that they cut your hand quite a bit.
To create a safe and not-so-bloody scene in which two actors break through a window, many stunt crews use toughened glass bonded with pressure plates. When the tempered glass breaks, the shards are tiny and harmless. To break the glass, pressure plates are placed on the corners of the glass and a timer goes off when the performers are instructed to hit the glass.
Stunt coordinators have also updated this trick. The computer-controlled pressure plates can be placed an inch away from the glass, causing the glass to break when hit by the body. It’s a great way not to rely on just perfect timing.
Camera lock off
Some stunts are just too dangerous to do without injuring someone. To avoid injury, two actions are recorded separately by the same camera that was locked. Then the two recordings are merged with visual effects.
in the Atomic blonde, James Gascoigne (Sam Hargrave) looked like he’d been hit by a car; Instead, he was pulled into a delivery truck by a ratchet to make it look like he’d been hit by a car, and another shot of a car turning up Hargave’s sign was sewn onto the previous shot.
A great practical effect for making a character look like they are running at superhuman speed is the magic carpet. A conveyor belt is a large tarpaulin that is attached to a vehicle. The performer then walks on the smooth surface to make it look like they’re running at 50 mph.
The disadvantage of a magic carpet is that it only works on flat surfaces like asphalt. When working in more difficult terrain, actors and doubles are attached to a weight wire system attached to a winch. This can physically lift and propel the double. This is how Black Panther (Chadwich Boseman) and Captain America (Chris Evans) can run at superhuman speeds during the Battle of Wakanda Avengers: Infinity War.
Biscuit rigs or car rigs
Most auto stunts take trained professionals to perform these stunts, but what do you do if you want to make it look like the actor is the driver?
A dynamic way to capture chases is by using a biscuit rig. It is a vehicle that you can put other vehicles on. While the actors appear to be driving, the stunt driver is in a capsule just outside the frame. These rigs allow for more dynamic camera angles that capture close-up shots of the moving actors. A current example of a biscuit line is A Quiet Place: Part II. In the opening scene, Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) reverses as a runaway bus drives towards her and her family. Blunt doesn’t drive in the shot, but a stuntman in a capsule above the car has full control over the car’s movements.
Burn full fire
CGI can be used to create large, safe fires, but fire is one of the most difficult elements to use visual effects to make it look real. Another option is to set a stunt person on fire. To do this harmlessly, the stunt person wears three layers of fireproof suits and is then soaked in a flame retardant gel called Zel Jel. Three more layers are added – a rain suit, a firefighter suit, and a cotton suit – and soaked with even more Zel-Jel.
A stunt person can’t be on fire for more than 15 seconds, so timing is everything. For large sets like Game of Thrones, Several actors were set alight at the same time. Making sure all of these cast members are safe and deleted before the 15 seconds is up is a challenge in itself. Another major challenge for the performers who are set on fire is having to hold their breath so that they do not inhale any of the fire.
We definitely wouldn’t recommend doing any of these more dangerous stunts on an indie production unless you have emergency staff and trained stunt performers on the set (and good insurance).
Which stunts would you like to try out for your next project? Let us know in the comments below!