In The Cut: The Filming & Editing of Action Sequences

Here’s a very cool sort of nerd-ish look at film editing as it pertains to action sequences (specifically, car chases). Some very insightful comments by film critic Jim Emerson on spatial relations, framing, and making things visually comprehensible for the viewer (I actually thought he was a film professor posting stuff online for a lecture or something). This is an interesting topic to me, both as a lover of car chases and as a graphic storyteller. I think many of these observations can also apply to comic panel layouts. Anyway, it’s a cool little series and I recommend you take a little time to check it out. I hope Emerson posts more of these in the future.


Part I: A look at the chase scene in “The Dark Knight.”

Part II: A look at an excellent chase scene in “Salt” (You can see the uninterrupted clip of the scene here – might want to watch first). Now I want to see this movie. Looks pretty decent!

The ‘Salt’ breakdown above brings up my only complaint of this series – I wish Emerson’s overlaid graphics were a little more refined than Arial text and ASCII arrows. I totally knew what he meant when he was describing Jolie seeing the approaching 18-wheeler from her vantage point, but it could have been easily illustrated with a simple onscreen side view graphic like this:

Part III: A look at William Friedkin’s “The French Connection”, Peter Yates’ “Bullitt” (*gaspswoon!*), and Don Siegel’s “The Lineup.”

Man, I’ve gotta watch Bullitt again. Who wants to watch Bullitt with me? Come over my house and we will watch Bullitt together. I bought the BluRay and haven’t watched it yet. Now I wanna watch it. My favorite part of Bullitt is when he parks his Mustang on the street, gets out and locks the doors before going into his apartment. You just don’t see a lot of people locking their car doors in movies anymore. That McQueen is one cool cat. And so responsible!

Related/Off Topic: Have you ever seen “The Seven-Ups“? It’s a mostly-boring movie with a pretty great chase sequence:

The queasy roll of the bumper cam shots are great. They really capture the heavy body/soft suspension of those older cars. With every screeching turn, both cars seem on the verge of bouncing right off the road. Side note to that: these are some of the uncoolest cars ever. Other comments: The curb hits are HARSH. The cop cars are COOL. The ferocity of Roy Scheider’s engine is undeniable – good sound work. A lot of this driving feels recklessly REAL. The end: kind of the best thing ever.

Anyway, I got off topic, there. Sorry. Jim Emerson has a few more clips posted on Vimeo worth checking out (including a clip of Unbreakable that reminded me to re-watch it. Still love it). If you’d like to learn more about him, check out his blog scanners or find him on Twitter.

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