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BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER

Action
Kaos wanted to shoot Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever in the style of the films that inspired him, opting for action as realistic in execution as it was spectacular in effect – that is, effects and stunts choreographed in real time, without reliance on green-screen techniques, CGI or extensive post-production editing for enhancement.  This was something that Chris Lee understood completely, saying, "There is definitely a place for those kinds of stylized visual effects but we were going for another look.  We wanted to tell this story the way they did in the 70s, where you saw a full scene in each frame and there wasn't a lot of quick cutting or arbitrary camera movements.”  

 "In essence, we aimed for the noir-ish style of a graphic novel,” Kaos explains.  "Unlike comic books, where imagination runs wild, graphic novels are grounded in realism, which is why we kept the action in a practical realm – no miniatures, and minimal green screen.” 

This goal was achieved through the selection of camera lenses and placement.  Shooting in super-35 format allowed him to approximate a wide screen. 

"You see more of the world the characters inhabit,” says Kaos of the wider effect.  "If we have a shot of a character walking through a landscape, we have a bright and clear focus on him in the foreground, but, at the same time, the background is also bright and clear, giving us a better sense of where all of this is taking place.”  Director of Photography Julio Macat (Crazy in Alabama, Cats & Dogs) worked closely with Kaos in realizing the director's vision and likens this composition technique to "breathing underwater,” because "the audience is immediately placed into the story.”

For Macat, organization was key.  To capture the action from multiple angles, he orchestrated the simultaneous movements of several camera crews, which he compares to "playing three-level checkers.”  Describing his maneuvers, Macat says, "When you have three things going on in three different directions in the same scene, with actors in the foreground and a huge explosion in the background, you have to move constantly, do a 360 around two actors, get the explosion from the back and their reactions at the same time.  Lights that are good for one camera are not good for the second camera, so we put the lights on dimmers and changed the levels as we moved.  It was choreographed with three crews on top of each other shooting towards a common center.  It was a huge challenge and very rewarding for me because, in this business, you are always trying to expand upon your craft.”         

Kaos' commitment to realism extended to the creation of practical stunts and effects.  Joel J. Kramer, Second Unit Director and Supervising Stunt Coordinator on Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever, and Special Effects Coordinator R. Bruce Steinheimer welcomed the enormous challenge and worked closely together to coordinate the action sequences, most of which had to be perfect the first time because they could not be re-created.

"We had car chases, cars flipping into the air, people fighting on motorcycles, fires, explosions, buses blowing in half, people falling 120 feet through the air to land on cars that would then explode on impact – all in one take,” says Kramer.  The former stuntman and veteran stunt coordinator, who has worked on some of the biggest action films ever made (T2: Judgment Day, True Lies, Total Recall), knew what he was getting into from the beginning.  "Usually, when I read a script, I dog-ear the pages where action is involved,” he recalls.  "This script had about 130 pages and when I was finished

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