Watch: Shooting ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, Keep It in the Crosshairs

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Mad Max: Fury Road shooting editing
Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road
Photo: Warner Bros.

Why does the chaotic action of Mad Max: Fury Road work better than it does in so many other films? The film is said to contain upward of 2,700 cuts over the course of two hours. Compare this to the 1,200 cuts in The Road Warrior and director George Miller has clearly taken note of the new style of film editing common in today’s cinema.

Speaking with the Miami Herald, Miller discussed his approach to the action and how each scene needed to be edited together for narrative cohesion. “We also spent a huge amount of time on spatial awareness — making sure the viewer could follow the action and understand what was happening,” he said. “Too often, if you just cram a lot of stuff into the frame, you get the illusion of a fast pace. But there’s no coherence. It doesn’t flow. It comes off as headbanging music, and it can be exhausting.”

In order to make sure the audience wasn’t looking all over the place, even if the action was ranging from up-close-and-personal to shot at a distance, Miller sent down the edict to keep the focus in the same spot, the center of the frame. “Put the cross hairs on her nose! Put the cross hairs on the gun!” Miller is quoted as saying in a new piece at Vashi Visuals, which is accompanied by the video at the bottom of this post with commentary from director of photography John Seale.

“Movies are getting faster and faster,” Miller said and by keeping the action dead center, editor Margaret Sixel could edit the film to keep up with the pace today’s audiences are expecting. Miller adds, “You have to treat it like a symphony. Hopefully audiences will appreciate that.”

What I find incredibly amazing about the video below is not only how easy it is to keep track of the action, but how it almost seems like the crosshairs are moving to keep with the action, but no, there they stay, smack dab in the middle.

This likely explains how on my second viewing of the film — which was from the third row, far right of the theater — I never once found my eye tiring from searching around the frame. Interestingly enough, I remember way back in 1996, during a screening of Michael Bay‘s The Rock where we showed up late and had to sit in the front row, far left. It was impossible to keep track of things as my eyes kept scanning from one side of the screen to the other. Admittedly, the first few rows are rarely the best place to watch a movie, but to know you can watch a wall-to-wall action film such as Fury Road without much worry does offer a clue to today’s filmmakers how to better shoot their features.

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