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Movie stunts are a main source of on-set movie magic that always leave the audience in awe. It’s no secret that stunt performers need to be flawless in their approach so they can jump into action on cue for an authentic, impressive performance. But even some of the most common stunts require hours of planning and careful attention to detail. Here’s how common stunts like high falls, stunt driving and martial arts are carefully constructed and performed by the professionals:
High falls are a basic building block for stunt performers. Stuntmen must meet a minimum height of three stories before they can be hired. This dangerous stunt requires careful attention to set up and many additional precautions. Basic fall maneuvers include headers, a face off, back fall and suicide. For all these falls, a stuntman needs an airbag, spotter and box catchers. To perform a back fall, the key is to land safely on your back meaning every part of your body, from your head to your toes, at the same time.
If you land unevenly, you’re bound to get whiplash. The stuntman must provide a count to alert their spotter when they will fall and lunge off the three-story platform toward the mat mark. Stunts are most likely to go wrong if a stuntman experiences any sense of hesitation. But once the stunt can be performed in its most basic manner, stuntmen can add acting gestures with the fall, though they must always make sure they’re in proper position for a safe landing.
Stunt driving is one of the most thrilling stunts that takes into account the functional capacities of both the stuntman and an automobile. A good stuntman must design their car for high performance and safety. In fact, reliable tires are an essential component for safe stunt driving, as they are a major factor of the car’s ability to maneuver accurately at fast speeds. Different car stunts include fast driving maneuvers, accelerated weaving, car flips, high jumps, long jumps and car spins.
For a car spin maneuver on a front-wheel drive car to go smoothly, the driver must start at a speed of 30 mph on pavement. If the driver is on dirt, the speed should be around 15 mph. The driver should remove their right foot from the throttle quickly, gently touching the brake with the left foot. When drivers touch the brake, they must make sure their right foot is still positioned over the throttle. They can then turn the steering wheel sharply and pull the handbrake. As soon as the tail slides, you step your right foot back down on the gas.
Next, straighten the wheel and release the handbrake; then, turn the steering wheel in the desired direction, shift into first gear and apply full throttle. When drivers want to end the spin, they must take their foot off the gas and straighten the steering wheel. While the steps of this stunt seem simple, one shouldn’t attempt any car stunts until they’ve received training. There are specialty training schools that will teach and provide you certification to safely and effectively perform car stunts.
Fight scenes are high action and high impact and are usually performed by martial arts professionals. Martial arts stunts require a lot of conditioning and care, as multiple bodies are in play. One of the most common martial arts movie stunts is the breakfall, which looks like a big slap and controlled leg position that takes down the opponent. Some of the most important safety points to keep in mind for this stunt are the chin tuck and maximizing surface area.
The stunt performer who is the falling opponent must make sure their chin is tucked so their head isn’t impacted when they are slammed into the ground. However, if the stuntman falls on their front side, they shouldn’t tuck their chin. They should, however, turn their face away from the ground. Surface area maximization has to do with body distribution, meaning your body should fall evenly on the surface so one area doesn’t take an disproportionate amount of weight during impact.
To sell the stunt, performers often do an exaggerated slap with their arms, take notice of their body language and control their facial expressions. The stunt requires little gear, as those who perform this martial arts stunt simply need low profile pads that will soften the surface. Martial arts and fighting stunts should always be taken up at a professional training center to minimize risk of injury and equip the aspiring stuntman with refined skills.
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