Sintel, the Durian Open Movie Project » Blog Archive » Fight Choreography Experiment


Fight Choreography Experiment

on November 18th, 2009, by Colin Levy

The past few weeks Lee has been hard at work designing the Gatekeeper Fight. It’s not as easy task! We’ve been trying to figure out the best way to visualize the fight scenes, because a written beat sheet only can communicate so much, and blocky animatics can be somewhat difficult to read.

So. To better visualize the fight, the team decided to go out and record ourselves clobbering each other with mops and broomsticks.

Check it out.

Fight Choreography Experiment from Project Durian on Vimeo.

This video was shot and edited by our new documentary videographer, Ali Boubred!

Tips for decoding the fight: Nathan is Sintel, Lee is a bandit enemy. They’re in a bunch of snow.

Yeah, not everything is totally clear, and we didn’t get as far as we wanted to. This is meant to be extremely rough – a communication tool. It’s really helped us think things through. Hopefully we’ll be doing something similar/better for the fight at the beginning of the film. Stay tuned!


90 Responses to “Fight Choreography Experiment”

  1. Dread Knight Says:


  2. Fist of Fur Says:

    nice job !
    David, do you know about la canne de combat ?
    Your little speech about parrying with a staff made me think so.

  3. Nixon Says:

    Heya everyone!
    great lil fighting scene u made up there…creative use of household stuff as weapons, no need to talk about the acting anymore since Ton really sumed that up perfectly!
    Great to see u have a new video documentary staff, greets to Ali Boubred:)
    looking forward to each new blogpost here, they re huge fun and grant a great insight on the process!
    Best regards to everyone involved, take care! (especially with all that new weps on the premises)

  4. RNS Says:

    these guys will look back in 30 years on this and wonder,wow! that was us ?
    you guys are funny…

  5. Dan Says:

    Fun stuff!

  6. Deevad Says:

    @Fist of Fur : πŸ™‚ not really “la canne de combat” , but I practised a little year in this amazing club in Toulouse : ( french website). Btw, I would love to learn “la canne de combat”

  7. Frederick Says:

    Hey guys!

    I really appreciate what you do, but already at this early stage it is clear to me that this project takes a direction, that I dislike. Its not the fantasy I love fantasy, but its the violence. If you really want to animate people being shot, dying on the ground sobbering blood, you really lost me. I am sorry.
    There is so much violent crap out there, why add more, when there is just no commercial pressure to do so. Fantasy violence is okay to a degree but, your fight sences suggested you are aiming at a more realistic depiction.

    When I remember back, I disliked the violence in Big Buck Bunny too, not too much, as it was a cartoon, but I felt it was unnecessary. And I believe this time you are heading for much more brutal scenes. Please donΒ΄t. There is just no need to copy the bad taste of many commerical movie regisseurs.

    I hope I am wrong about his.
    And just not to be entirely negative: The artwork is just amazing. Even more it hurts when it is wasted to such violence.

    Good luck for you and the project !

  8. DwarvenFury Says:

    Frederick: If I remember correctly, the Durian team is aiming for roughly PG-13 violence levels. If that is the case, it won’t be extremely graphic.

  9. Lee Says:

    Nathan stabbed me repeatedly for fun, he enjoys my slow and gruesome death =)

    I am usually a fan of keeping most gore off-screen, and also don’t like violence for no reason. I like fighting scenes not for the death and gore, but because they are like a dance and externalize a conflict. DwarvenFury is right, we are aiming to keep this PG. So we will aim to be tasteful while keeping the full impact of the scenes theme; her survival.

  10. Sirdude Says:

    I think Nathan needs a skirt or at least a skort.

    Looks great. I’ve just started staff training(2 months) in Shaolin Kung Fu if you guys ever need another opinion on the action I can run it by my instructor and some other really knowledgeable people.

    Were taught to block how Lee was blocking though vs David’s method. I think both have advantages and would work, its more picking a style and sticking to it than anything…

  11. Linkeltje Says:

    Greaeat! fun!

  12. Saverio Says:

    LOL…someone in the neighborhood: “close to me there are VERY strange peoples acting even more strangely…” ;DD

  13. Toby Says:

    lol : ). Very funny, but also a really good idea for getting everyone on the same page with the fight sequences. Nice post.

  14. ropsta Says:

    Have you guys considered checking out kabuki.

    It’s like fight scenes in slow motion.

    Here’s an example at youtube.


  15. ITrAB Says:

    Kill me, and i will still laughing! xD

  16. Lancer Says:

    Ethernet cables are expen$$$ive!!!! I just forked out for a bundle hoping to make me a renderfarm.

  17. Niyado Says:

    Jajajaja, thats very nice, keep going guys!! I want to watch this open movie and use a great build or the finally Blender 2.5, keep going you guys are doing a really good work πŸ™‚

  18. Dusty Says:

    That was so funny! But worth effort for the sake of reference.

  19. clintgun Says:

    Great job guys! πŸ˜€

  20. eye208 Says:


    Here’s how to do proper anime fighting scenes:


  21. D Says:

    Just to put some fannish speculation-bait I had in my head out there:

    What is that seal design hidden behind the Sintel title on this website? A tree of some sort? The faint silhouette to the right implies that a dragon will be visiting the city of Ishtar.
    From the concept art board at the beginning of the video, it seems like you guys have considered a dark-haired version of Sintel? But I think you will be sticking with the red hair, and I like it better that way. πŸ™‚
    And who are these “Guardians” that Lee spoke of? I wouldn’t think the Durian team themselves would mistakenly speak “guardians” for “Gatekeepers”, nor do I believe they’ve renamed them, so perhaps they are another enemy?

    Hmmmm… πŸ˜€

  22. Torsten S. Says:

    “I think I found the documentor.
    Did anyone else notice him?”

    Oh no, that’s only me. Greetings to the Durian team, nice to see this funny piece of art again. πŸ˜€

  23. gandalf Says:

    Ouch! I love the video, it helps so much to imagine what you’re doing guys and how the whole process of creating a movie looks like πŸ™‚

    But, once again, I have to comment on the martial arts you use here… It’s very… artificial. You care so much about realism and skin textures, and cloths simulation, yet the fighting scenes (afaik it’s going to be a major take away for this movie) are shaping up to be very kung-fu I-jump-around-and-do-backflips.

    So let me just ask once again. Pleeease, consider adding a bit of “weight” to your fights. First, all the traditional martial arts, especially in the movie culture, are so overused and mashed up to “look good” that it just begins to look plastic a bit.
    Several things to notice:

    Girls who weights 40 kg cannot handle two-handed, 80kg swords, sorry. Guys who weight s110kg will not be knocked-out by a punch from a 40kg girl no matter how many centuries she trained Kung Fu, Aikido or Yoga. Sorry.
    Girl who weights 40kg will not be able to block a falling weapon with her weapon. It’s out of question. It’s absolutely not possible because of the physics.
    There are no flesh wounds. People cut with a knife in a hand will not take their weapon to the other hand and fight. They will fall on the ground, instantly get shocked and die out of bleeding soon.

    Few examples of a real fights:

    and fighting girls:

    It’s sooo far away from the made-up fights. I understand that it’s easier to make a good-looking scene with flipbacks, sticks, and jumps. But please, consider at least adding a bit of muscles to Sintel. She looks very skinny and light and the scenes you’re planning seem to go in the direction of super jumps, incredibly strong, skinny, short girl and weapons used as if they had no weight.

  24. Fist of Fur Says:

    You can find a lot of videos on youtube about la canne de combat. I recommend you watch those with Florian Adami and Jonathan Dudreuil, they are the most spectacular.
    Oh, and you can also watch : (fights start at 3min16) (starting at 1min03)
    Maybe they can help the team choreographing the fights, some of the fights are fast and quite nice to see.
    Whenever you get back to France, you’ll find Canne de Combat clubs in Toulouse and a lot of major cities.

  25. Justin Says:

    This movie is being made by such loveable dorks

  26. Bailey Says:

    Haha! This was great. BTW, when is Lee’s portfolio going to be available? It does not appear to be up yet… πŸ˜‰

  27. Keen Says:

    That was hilarious =D Just a note though, getting real kung fu guys wont necessarily make it look awesome, I’ve seen many real life kung fu fights (in videos) and they look lame compared to the fights you see in hollywood. This might be because real fighting is more efficient, while not necessarily more ‘cooler’.

    So you to get it really good, you’d need to get a good choreographer or at least an experienced stunt actor.

    Either that or you can look up for stunt actor videos on youtube or the net.

  28. Frederick Says:


    >Nathan stabbed me repeatedly for fun, he enjoys my slow and gruesome >death =)

    Ok, ok i totally get this, maybe he has good reason ;-P

    I am glad that i just misinterpreted that video, so there is nothing in the way of totally enjoying the creation of this film.

    Thank you guys

  29. TheANIMAL (marcus) Says:

    I want at least a hundred chopped off limbs in this film or i will be angry.

  30. creek23 Says:

    you guys should watch some Jackie Chan movies for some kickass choreography. These 2 are just some of his best:

    * The Medallion —
    * Forbidden Kingdom —

  31. howell Says:


    * Jackie Chan’s – Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow –

  32. MacSlow Says:

    Just for everbody to know. We (banGang) will help out with fight/acrobatics/stunts for Sintel. I’m on contact with Ton and planning it all is underway. Just a bit slow news-wise from my side as I just literally returned from a two-week Ubuntu-sprint/UDS in Dallas, TX.

    Best regards …


  33. creek23 Says:

    @MacSlow: hey, what an opportunity.

    Again, if you guys could put a ’story’ from the fight scene like Jakie Chan fight choreography does, it would be pretty awesome fight scene to watch.

    In Jackie Chan movies,
    1. he always have this dodging/attacking while trying to protect something. (ex, a large old vase in Rush Hour) β€” sends you at the edge of your seat hoping for the jar not to break.

    2. he projects emotion when he’s being hit, unlike other kung fu actors who acts so tough.

    3. his choreography usually doesn’t require flying like other kung fu superstar. he displays a fight of an ordinary fighter in an entertaining way.

    [can someone please delete the earlier post? thanks.]

  34. cook Says:

    miren este trailer

  35. accorte Says:

    Lol xD
    Forget the 3D Animations! You should make the whole movie in this style.
    The jump attack at the end rocks! xD

  36. Marcus Rasseli Says:


  37. Arne Babenhauserheide Says:

    For a short view how a people can fight efficiently without having to resort to steroids / raw muscle power, here are three examples from wing tsun, though only one of them with staffs:

  38. Willie Pierce Says:

    For ways to look at fight scenes see if you can find a group of SCA in your area. they do heavy fighting with historic acuracy and historical fencing so you can get an ideal of how it would really play out. then build off that. you could probably get them to let you record it. (SCA doesnt do any staff fighting but does do some hand to hand stuff)

  39. Willie Pierce Says:

    gandalf.. Gandolf I weigh about 230ish lb… Ive been knocked off my feet and about 5 foot back by a girl weighing about 100-120. and yes I would lay money that if she would have ever wanted to lay my happy but out she would have without an issue. she had been training for like 10 years.

    I dont know about an 80kg sword… thats like 170 lbs (roughly)… my big ass sword (2 handed fantasy great sword) only weights like 15-20 pounds at most… but ill admit that I get wore out quick with it. swinging 15 pounds around isn’t fun… get a punching bag and try to punch it at about half power for 3 minutes. that will wear you out.

    I broke one of my friends arms and it was about 45 minutes after we got done that he noticed. In combat sometimes you dont notice things. I was wrestling around with him working through various holds, escapes trying to get him to submit while he did the same to me. I broke (i dont remember which) one of the 2 bones in his forearm. btw he ended up getting me to tap. he used his arm enough that he had muscle damage including the bone. the only reason he went to emergency room was he had a massive knot on the side of his arm.

    Adrenaline will help out some.. getting into the moment… and if your fighting for your life you will do things that you would never have thought possible.

  40. Gopinath Says:

    Hope in the Cds there will be better Tutorials. Like using video reference etc;
    and not like the Big Bunny Cd which contains onle ONE tut.