Grew Up With Video Games? You’ll Love How They Filmed “The Science of Mortal Kombat”

“I think we’ve gotten to a point now with wireless systems, especially the Teradek CTRL.1, where they are reliable enough that for the sake of my and my AC’s sanity I would never go tethered again.” - Graham Sheldon, Director of Photography

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a really good chance you grew up knowing (or playing!) the iconic fighting game Mortal Kombat. How do we know that? Because most of our readers are within the 25-40 age range, and we’ll never forget the amazing video games we had in our childhoods. Now we’re in the workforce and we don’t have as much time to game anymore, but let’s be honest, we’d bust out our old Nintendo systems in a heartbeat if we had the chance!

Mortal Kombat lives on in Mortal Kombat 11. The game comes to consoles this April, and to build up hype around its release, the YouTube channel Because Science created a 6-episode series that goes into the brutal takedowns behind our favorite fatalities. (For those that aren’t familiar with fatalities, Google at your own discretion!). Graham Sheldon, DP on the show, shares how his crew utilized wireless follow focus to stay sharp.

Pop Culture Meets Science

“The series was a collaboration between Legendary Digital Networks and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Legendary owns a company you might have heard of before called Nerdist, which runs the YouTube channel Because Science. Warner Brothers worked with NetherRealm Studios to publish Mortal Kombat 11. The show Because Science is hosted by Kyle Hill, who goes in-depth on a bunch of different pop culture topics like How Captain Marvel Survives in Space or How Deadly Are Gambit’s Exploding Cards? How Heavy is Thor’s Hammer? You know, the cool pop culture stuff we all grew up with, but explaining the crazy parts with science.”

“I’ve worked with Legendary Digital Networks before a number of times with executive producers Johnny Wickham and Jason Corey. I produced and DP’d on a short called Far Cry 5 Training - Escape from Hope County for Nerdist which got over a million views on YouTube. They reached out to me to produce and direct this series covering the science of Mortal Kombat. I was fortunate enough that they also trusted me to DP it. The concept for the series was, can any of the classic Mortal Kombat moves be transferred to the real world? Could you shatter someone’s skull with a punch if it was frozen? Allen Pan from the YouTube channel Sufficiently Advanced came in to build the experiments and Kyle Hill wrote and hosted the show.”

Getting the Shots

“We had a bunch of different scenes with shots ranging from talking heads to fast action with different stunt actors. We had 2 REDs for this shoot: our A Cam a RED Helium and B Cam a RED Gemini, both with SIGMA Cine Prime lenses. We had a Bolt 500 DSMC2 module on the Helium, which connected to the back of the camera and gave us power and video without needing any cables. The Gemini had a regular Bolt 500 LT. We shot all of the void parts (the black area) first, and the last shoot days were at the Korean Friendship Bell where we did the stunts and captured those X-ray bone-shattering punches that you see in the game and in the series intro segments.”

“A pivotal part of our kit was the Teradek RT follow focus gear. My 1st AC Michael Cardenas used a CTRL.1 with lens mapping to pull focus for our action scenes. This connects to the Latitude Sidekick MDR we had, which is the receiver module that connects straight to the side of the RED camera. Michael used the CTRL.1 to pull focus remotely, which was especially critical during the fast action moments.”

The Science Is In

“The Teradek RT gear is super lightweight and responsive, and the Latitude Sidekick locks straight onto the RED camera which is huge for keeping our camera builds clean. CTRL.1’s lens mapping is great because you spend less time calibrating lens rings in the middle of a shoot day. We took care of it in prep and never worried about it again. Considering the way I operate the camera to follow our stunt performers, the Teradek RT system was perfect.”

“Wireless is important when it comes to moving quickly. I had a SmallHD 1703 P3X monitor in video village for checking color, and the monitor showed both Bolt wireless feeds in dual mode. It meant we didn’t have to run BNC cables across the soundstage, which made everything cleaner, safer and faster. Three episodes are out now on the Because Science channel on YouTube along with behind-the-scenes videos of the science and cinematography.”

Catch the series on the Because Science channel HERE.

See more of Graham Sheldon’s work at:
Instagram: @grahamtesheldon


  • There are no comments yet. Be the first one to post a comment on this article!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published


*Manufactured under licence
Our Brands