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Wire fu is an element of Hong Kong action cinema, exemplified by the work of Tsui Hark, Yuen Woo-ping, and Jet Li, that has been appropriated by Hollywood. It involves the use of wire-work (the name being a combination of “wire work” and “kung fu”) to perform qing gong stunts.
Almost all modern wuxia movies fall in this category. However, not all martial arts films used wire work.
The basic concept is not very complex, and originates in the mechanical effects of stagecraft. The most common, Western example being the “flying angel cliché” of elementary school or church play.
Planning and persistence is important, as it often takes many takes just to accomplish the stunt, let alone making it look just right.
Typically a harness is hidden under a costume, and a cable and pulley system is attached to the harness. When live sets are used, wire removal is done in post production. Another technique of creating wire fu is by using a green screen. This is done for more complex stunts and camera angles. The actors are suspended in the air by green wires. Then special effects are added to the scene such as the location.