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Guerrilla Diary: behind the scenes

Film maker Justin Hunt from Ember films explains how they shot the Flare scene for our HitFilm tutorial. How you shoot for VFX is important.
What we’re going to do today is we’re filming a scene which is our actor in a space, in an environment, and they’re holding up a red safety flare. We’re going to shoot it in a variety of ways. We’re going to shoot it with practical lighting and without practical lighting. So there are a number reasons why we wouldn’t shoot a shot like this one on green screen. First of all, if you don’t need to shoot green screen, then don’t. Ultimately it’s a lot easier to shoot it practically.
So we built this set here, albeit a very small, kind of crude set, but actually, it will save a lot to work in post production, the fact that we don’t have to do background replacements, and all of those kinds of things, which ultimately take a long time in post when you don’t need to do it. Ultimately, for this shot we want it to look quite cinematic, and that’s the look we’re kind of going for with this. So What. We want to do is we want to recreate how the light would affect the actor’s face, but also the background in the scene.
So what we’re going to do is we’re going to shoot a plate of the actor against the background, and then we going to use, essentially, a flicker box to recreate the light moving on the actor’s face. When our stock flare effects are introduced into that scene, hopefully it will feel a lot more real. The way we’ve started to shoot this scene, we actually produced the stock elements first. So we’ve shot smoke effects, an actual real flare. The reason we’ve done that is so that we can see the attributes of the light, the colours, the way this smoke affects the individual assets. So we have them before we start our actual shoot.
That way, when we come to shoot the scene later on today, we can use our knowledge of that to inform how we like the actor, where the flickering would be, how much flicker there would be, how much smoke would be introduced into the scene, and all those kind of things. One of the things we’re doing is we’re bringing it to hit film, and we are doing very rough comps, introducing the flare and the smoke, and seeing how they work, how the flare effects interact with the scene we’ve just shot.
So it’s quite important to do that, because while this set is still built, while the actor is still in costume, if we need to tweak the light to increase the realism in the scene, then we can do it because everything’s all here, it’s ready to go.

We consume images all the time and often don’t question them.

That’s ideally what we want to do with visual effects too. Notice Justin’s attention to detail in this video. He built a set for the background, which barely registers when you see the shot, but because it’s on set it reflects the light and we accept it as real, almost subliminally.

In fact a trick we noticed is Justin put little strips of tin foil around the edge of the barrel and the pipe to just hint at water reflecting off these edges. Now that’s what we call attention to detail.

Notice also Justin talks about testing out the footage in HitFilm to make sure it all fits together whilst he is still on set- as it’s problematic (and expensive) to find out things don’t fit later.

Now, we’ve shot these elements so you don’t have to. We definitely don’t want anyone to feel they have to shoot their own elements to make this shot, but maybe you’d like to think of a different scenario where you would use real lights and real objects in a creative way like Justin did? I’ll start you off- imagine I had an actor in a deckchair dressed in a t-shirt and hawaii shorts. I might pour a bit of sand on the floor and place some ‘tropical’ greenery around him. I might use a fan to blow a gentle wind through his hair, and have someone wave a filter in front of the light to replicate palm tree leaves shadows; then I might cut to some tropical beach stock footage. Now a shot like that might save a pile of money in airfares.

Can you think of other examples? What creative ways might you use lights and props to imply your actor is elsewhere? Let’s hear them in the Comments!

Over the next two steps, we’ll show you how to recreate this shot using HitFilm software…

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Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers

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