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Shooting an Impressive Blowtorch?

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Derek Pankaew
Shooting an Impressive Blowtorch?
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:08:47 am

Hey Everyone,

We're trying to shoot a blowtorch shot that looks wild, explosive and dangerous. We'll be pointing it at an object and melting it.

We want the fire to look more like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=LOAqlsUKc-I#t=413s

Than like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=VxDuxfZaVcQ#t=163s

The first looks dangerous, the latter looks a little wimpy. In reality, the second torch is actually much hotter than the first.

Any advice around:

1) What kind of lighting condition would work best?
2) What kind of inexpensive (under $800) camera would work best?
3) Any advice around creating the flame itself (we're thinking butane blowtorch, but if you have advice around the specific kind of flame, we'd love to hear it)
4) Any advice around shooting good fire shots in general?

Thanks guys!

P.S. Wasn't sure if this was the right forum; seemed like the most appropriate one I could find.


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting an Impressive Blowtorch?
on Mar 13, 2013 at 2:45:43 pm

Well a few things... aside from the obvious one which is BE CAREFUL...


[Derek Pankaew] "What kind of lighting condition would work best?"

Well, dim, but that's probably obvious. Frankly I'd shoot this in a black limbo studio and composite the shot later. That'd give total control over exposure, etc.


[Derek Pankaew] "What kind of inexpensive (under $800) camera would work best?"

You want to buy a camera just for this one shot? If I were in your shoes, I'd spend the money a little differently. For 800 bucks you're only going to get a pretty low-end consumer camera... the the more consumerish a camera is, generally the more "auto everything" it is and you're going to want to have precise exposure control there (this is definitely not an "auto iris" situation). For the same $800 you could rent a camera/lens for a day that's 20x better than you could buy. The same $800 could also hire a small production company ('bout like ours) or even a freelance DP who really knows what he's doing (with gear) to get you the shot precisely as you like.


[Derek Pankaew] "Any advice around creating the flame itself"

We'll I'd say that's not a butane or propane torch situation... or you're going to get the small very controlled flame like in the second video. The first video pretty much shows you how to do it... they're using aerosol Zippo fluid. Or flammable hairspray (or spray paint) would also give you a flame exactly like that. I'd probably shoot these things completely separately... I'd melt whatever object you're melting independently with either a butane or propane torch, or a propane or electric heat gun (which you might have to matte out and/or replace in post). Then I'd composite that with the separately-shot flamethrower flame. You might even shoot the flame licking against a similarly-size/shaped non-flammable object (a brick painted high-temp black?... dunno what your object is) in order to get the flame reacting the right way. The flame could be very easily just straight-composited if the camera is locked down, or easily motion-tracked if your camera is moving. Since flames are moving and organic, the motion tracking doesn't even have to be all that technically perfect to still appear perfect.

Let us know how you decide to do it... and show it off!

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: Shooting an Impressive Blowtorch?
on Mar 13, 2013 at 4:26:58 pm

Is this shot of yours for a dramatic movie-type scene, or to do a tech demonstration of a product?

If you're doing a dramatic re-creation of the flamethower scenes from "Aliens", for example, and this is a prop flamer, you can make a small practical flame or glow with wads of flash paper from a magician's supply store, or just really bright spotlight bulbs, then layer pre-made stock footage and/or particle generator plug-ins in post, and get REALLY DRAMATIC, without burning the location to the ground. The "metal" could be colored wax hit off camera by a heat gun from the hardware store.


To sell the effect of a prop flame gun on screen, and do it safely, everything around the business end must get a bit of light from the "flame" spilled onto it. The easy way to do this is with a bright omnidirectional bulb or the flash paper. Obscure that "practical" source with the fake flames from stock footage or a particle plug-in, and it starts to look "real".


If you have a tool that shoots fire, like the propane tool in the second sample, and you want to document exactly how it looks in real life, but make it "pop" a bit, then you will need to set the iris exposure manually, and use a high contrast, low-detail background, a "limbo" backdrop of black or grey, deeply out of focus.

Rent a good camera with manual controls, as Todd says, and it may be helpful to get a neutral density gel filter for the lens. Also play with using different shutter speeds.


This reminds me of a story I wrote about recently. How do companies that use plasma welders and cutters *see* the flame or the exact cutting path in detail, with all that blinding glare?

The answer is; they bring in a BRIGHTER light than the plasma. They shine a pulsing laser at the cutting area , like the strobe flash of a typical DSLR, and use a camera system tuned to the laser's levels. What you get then is the ability to see the cutting path in macro detail, you can see individual particles in the plasma stream. I just found it amusingly counter-intutive that to see something so bright, you needed MORE light, not some kind of filtration.


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Derek Pankaew
Re: Shooting an Impressive Blowtorch?
on Mar 15, 2013 at 1:34:25 am

Wow - Fantastic advice you guys! That helps a ton.

I think we want to pass on the aerosol Zippo fluid setup, just because it seems a little dangerous. I'm not all that great with rigging up mechanical things and that seems just a little too flammable for me to mess with.

We'll probably end up using a weed burning torch with the manual exposure or spot lighting that you guys suggested. We'll probably try a few different things.

Didn't want to mention the subject matter at first because it's a little weird :P we're going to be melting a vibrator or sex toy. It's a dramatic start, designed to hook people's attention for an online training course.

I'll share how it goes once it's done! Thanks so much guys! (And if there are any more tips and suggestions, please keep posting them!)



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Mark Suszko
Re: Shooting an Impressive Blowtorch?
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:15:04 pm

I normally ask the poster with the problem to send in pictures of the successful solution... but in your case I think we'll make an exception. :-)


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting an Impressive Blowtorch?
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:47:51 pm

Good answer, Mark!

Mine was gonna be "What exactly is this training course for?!"

But on second thought, I don't think I want to know that, either.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: Shooting an Impressive Blowtorch?
on Mar 15, 2013 at 3:29:43 pm

I imagine a certain Ohio Players song for the background music.

Or maybe Talking Heads' Burning Down The House, or Prodigy's "Firestarter".

There's also Elvis' "Burning Love".

We could do this all day. Probably shouldn't though.


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