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Shooting Non-CG fire

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Spencer TweedShooting Non-CG fire
by on Feb 7, 2011 at 9:40:32 pm

This isn't actually an After Effects specific question, but I figured some of the guys on this forum would have some of the answers.

A cameraman buddy of mine is in town and I thought that we would shoot a few fire stock shots (a little something for the library!) and I was wondering if anyone could give us a few pointers.

Any data would be useful, but here are a few of my specific questions:

Should we shoot it blue-screen or on black?

What are some of the ways that you can control the flames - things like color, size, amount of smoke, etc.

What sort of permits are needed and how does one get them? (these will be pretty small flames - no infernos).

Anything else would be greatly appreciated! I'm looking forward to having some actually cool looking flames in my library (not junk from the '80s).

- Spencer

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Todd KoprivaRe: Shooting Non-CG fire
by on Feb 7, 2011 at 10:25:21 pm

Forget the blue screen.

Shoot in a large, dark room so that the walls are illuminated as little as possible. Dark walls are best.

Various mineral salts add color to fire.

Before you go and spend all of this time and effort, check out Detonation Films. They have lots of fire and explosion stock footage, much of it free.

Rich Harrington and Ian Robinson cover shooting practical elements like this in their new Motion Graphics Studio Techniques book.

Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
Technical Support for professional video software
After Effects Help & Support
Premiere Pro Help & Support

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Spencer TweedRe: Shooting Non-CG fire
by on Feb 8, 2011 at 4:03:33 am

Thanks Todd,

Mineral salts - good idea. I remember this from high school, you can get some really cool stuff!

Thanks for the tip on Detonation Films, I just checked the site out and they look like they have some cool stuff. If I can find what I need I may not have to shoot at all!

As for the walls, I think I'll just paint a large board black and put that far enough from the flames so that it doesn't light. I originally though blue because it looks like Andrew Kramer did this for his Action Essentials 2 pack - I was wondering if maybe there is a whole technique out there that I didn't know about.

- Spencer

- Spencer

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Tudor "Ted" JelescuRe: Shooting Non-CG fire
by on Feb 7, 2011 at 10:34:37 pm

Fire extinguishers, protection gear and a large room, concrete floor and walls, black non flammable matte paint. That's what I used shooting some fire fx footage for an independent feature. It would be nice to be able to shoot at least 2K at a high frame rate- RED One or the like.
The camera should be quite far from the fire.
Colour does not matter that much since you can change that in post, what matters more is the substance that is used to generate the flames.
Charcoal and lighter fluid is what we used.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist

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Spencer TweedRe: Shooting Non-CG fire
by on Feb 8, 2011 at 4:07:34 am

Good tips!

Unfortunately we only have an XDCAM. This is being done on the side - not as part of a specific project. So in other words budget = 0. Another friend has a Canon 7D though, maybe this will react better in the low light?

Also, on the substance - one shot I am really hoping to get would be something adequate to put into a large torch. Something like the statue of liberty flame (the torch is about the size of the olympic torch). I don't think lighter fluid or charcoal would make that kind of flame - but maybe I'm wrong.

- Spencer

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Michael SzalapskiRe: Shooting Non-CG fire
by on Feb 8, 2011 at 8:25:58 pm

[Spencer Tweed] "Something like the statue of liberty flame (the torch is about the size of the olympic torch)"
The statue's torch is much bigger than that! I've been there! You can stand on the rim around her torch as the flames tower above you, but I've seen regular-sized humans carrying the Olympic torch.

Less facetiously, try soaking some rags in kerosene or oil-lamp fuel for a few hours, wrapping them around something, then lighting them on fire. That can make a great Indiana Jones-style torch. If your rags are black and the "something" you've wrapped them around is matte black, you could fairly easily comp them onto something else.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.

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Spencer TweedRe: Shooting Non-CG fire
by on Feb 8, 2011 at 9:45:33 pm

Indiana Jones

That about describes it!

I'll try the kerosene idea when I get around to shooting this - that should do the trick.

- Spencer

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