Low End Budget Special Effect Ideas

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    • #49508

      I had a thought this morning about some of the topics lately being on low budget or no budget. Some NLE’s allow for the adding of effects after the video is shot. But VSX4 and many others that fall under the $200 range do not have many effects options. So I thought if a thread was created offering low budget set effects it might help out some like me and others. If you have some that you learned along the way, post them please.

      While shooting “The Crucible Key” in 1984 the director needed the side of an important downtown building shot up. The scene called for the bad guy to run across the frame and the good guy to be shooting at him as he ran. We could not damage the building and at this time adding the effect after was not going to happen. Here was the solution.
      Using flour and matching paint (of the building) he made a paste, then using small fire crackers he kept them together on the same fuse. We placed the fire crackers on the side of the building where the shots needed to go off. Then using the paste as dry as we could we covered over the fire crackers. We did many time run through because the timing had to be near perfect, and enough fire crackers were placed for misfires. When time for action out of camera the fuse was lit and the runner ran. In the end although it took time to work out, it came out good.

      This effect works well for small blowing up of building parts. Just be careful not to blow up any of the crew parts.

      Stabbing’s. I always thought this was a hard one. Remember we are dealing with low budget ideas. Using a good brand zip lock type bag (make it small) of even a condom, fill with stage blood. and tie a string at one end of the bag and then place the bag over the neck of the victim under their WHITE shirt. (always use a white shirt when you have to have blood on the actor) There are several ways to release the stage blood in the bag. 1 have the intending victim to release the contents by using a second pull string run along his arm that has a piece of tape over a hole in the bag.
      2 Have someone you trust and he trust to use the prop to puncture the bag at impact. The first way is better. As soon as the actor pulls the string removing the tape hole actor two doing the stabbing need to press the prop (remove the blade of the knife and use just the handle for the tight shot) against the bag for the contents to spill out against the white shirt.

      One more and hopefully this will get the thread going.

      Punch mouth: Using stage blood (the cheapest way to make blood is not to cut yourself, use light (clear) Kero food syrup, and red food coloring. place a bit of the Kero in a glass bowl and mix in red food coloring until you reach the look you want, darker blood deeper wound.) Goto to a health food store and get some empty gel pill capsules. A few minutes before the punch in the mouth fill about two caps, (the stage blood will eat the caps if left too long) then place 1 in the actors cheek. The actor getting punched then needs to let saliva build up in his mouth, more the better, have all cameras and actors in place and rolling when you place the cap in the cheek, grab the shot, the actor getting punched does his follow through, and at the same time bites the cap, (make sure the cap is barely push together when you add the stage blood) and mixes it with his saliva, he can bite and mix just as soon as he hears action, then in the follow through of the punch he releases the content of his mouth. It takes time for the actor to get the release just right, so do a few test runs.

    • #202669

      Glass: (Remember, low budget/no budget) I have used this many times, and although it can be tricky its effect is nice. You will need a shallow sauce pan, glass if able. Sugar, wax paper, 4 pieces of wood.
      The transparency of this glass will be greatly affected by the amount of time it is heated and temp. Low temp is best. First tear off some wax paper, 3 inches longer and wider then the intended size of the glass. Use the wood braces to make the edges (do not nail frame) and lay the wax paper up the wood edges but creasing the paper at the edge of fold. Use the Formica counter top or smooth hard surface to lay the wax paper on. The reason you do not want to use a pan with edges is due to the fact of the edges. You will need to be able to handle the glass carefully after drying, the pan edges can cause issues. A cookie sheet that has never been used (heating warps metal and pits it) will work if it is the right size and shape. Place the amount of sugar you will need in the glass sauce pan. Other types will work but glass gives the best quality. Heat the sugar SLOWLY and stir it constantly, if you stop even for a moment you may loose consistency and have color issues. This fake glass will not be perfectly clear. As soon as it is melted, the second it is all melted remove from heat and quickly pour in the center of the wax paper, let gravity pull it to the sides. Let it dry, carefully remove from wax paper and break over the head of the actor, you can use prop wood (later post) to make a frame and punch out a window. If you make a mold you can make drinking glasses, and go crazy with ideas. Keep in mind sugar will darken and turn brown when heated that is why it is important to use low heat, stir, and remove quickly to get as clear glass as possible. In editing you will need to add the glass break noise effect. After you break the glass have the kids clean up, they can eat it.

    • #202670

      You can mock up quite a bit of what you want in After Effects. With a mixture of real-world effects and composited stuff, you’d be surprised at what can be achieved. Check out Andrew Kramer’s site videocopilot.net.

    • #202671

      @composite1, Yes After Effects has many effects that can be added after. But After Effects is out of the budget of some low budget/no budget producers who operate out of their home. In my first post I made mention of the fact that some do not have the ability to buy After Effects, so the ideas presented on this thread would be to capture effects on a low budget or no budget. But if someone does have the money to buy After Effects then many of the ideas here can be done in editing. But I am fully aware of the abilities of After Effects I did have the opportunity to use it briefly, and it is on my to buy when I am able to list. But if you have any ideas that can be done on set it would be great to hear them here.

    • #202672

      Fake Wood: Supplies needed (BTW what I have posted thus far have been ideas that I started working on in the early 80’s. I will post ideas that came from outside sources when I do I will give credit) Styrofoam, straight pins (like in sewing) shoe polish (color of wood you want). In this example we will be making a window frame. Cut 8 pieces the width and length you need, 4 for top 4 for bottom. Cut them about 1/4 inch thick. Once cut lay out what will be the front then the back exposed side up. use the shoe polish to “paint” your wood, Go from top of Styrofoam to bottom, do not change direction. The sponge on the show polish and the way shoe polish goes down with give a nice fake wood grain effect. “Paint” all the pieces. Once dry (you can use spray paint but the propellent in spray paint will sometimes eat Styrofoam) take the straight pins and pin the back side of the frame together. You want the unpainted sides to be facing up. Pin the edges diagonally, this way the force of the actor punching will not push the pins out and the frame will hold. Once the back side is pined together lay the sugar glass on it, then assemble the front side wood side out the same as the back side. Once done use a few pins to pin the front and back together. Pin direction needs to be front to back so actor will not get cut and they will not show up on film. When it is punched the frame will also break and the flying pins will bounce the light giving it a nice touch.

    • #202673

      BTW the firecracker trail can be used on the ground as well. Just cover lightly with loose soil.

      Composite1 mentioned using After Effects. If you are an excellent editor and have the skill After Effects for the above can be done with success. However I have seen some After Effects with some of the effects above that you could tell was laid on. They just did not blend. Using live effects may be consider low budget now, but live affects offers a realism that the human eye can tell from After Effects. True After Effects can achieve a high level of quality, but it take a great deal of time and skill. So if you are looking for low budget and realism then live effects may be the way to go.

    • #202674

      Two more life effects….

      1) On Set Food: (This came from an advertising class back in the late 80’s?? Too long ago) You are filming an advert or even a short. The script calls for the actors to be eating, say ice cream. Using real ice cream will cause serious issues, it melts. So what to do? Mashed Potatoes, topped with Shaving Cream, and you can use real room temp chocolate. The mashed potatoes will not melt and the shaving cream will hold up longer than anything else. Just do not forget it is not food. Whiskey=weak tea…get the idea?

      Walking on Water: This is an old and reused idea. I have seen this done with a board just about and inch or less under water, but the outline of the board shows, not so much due to the break line, but also due to the very slight change in visual texture and color. Replace the board with thick glass or plastic glass laid on a 2×4 frame. The transparency will allow for the color and texture to be carried “through” and it will be harder to tell the break line.

    • #202675

      I just did a seminar for my local library youth group on movie making props on the cheap…. depending on your needs a cheap water gun and some spray paint can yeild a very realistic gun or phaser prop.

    • #202676

      @Don, that is an idea I have never heard, but it sounds like it would work great. Nice bright even florescent colors. Thanks.

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