Using SFX in your film

 Using SFX in your film

SFX holds a very special place in film. Since the dawn of cinema, filmmakers have been striving to create better and better SFX in order to capture an audience's imagination. The first being ‘Le Voyage Dans La Lune’, way back in 1902. As Mental Floss explains:

“The effects were largely creations of George Melies, who directed hundreds of short films before working on this masterpiece. Melies brought together the effects used in these other films into one work of art, including double exposure, split screens and dissolves and fades.”

In this post Perspective Pictures delves into the subject of using SFX, covering some of the essential aspects of bringing your film to life.

Horror SFX

Terrifying SFX is a staple of modern horror movies. The challenge to filmmakers is in making the effects as convincing as humanly possible. There’s a number of solutions to this issue, including:

  • Blood - The staple of most horror films, you can easily buy cheap fake blood from eBay or alternatively you can create your own from corn syrup and vegetable dye. The macabre recipe can be found over at No Film School.

  • Prosthetics - If your horror film has a few scenes where limbs are coming off, then creating your own prosthetics is a not-too-daunting way to get a bit of authenticity. The wondrous resource No Film School has another cool article on learning the art of prosthetic moulding from a Hollywood MUA.

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Practical SFX

There are few practical ways you can create SFX that won’t cost you a thing! Writing in Tubular Insights, Chris Atkinson explains Ryan Connolly’s method on how to film a high-speed car chase - without breaking the law - in four simple steps:

  • Move the camera around a lot. A stable shot while you’re driving slowly is going to give people time to realize you’re not driving fast. Connolly also warns not to go too far with the movement. Some of you might call that the Paul Greengrass effect.

  • If you can get the camera low, do it. A camera sitting very close to the road turns a Sunday drive into something that seems a lot more dangerous. The examples here include: an angle from the car itself and shooting towards the cars, so the low-angle works from both perspectives.

  • Get as many shots as possible. The more shots you can piece together for a car chase scene, the quicker you can make the scene look through editing. Multiple quick edits can provide the illusion of something fast, and the less time the viewer has to analyze the actual speed of the cars. Again, Connolly praises the GoPro camera because you can attach it anywhere with a suction mount. As a result, he has angles on the hood of the car, in the wheel well, and the rearview mirror.

  • Sound effects. Tires squealing. Motors roaring. This sells the effect.

Fighting SFX

We’ve covered the gore and a high-speed car chase, so now it’s time to focus on fighting. Unless your actors are specially trained (and properly insured), a fight scene with weapons is best accomplished with SFX.

For example, a knife throw to the head requires a lot of camera work. You’ll need to figure out the right angles, the direction of the blood splatter, and how the knife sticks. It takes time, including the editing in post-production, but it saves actually throwing knives at people. All is expertly explained in Mighty Coach.

We hope these little tricks and tips will come in useful.