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Shooting with pyro FX


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#1 Michael Collier

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 03:08 PM

No, this isn't another Niki Mundo post. I don't want to use real bullets, or anything like that.

This weekend I have a shoot thats sort of the culmination of the short I have been working on for almost two months now (weekends only, and some weekends were skipped, so don't get on my case about a 2 month short!)

Saturday is a big day, and it will involve almost all of our pyro effects. We do have a pyro technition working with proffesional stage explosives. Not sure the propper term for them, but I have been calling them explosives just to remind myself that though they are small, they are still dangerous. I have been advised by the tech about distance to stunt actors and cameras, so thats squared away. ear and eye protection is ready.

My question is if you have pyro in a low budget short, where you don't have much time to reset if the first take doesn't go quite right, how do you handle it? In one shot I desperatley want to put the camera on a high hat on a dolly, and do a contra-move to the action, so the pyro wall sort of wraps around the actor. My concern is that even with lots of dry runs, there might be a problem with the move. We have extra walls painted and easily switched, but the pyro guy would need another 20-30 minutes to re-rig the wall. For saftey he says its disallowed to rig walls with pyro the day before or even early, which makes sense to me. I really don't want to call for another take if I can avoid it, but I don't want to limit my camera choices. How do you guys ballance those competeing concerns in a big shot like this? We have two cameras for every pyro shot to roll.

The only tool I have thought of on my own was to place the wall hit pattern on the wall with white stickers, and had the art dept. measure those to place corresponding x's on the back wall so when the pyro guy rigs his hits, I will know roughly where they will be on camera.

Also are there any other tips to working with a pyro tech? This is my first time doing it. I know I need to run him a monitor so he can see action, but should I rig it close to camera so he can see the action from roughly camera view too, or is that less important? As always I am sort of letting him dictate how he works, but if anyones ever worked with this sort of thing before, any advice would greatly be appreciated. One takers always scare me a little....not a bad thing, it makes sure I am top of my game when cameras roll, but if theres anything that could help, let me know!
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#2 Sam Wells

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 07:26 PM

The only tool I have thought of on my own was to place the wall hit pattern on the wall with white stickers, and had the art dept. measure those to place corresponding x's on the back wall so when the pyro guy rigs his hits, I will know roughly where they will be on camera.


Sounds like a good idea.

Your pyro guys monitor should be wher he needs to be (and I suspect that's not going to be his focus of attention..)

20-30 minutes is actually pretty fast to re rig for this sort of thing.

I burnt Joan of Arc at the stake with one take & I did it better than Luc Besson.

BE SAFE !

-Sam
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#3 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 07:47 PM

Hi,

I've shot many a pyro scene, its always high pressure. The idea with marks is a good idea. One thing we have done in the past for complex action is to wire LEDs to every firing channel on his controller, then we place the LEDs where we want the effect. With that, we can time the action, and the LED lights up when and where a particular hit is going to be. You can even watch playback of this rehearsal to tweak it.

As for the monitor, I don't see it as a real issue, most pyro guys want the actual line of sight to the effect.

The reset times are hard no matter what, all you can do is get as many cameras on it as possible and then plan the scene in the order of destruction so that you don't go back and forth to clean and then blown up.

I posted here about a big pyro scene I shot not too long ago:
http://www.cinematog...n...st&p=198597

Just let the pyro people do their thing, listen to what they tell you and keep your eyes open.

Kevin Zanit
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#4 Michael Collier

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 01:18 PM

Good tip with the LEDs. I just happen to have a bunch lying around, I will bring them to set and offer them to the pyro guy to practice his timing with.

Sweet video Kevin. Thats a little more intense than anything I will be doing. I won't be walking around a pyro minefeild waiting for FX to go off. Was the guy taking the video your 2d? I noticed he was doing tale slate. I figured on a big pyro shot like that, the insurance company would want as few people as possible running the course, and you'd have to have your first AC run tale slate, but obviously your first couldn't have the time to take behind the scenes video if they are pulling focus.

I will take these tips to heart and post some behind the scenes clips on you-tube next week. Anybody else have any last minute tips?
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#5 Michael K Bergstrom

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 02:31 PM

Duck and cover. Oh, and wear a coat, you can get hit by debris. :)

Edited by Michael K Bergstrom, 14 April 2008 - 02:32 PM.

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#6 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 03:55 PM

Yeah it was my second who took the video and tail slated. Initially as few people as possible is a wise idea, however if I made it that far and he retraces my steps, it couldn't be that bad ;)

Originally we had a Preston follow focus on the camera so my 1st was pulling from a very safe distance, but it went down after the first take (over heated we think), so he ended up pulling with a whip and just met me on the ground to move forward. We were also on a fairly wide lens and I think I was at like a 5.6/8 split or even an 8/11 (I honestly don't remember), so there was a good bit of wiggle room in the focus.

Kevin Zanit
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#7 Michael Collier

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 05:33 PM

Duck and cover. Oh, and wear a coat, you can get hit by debris. :)



Thanks for the tip bergstrom...you could have told me that saturday on set so I didn't have to borrow a leather jacket from the stunt coordinator. Thats it...I hope we have 2 extra bags of c-47s handy next weekend. Its on like donky kong. If your back hurts mid day, its not the work, its going to be the 200 C-47s clipped to your shirt weighting you down. 'Theres so many pins! why are there so many pins?!'
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#8 John Sprung

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 05:51 PM

My experience has been that there are two kinds of pyro guys. There are the straightforward safety conscious professionals who give you an accurate description of what's going to happen, and there are the ones who like to surprise everybody with more bang than they bargained for. Which kind did you get? ;-)




-- J.S.
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#9 Michael Collier

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 03:54 PM

I would say we got the former. For every type of pyro effect (including blank cartidges for guns and shotguns) he ran a demonstration, once for me, the director and the insurance guy for the bar location, and then again on set for all of the stunt actors/extras.

I think everyone had a good idea of what to expect. It was a bear of a day though. 17 hours of fight choreography, FX makeup, stunts. I think we rolled almost 3 hours between two cameras. At the end of the day, we still had all the major pyro elements to shoot. We of course couldn't push the pyro to the next weekend and leave everything rigged into the fake walls for a week, so we had to push on until 2:30 to get everything. It looked great though. We have a little more pyro work next weekend, though nothing as big as this weekends shoot.

I think the dart board kind of took everyone by surprise though. It was supposed to be 3 or 4 buck shots hitting from a shotgun, but the board was made of tightly packed hairs, which once blown threw those fibers everywhere. It was really spectacular. I am trying to get the behind the scenes footage (shot on an EX1 no less) onto youtube or something to post here, but I have to clear that with the director first.
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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 05:20 PM

Please do.

Yeehaw, pyro!

P
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