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Side Impact Car Crash


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#1 Adam Adorno

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 11:04 PM

I'll keep it short.

Driver P.O.V. as if the camera was the driver's head.

At first he's looking straight forward and you can see that he's about to enter and intersection.
He then turns his head to the right to see his girlfriend sitting in the passenger seat.
Through the passenger window we can see headlights quickly approaching the car. I want to show the first few frames of the impact as well, just enough to see some of her hair kick up from the crash.

So my intention is for the viewer to see EVERYTHING. I have access to a green screen, Maya, and compositing/tracking software. I'm just trying to figure out how to approach this, because I know that I'm going to eventually animate the door crushing in for a split second. Wondering if I should film the entire thing at a standstill in a parking lot to utilize a green screen, or try to do it on the move, slowly, then add in the animated door somehow.

I'm a real stickler for keeping things as photorealistic as possible, so one of the big things on my mind are the passing street lights. The "on the move" option sounds like it would give me a more realistic effect.

I tried to keep it short, sorry.

Can anyone offer some ideas on how to approach this shot?
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#2 Hal Smith

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Posted 28 April 2009 - 06:44 AM

One thing I see in my mind's eye is the door glass breaking when the passenger side door is hit by the other vehicle. That should be enough to cue the audience for the crash, I don't think you have to fake the door crushing in since you only want a few frames past the actual hit. Obviously sound will be very important to reinforce the shot. You might actually be able to draw the reticulated broken glass pattern on the window rather than compositing it.

Another idea is to shoot the scene backwards and undercranked. Start the scene with the hero car stopped just past the point of the last frame of your shot and the other car parked immediately outside the passenger door. Then back the hero car up while other car is backing away from the door. You'll probably want the hero car moving more slowly than the target car but you should be able to figure out that choreography with some storyboarding.

Maybe if you think through editing in preproduction you might be able to roll the window with the broken glass pattern drawn on it down during the reversed shot and then edit that out. A car with power windows would make that possible, have a grip out of the shot operate the window switch in the driver's door.

You said you wanted it photorealistic. Have fun!
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#3 K Borowski

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Posted 28 April 2009 - 07:29 AM

I'm a real stickler for keeping things as photorealistic as possible, so one of the big things on my mind are the passing street lights. The "on the move" option sounds like it would give me a more realistic effect.


Well, the most photo-realistic way to do it is to *crash a real car*

Here's how I would do it: Find a stunt man (men). Crash two cars. Cameraman flees the scene with the film. Then play it off like a real accident. . .

Of course, the more populous the area, the greater the risk of getting caught. And, God forbid, on a street not blocked off, someone else gets hit.

Maybe I wouldn't want to do it any other way because I've been in car crashes that involved flipping a car three times at 65MPH (105kph), and shattering all the windows. IDK. Faking it doesn't seem to do the real event justice.

Another thing that bothers me about bad crashes: They always seem to be in slow motion. The real event is NOT like that. It is over in an instant, and there is a feeling of utter helplessness. The steering wheel doesn't work, and there is nothing you can do to keep the concrete pillar from rushing towards the front wind-shield.

I honestly don't know how you would convey this in a film, these feelings, but the things I see on the big screen are tired, cliche, and frankly not an accurate representation of the real event. And the real event is far scarier.

Actually the closest I've seen to real is I think a series of "Allstate" commercials. People are talking, car interior night shots, and then BAM! out of nowhere they get hit by another car. THAT's the way a crash really is. It is the last thing in the world on your mind. You don't see it coming or expect it. It happens in a split-second, and there's nothing you can do to stop it when you do see it coming at the last second. That is what makes a crash really scary and dramatic.


One final thought: Do yourself a favor and don't tip off or foreshadow the event with something cliche, like dramatic music or really really wreckless behaviour that everyone in the audience will realize is leading up to the crash. I can't stand that either. That is very seldom the cause of a real crash. Even when it is (like, say with drunk drivers), usually it is another innocent motorist or pedestrian that ends up getting killed, not the guilty party.

Edited by Karl Borowski, 28 April 2009 - 07:33 AM.

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#4 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 28 April 2009 - 02:33 PM

I've recently shot a setup very like this for a medical drama. We did it in two passes from a lockoff camera position. First we positioned the car and the truck together as if they had just hit each other. Then we pulled the truck back and shot the car and driver against greenscreen. Next, we pulled the car out, and shot the truck reversing away from the crash site. The VFX supervisor did a very quick composite on site in FCP and it was all very effective.

Of course, we then went on to actually crash the truck into the (now empty) car, but the greenscreen approach worked really well to get our actor into the thick of it.
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#5 Daniel Madsen

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Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:09 PM

An option:

D is the distance between the camera and the rear projection screen, which should also be the distance between the camera and the point at which the skidding car comes to rest when you shoot the background plate ( B ).

The advantage to rear projection is the car can be “rocked” when the car appears to be hit. I recommend rocking the car with a 2x4 and an apple box. This alone won’t be enough so jar the camera as well and consider some green screen blood splatter ©. You may actually want to be inside the car (not outside like the illustration would suggest).

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#6 Adam Adorno

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 01:31 AM

haha Thanks for that picture, that was great.

After reading all of your ideas, I created 3 different methods to film this. One of them includes performing the entire thing backwards, although, the hair kicking up at the moment of impact is going to be tricky when working in reverse.

I'm going to film some tests with a friend of mine on Friday, and I'll try to post some samples up asap!

Thanks again for everyone's help. This community is exactly what I've needed.
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 08:13 AM

Not a problem, Adam. HOpe we've been helpful.


Daniel saying "Oh my loins" preceding an impending automobile accident must be a Boston thing :-P
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#8 Adam Adorno

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 04:02 PM

We weren't able to shoot yesterday! Man, it's weird how these things just happen. The girl who was going to be our test subject (who's also on of the stunt doubles in the new Fast & Furious movie) had to cancel on us because she realized at the last minute that she double booked, then it started to rain out of nowhere, then my friend who was helping me film this whole thing got a flat on the way to my house and had to get towed back home. Wow, haha.

The shoot will happen this coming week!
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#9 Charles Papert

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 10:24 AM

I remember the first time I saw a car crash from this perspective (I'm thinking the pilot of 'Six Feet Under" about ten years ago) I thought it was amazing, stunning, horrifying. However it has since been repeated to the point of cliche. If it were me, I would be trying to think of a new way to show the point of impact.
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 12:30 PM

I remember the first time I saw a car crash from this perspective (I'm thinking the pilot of 'Six Feet Under" about ten years ago) I thought it was amazing, stunning, horrifying. However it has since been repeated to the point of cliche. If it were me, I would be trying to think of a new way to show the point of impact.


Even if it is over-used, real time , for me, is the best.

Flip a car and you'll understand.

There's no flash of light, conference with Jesus, or time dilation. People that say that there is must be high while they were driving. . .

I think it'd be even better just doing a strictly 1st-person perspective from the driver's point of view, all in real-time. Even the Allstate commercial was from the view of the passenger.

Driver's viewpoint, for me, is the scariest because the driver is in control of the vehicle and feels the most responsible and powerless in the case of a crash, supposed to be in control but having none. Very scary when that happens.


But Charles, what new ways of showing impact are there? I think filmmakers have, more or less, come full-circle.
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#11 Adam Adorno

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 01:30 PM

That's a good point Charles. I never actually stopped to think about how cliche it was until right now, and I see your where you're coming from. I'm gonna weigh out other options and see if any of them fit better than my current idea. I'm actually going to a party tonight with other filmmakers, so I'll get their 2 cents on the subject.
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#12 K Borowski

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 02:06 PM

That's a good point Charles. I never actually stopped to think about how cliche it was until right now, and I see your where you're coming from. I'm gonna weigh out other options and see if any of them fit better than my current idea. I'm actually going to a party tonight with other filmmakers, so I'll get their 2 cents on the subject.


But again, as practically every conceivable take on a car crash has been done since the beginnings of filmmaking, is there really something new and original that hasn't been done yet that would be good?

I still think that if the crash comes out of nowhere, it is shocking.
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