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Recreating a house fire


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#1 Patrick Kaplin

Patrick Kaplin
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Posted 17 January 2012 - 05:19 AM

Hello, I'll be directing a short film this August where the climax of the film will occur during a house fire. I have a general idea of how I want to approach this but wanted to ask a couple questions and seek advice from others who are probably better versed in this than I am.

I want the scene to feel very disorienting and visceral. The fire will occur in the protagonists living room and adjacent dining room. Whole scene encompasses about a page and a half of the script. Planning on shooting quite tight, no wide shots to make it easier to fake the fire. The plan was to get a smoke machine to obscure as much of the room as possible.

My first question, it seems like from my research of house fires the smoke is often white in color. However, having fortunately escaped from a burning building myself I remember the smoke being quite black in color. From my understanding there's not really any way to modify the color of smoke from smoke machines, so should I simply count on flooding the set with as much white smoke as possible and hope that using enough negative fill will give the scene the dark disorienting look I'm after? Or is there an option I'm unaware of to get black smoke from a smoke machine? Does either option leave lots of residue on the walls and furniture of the set?

Second part of my plan was to use interactive lighting rigs to simulate flickering fire. Haven't drawn up exact plans for these yet and not even entirely sure these rigs would be necessary.

Thirdly, I was planning on obtaining three 4' propane bars to hide in the shot and to create flickering flames in front of the lens. From those experienced with using propane bars, would I be able to substitute my fire-lighting rig with just one of these bars for lighting? Have never shot with these before, so any general advice on their use and safety would certainly be welcome. I've yet to consult a sfx supervisor for this as I wanted to do a bit of research on my own first. But rest assured a qualified technician for the propane bars would be on set as well as full cooperation from the local fire dep't.

Finally, should I be completely ruling out the possibility of shooting this on a practical location? We're still in the early stages of scouting right now, and still looking for an empty house that could be used. Should I be counting on shooting this scene on a constructed set?

Please let me know of any experiences you may have shooting scenes like this. Am I stretching the abilities of these instruments too far to create a realistic burning interior?

Thank you all very much!
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#2 Patrick Kaplin

Patrick Kaplin
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Posted 14 February 2012 - 12:17 AM

No experience with propane bars from anyone?
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