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DIY Breakaway Car Window

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#1 Joseph Murphy

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Posted 05 May 2016 - 12:13 PM

I am making a low-budget short film in July, where the actor punches through the passenger window while another character sits in the passenger seat. They'll be multiple takes, so I want at least 10 breakaway windows.

 

I've tested sugar glass, but it's tinted yellow. I've thought of using food coloring to try and dilute the yellow, but in case that doesn't work, I want other options.

 

SMASH! Plastic (from smooth-on.com) looks realistic & clear. But don't want to pay $200+ for it.

 

Is there some way I could make this plastic concoction on my own? Or another method to make smooth & clear glass under $100 for 10 windows?


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#2 Bruce Greene

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Posted 05 May 2016 - 05:57 PM

Thinking of the safety of the actor in the car...  Seems a little bit dangerous to have even candy glass flying into someone's eyes.

 

A few years ago, we did this by rolling down the window and creating the glass break as a digital fx shot.  It worked really well, and cost very very little with no danger to someone inside the car.  I think the director/editor did this himself with some cheapo digital fx software :)


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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 12:08 PM

Is the character super-human? Because it isn't easy to actually put your fist through safety glass -- which would break up into pebbles in a real car, not shards like candy glass would.  And I assume it is a side window because the windshield also has a laminate inside to keep the broken glass together.

 

"The Terminator" actually built a fake pneumatic arm to punch through a windshield, with Swartzenegger blocking the rig with his body.

 

I'd figure out a way to at least do this in cuts so the passenger could just be showered by rubber glass bits just before the arm reaches in for them.


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#4 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 02:56 PM

Do you really need 10 takes with this? It might well be cheaper to hire in a few more cheap cameras for a few hours than trying to do 10 separate takes with glass breaking. You need to consider the reset time between each take. You'll need to not only clean up the shards of 'glass', but also reset a new 'glass' into the frame.

 

If it were me shooting it, I'd cover it from two angles, one outside and one inside looking out the window (2 cameras, 1 take). Then on take 2 I'd simply throw some 'glass' shards on the actor in the passenger seat, while the camera was trained on them. With some cutting in the edit room, it will look total realistic, and I'd image this is how similar shots are done. 

 

You can also do the affect in the computer using a composting program like Fusion (or maybe After effects), and do it with particles combined with stock footage of glass breaking (ActionFX is a great source for glass stock footage).

 

HOWEVER, the big thing here, as David said above, is being realistic. Who exactly is breaking the window? I'm not aware of any human who could break a car window in such a manner that it would shatter into pieces. I've only ever seen it done once twice in a movie that way, and neither time did it look real. Safety glass in windows will simply 'spider' when hit, due to the thin layer of laminate deigned to prevent windows from breaking in on passengers in a wreck.

 

I once saw someone try to break out a side window with a crow bar, which took 12 strikes to event make a hole in the glass, and then it simply chipped off bit by bit without ever shattering.

 

BTW) When I say glass, I do mean fake glass. NEVER use real glass for stunts, which is what this shot is. 


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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 03:05 PM

Only the front windshield has laminate (probably the rear as well) -- the sides usually don't, as I can attest to when someone broke into my car to steal my radio.  The glass just shatters into small pebbles.  A sharp point on a tiny hammer can break it with a tap, as the device does that some people keep in their glove compartments in case the car sinks into a lake.  But a bare fist would have a harder time doing that, though I'm sure it has happened.


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#6 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 03:16 PM

Must have been a special window then, because the one I seen attempting to be broken (drivers side, guy locked his keys in and no on would pick it for him because he didn't have proof of ownership), it broke just like windshield would. Could have just been the tempered glass being so difficult to break. Dunno, I still stand by that I really don't think he needs 10 takes for this, though far be it from me to say - since I'm not the director. A few carefully gotten takes would easily accomplish what he wants, and he could probably afford the plastic breakaway glass stuff he mentioned above.

 

You'd only need 1, maybe 2 sheets of it, plus some small amounts of it to 'throw' on the actor in the passenger seat on a third take. 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 06 May 2016 - 03:20 PM.

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#7 JD Hartman

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 07:14 PM

Must have been a special window then, because the one I seen attempting to be broken (drivers side, guy locked his keys in and no on would pick it for him because he didn't have proof of ownership), it broke just like windshield would. Could have just been the tempered glass being so difficult to break.

 

No, you just wrong.  Windshields are laminated glass, others like window in the driver's door are tempered glass.  If you looked, you'd see it is marked as such.

 

http://www.aplusglas...lass-in-my-car/


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#8 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 07:19 PM

Well that may well be, but I know what I witnessed first hand, so wrong or right it is what it is. Besides that, it's not really the point - tempered glass is still a lot stronger than regular glass, and breaks in a particular pattern that differs from regular glass. Tempered or laminated, it's all safety glass and is designed to fracture in certain ways. I know nothing about cars or the type of glass used in them, other than what I have witnessed first hand over the years. I know windshield glass is laminated because my windshield was hit with a giant rock that feel off a dump truck while driving down the road... That is the extent of my knowledge on it though. 

 

I still stand by the advice on how I'd shoot it if it was me. Not only would it make the shot less complicated, but it would save a lot of money and time in the process.


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 06 May 2016 - 07:20 PM.

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#9 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 07:28 PM

And actually, JD, you are not 100% correct. After doing some research, I found that some car manufacturers do use laminated side glass in their vehicles - and that some after market glass is designed this way as well. I don't remember the particulars of the vehicle in question, but it was a newer model SUV. 

 

This conversation over at another forum pretty much backs this up: http://www.firehouse.../forums/t71034/. So I'm not just wrong, as you say...


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 06 May 2016 - 07:29 PM.

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#10 JD Hartman

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 08:09 PM

Chat on a firehouse forum is the gospel truth?  Information from a glass company website isn't?  A rental house I use is right next to Pilkington Glass, a manufacturer of automotive glass, I'll ask them on Monday.   http://www.pilkingto...motive/products


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#11 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 08:19 PM

http://overlawyered....in-car-windows/

 

http://www.nbcmiami....-180205471.html

 

Quote from NBC: 

 

 

NBC 6 obtained the list of cars and SUVs that have laminated glass on all windows from the Enhanced Protective Glass Automotive Association. They are 2012 model, popular vehicles, such as Fords, Chevys and Chryslers. Some are foreign models and even the Motor Trend Car of the Year for next year, the electric Tesla S model.

 

These two links also mention such glass being installed in vehicles. They might not be car manufacturer or glass manufacture websites, but they do provide plenty of evidence that such glass is being installed in car side vehicles. Not ALL vehicles, but some apparently - as I have provided proof to above. Beyond this, that was a small portion of my post - and not really relevant at all. So why you see the need to make an argument over it is beyond me. Is the Enhanced Protective Glass Automotive Association a good enough source? Hopefully so. I'm starting to feel some people on this forum (a select few) are trying to prove me wrong as much as possible for the sport of it. Hopefully I'm wrong... 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 06 May 2016 - 08:34 PM.

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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 May 2016 - 12:21 AM

Landon is correct, I looked into it and while most vehicles do not have laminated glass for the side windows, a few do and some people get laminated side windows installed after-market.
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#13 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 07 May 2016 - 12:42 AM

Yes, I has assumed that all cars had this feature since that was my experience with one car in question. I was wrong about that, and admit fully to it. That is what I get for assuming I guess :). In any case, I'd still tell the original poster to try and figure a way to cut down the number of takes. To me, it'd be a nightmare trying to pull off ten separate shots such as this, needed reset and cleanup time between each.

 

I put together a small diagram of how I'd shoot such a scene if it were me. With some creative editing it would get the point across without the need for a large number of setups, and the need to invest in large amounts of realistic looking plastic glass - which can be very expensive. 

 

whatimtalkingabout.jpg


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 07 May 2016 - 12:48 AM.

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#14 Bruce Greene

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Posted 07 May 2016 - 07:14 PM

I am making a low-budget short film in July, where the actor punches through the passenger window while another character sits in the passenger seat. They'll be multiple takes, so I want at least 10 breakaway windows.

 

I've tested sugar glass, but it's tinted yellow. I've thought of using food coloring to try and dilute the yellow, but in case that doesn't work, I want other options.

 

SMASH! Plastic (from smooth-on.com) looks realistic & clear. But don't want to pay $200+ for it.

 

Is there some way I could make this plastic concoction on my own? Or another method to make smooth & clear glass under $100 for 10 windows?

 

I just realized I have a shot on my website of a brick coming through a real side window.

http://brucealangreene.com/8-new-dates.html

 

Glass break is at 03:04 in the clip if you're interested.  Not safe for an actor to be sitting there though.


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#15 Joseph Murphy

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Posted 16 May 2016 - 12:37 PM

Thanks everyone for your interest in this question and shout-out to Landon for putting that diagram together. 

 

Having a lot of back-up breakaway windows is more of a safety net in case the sugar glass breaks while I'm pulling it from out of the mold. I'm no Stanley Kubrick. And it isn't a concern to me if its realistic for a man to punch through a car window. It's more to dramatize the emotions of the story.

 

To give you a visual of what I'm working with, here's a video showing what I did and how it looks: https://youtu.be/N_yBCDmn4ak

 

In this vid, I used saran wrap covered in oil, but the hot sugar glass got underneath some of it, which is why the final frame isn't so great. Tin foil gets too crumbly and the glass gets a jagged appearance. I have also tried using silicone mold, but I left the sugar glass out for 72 hours and melted on me so I will need to retest.

 

I am getting a lot of thoughts on reasons not to create a breakaway window, but I didn't ask if I should or should not do it. I'm asking for alternatives to using sugar glass and also a better way to make a durable mold of my window. So appreciate your thoughts and for helping me out on my low-budget project. Thanks!


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#16 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 16 May 2016 - 01:33 PM

Another option I would think would be to keep using the sugar glass. If you scene is at night (or you can change it to night), the slight yellow color can be easily concealed. If it's during the day, you can probably bring the footage into Davinci and remove most if not all of the yellowish tent to the glass. Doing so with a perfect result will likely mean you need a clean plate without the glass in the window, but it should be able to be done with some simple color correction even without the clean plate.

 

Combined with careful camera angles and quick cuts, using the sugar glass would save a lot of money and time.

 

Another thing, you should be able to keep the sugar glass from turning yellow if you use the right ingredients combined with the right cooking temperature. See this thread for more: http://www.cakecentr...-turning-yellow

 

Isomalt is a good alternative to keep the sugar glass from turning yellow. I used it in several stage productions and it turned out crystal clear. 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 16 May 2016 - 01:44 PM.

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#17 timHealy

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Posted 17 May 2016 - 08:40 AM

I was going to suggest doing it the way Bruce suggested using no glass and VFX. And then adding what David suggested using the little bits of rubber effects glass. You can't tell that stuff is not real.

 

Trying to do it for real would be dumb. Sugar glass isn't really optically clear.

 

If one would try to do it for real you would need special effects guys to blow the glass just before a stunt guy would hit the glass. I worked on War of the Worlds and the effects guys blew glass in the scene where you first see the martian tripods come out of the ground in Newark. Thats kind of what I was thinking. I can't recall what kind of glass they blew, but they did take the original glass out to use some sort of "movie glass".

 

Best 

 

Tim

 

David I do have that tool. I actually worked on a commercial for it in a junk yard. Must have been in the early 90's. That thing breaks the door windows ridiculously easy. Something big and blunt like a baseball bat or a crowbar takes many times an a lot of strength. The owner of the junk yard started getting annoyed as we go a little carried away breaking windows not realizing we were chipping away at his income.


Edited by timHealy, 17 May 2016 - 08:46 AM.

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#18 Joseph Murphy

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Posted 25 May 2016 - 06:37 PM

Thanks Landon, I'll try out the Isomalt and see how that goes. And Tim, I'll explore VFX too. That makes me nervous relying on 'doing it in post' though. 

 

I just launched a Kickstarter for the project: http://kck.st/20DfTtE for anyone interested. I'll be posting updates on here and on the Kickstarter page about the effects.


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#19 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 25 May 2016 - 10:43 PM

Good luck on the kickstarter, Joseph. As for the Isomalt, I'd give it a go. It is basically a sugar substitute that has a much higher cooking temperate, as such is easier to keep it 'clear'. The problem with keeping regular sugar glass clear is the heat at which is required to form it is pretty close to the heat at which the sugar starts to burn and caramelize, thus turning it yellow. Isomalt has a much higher temperate before it caramelizes, meaning you have more breathing room in cooking it to keep it clear.

 

Like I said, I have used Isomalt on a few stage productions and got fairly clear glass looking results. It does not look 100% real, but then again unless you're REALLY good at visual effects, you'll probably not be able to get a VFX version to look perfectly real either - and using real glass is unsafe. 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 25 May 2016 - 10:43 PM.

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#20 timHealy

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 10:08 PM

 And Tim, I'll explore VFX too. That makes me nervous relying on 'doing it in post' though. 

 

 

 

 

I'm not a VFX expert but you could do something easily using After Effects or some compositing software like Shake. You could shoot the punch through the glass clean with the real windows rolled down and then cut to reactions of your actors fighting (or whatever you had in mind) with the rubber effects glass thrown by a prop at your actor in the car so it appears the glass shatters in the cut. Careful of the eyes though. I would shoot a sheet of auto glass with a black background at the same angle and same lens rigged to shatter on a stage or dark room. A black room would be better. And maybe have a blacked out object forcefully hit and break the glass so perhaps there is a moment that the glass breaks from the center out like a real hand would do. The rig would have to be sturdy if you hit the glass and you'll need something with weight and some mass to break auto glass. And the glass would have to be lit with at least edge lights. It would only be compositing two shots. You could probably get a local collage student to do it. The glass breaking shot would be so fast and quick you'll never see it wasn't done for real unless you lingered on that first shot too long and you don't see glass on the guys arm who broke through the glass. That would be even more effects work, but for the initial hit you could make it work.

 

Best

 

Tim


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