Great Scott! Learn How to Re-Create the 'Back to the Future' Time Slice Using Practical FX

If you've ever wanted to recreate that iconic time slice effect from Back to the Future, you're in luck! And no, you don't need a DeLorean, a flux capacitor, or even a road -- because where we're going, we don't need roads.

You really don't, because you'll be working with a 1/24th scale model of a DeLorean, but you will need a random assortment of multi-colored lights, some canvas, and a whole lot of guidance from the very Doc Brown-esque mad scientist of practical effects, Joey Shanks of Shanks FX. In the video tutorials below, he teaches you how to create special light effects, the time slice, forced perspective (so you can put your DeLorean on an actual road), and wraps it all up by walking you how to put it all together in post.

Creating the "Time Slice" Effect

If you're a fan of Joey Shanks, you know that he has a huge collection of different kinds of lights -- LEDs, flashlights, laser pointers, strobes of all sizes and colors. These come in handy when you're trying to create an effect like this, because he uses four or five different lights just to create the flashes and explosions around the DeLorean. 

Another important item you need to make sure you have before you attempt this is some sort of stop-motion software. Shanks uses Dragonframe, which I highly recommend.

Forced Perspective

We've all seen this effect used in cinema all the time -- maybe not as much today as in the past, but still. And sure, using this effect is cool for a fun project like this one, but it does have some very real uses in indie filmmaking. Using an illusion like forced perspective allows indie filmmakers to create environments that they may not have the budget for, something Vashi Nedomansky of Vashi Visuals demonstrated perfectly using miniature humvee models.

Compositing in Post

Now that you've wiggled little lights all over the place, taking shot after shot after shot of this tiny DeLorean speeding across your workbench, now comes time to put it all together in post. Hopefully you remembered to take your "clean plate" image, because you're going to need it now!

Well, that pretty much sums it up. Even though you're not going to re-create the look and effect perfectly, you will get something pretty dazzling -- especially considering the fact that it costs virtually nothing to make (literally nothing if you're a nerd and already own a tiny DeLorean model). Also, you're learning the dying art of practical effects! What could be more thrilling than that? 

"Um, traveling through time in a DeLorean?"


You Might Also Like

Your Comment


Stop-motion animations .... :) Good job.
Few years ago I created a lot of them. here is a small playlist of my old series "Monument Valley"

November 11, 2014 at 2:54PM


Now, where is Einstein when we need him?

November 11, 2014 at 4:05PM


Pretty fun long exposure techniques, on a real project you'd be better off with compositing multiple effects or just good ole CGI like particle effects and illumination. Nice to see the old school still kicking around tho.

November 12, 2014 at 4:51AM

Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor