The key to good gun effects, like muzzle flashes, is believability.
Chances are you'll be working with prop guns at some point in your filmmaking career, which means that you'll want to know how to make those prop guns not seem like—you know—prop guns. There is a lot of work that go into making these things look realistic on screen, and Ryan Connolly over at Film Riot shares 10 tips that'll help you do just that.
Here are the tips Connolly lists in the video:
- Choose the right type of gun: Should you buy a blank-firing prop gun, an airsoft gun, or some DIY one you made? (Here's a tutorial that shows you how to make one out of styrofoam and then cast it in aluminum.)
- Use practical lights for effects: Flashing a clamp light creates a great, and realistic "muzzle flash" effect.
- Add shells in post: Shell ejection is just another little detail that helps sell the illusion that real guns are being used, especially when shooting a close-up or medium close-up.
- Use "blending mode": You know when you see muzzle flashes that look totally fake? It's probably because someone didn't use blending mode on their assets in post. So use it!
- Blurs and distortions: Adding a little bit of blur/distortion around the area of the muzzle of your prop gun adds that extra touch of realism.
- Add sparks and debris: Again, including a few sparks and some debris around the muzzle can make your gunshot look more realistic and more awesome.
- Tracking: Make sure that anything that comes out of the gun (bullets, debris, smoke) moves independently once it's out of there. That is, don't track the smoke and other assets to the barrel.
- Make sure reflections are correct: Where there's a muzzle flash there is also a corresponding flash on nearby reflective surfaces, especially if it's dark. Make sure that you add reflections of these flashes in.
- Smoke is super important: A gunshot without smoke looks kind of—naked, boring, and unrealistic. (It's the movies, you guys!) Connolly really proves this when he shows a side-by-side comparison of a gunshot with and without smoke.
Now that you have some sage advice, how you use it is up to you. If you want to go big with your muzzle flashes—like Commando big—do it. If you want to scale back and go for a more realistic look, do it. It's all a style choice once you get to that point.
Do you have any tips for achieving more realistic looking gun effects? Share them down in the comments!