How to Create an Epic War Scene with Dirt, a Tarp, and Some VFX Tricks
Can you create high-quality battle sequences with practically no money?
Sometimes beginning filmmakers have ambitious ideas but aren't sure how to execute them. There's good news, though—just because you might not have the ideal location or the money for pyrotechnics, insurance, or a big crew, you can still make your visions a reality.
Film Riot recently set out to recreate an epic action/war scene using nothing more than store-bought dirt and an interior set and they show you how they did it in the video below.
The team first prepped their location. Because they didn't have a field available or the time to do a night shoot, they dressed an interior set as an exterior. They put down a blue tarp, then a black blanket to hide the blue color bouncing from said tarp.
After that, they just added bags of topsoil, spent bullet casings from old shoots, and some branches as set dressing.
They dressed team member Josh Connolly in a simple outfit, adding dirt and fake blood.
Since this was more of a test shoot, they didn't give much consideration to costuming. But if you're filming something more serious, don't forget the importance of your costuming to the storytelling process.
In this simple setup, they used a few warm lights on the opposite side from camera to simulate the firelight. They included a warm light bounced off a nearby garage door and an Aputure 120D pointed toward the ceiling with a green gel, for fill.
The scene was shot on a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera at 60 frames per second. The team didn't use image stabilization or a rig, so they got some natural handheld movement. The shots were slowed down in post to create a nice, almost dreamlike look.
Learn more about frame rates in film.
The Special Effects
For the shot of the fire, some rotoscoping of the actor was needed, as well as background fill using clean plates of the scene. They also took some free stock images of trees to fake the background. Then it was just a matter of adding stock footage of fire, blurring it, and adding glow.
For the overhead shot, clean plates of the dirt were used to fill in the sides where the garage was visible. The team also added stock footage of smoke as an overlay, and some branches as detail.
What's next? Learn some more low-budget tricks
Learn how to capture high-quality images on inexpensive cameras and what you need to achieve high production value, and check out some of our best low-budget tips. Finally, get inspired by indie filmmaker Phillip Youmans' no-budget Tribeca story.