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DIY Special Effects for Your Indie Film

The special effects used in today’s blockbuster films can create some pretty amazing visuals. From battle scenes between giant fighting robots to outer space epics to making super heroes fly and battle otherworldly monsters, the effects that film professionals can create are truly impressive. To an aspiring filmmaker, the possibilities may seem limitless. Unfortunately, your indie movie likely won’t have the benefit of state of the art technology and massive budgets. But there are still some great tricks you can use to make your own special effects, even if you don’t have access to film editing software. Here are just a few tips and ideas for special effects you can do on your own, no computer needed.

– While it’s simple to recreate some footsteps, a scene may call for the sound of walking or running through a material not easily available to you. To create the sound of footsteps in the snow when filming during the summer (or in a warm climate), walking through cornstarch replicates the crunch of snow underfoot nicely. Footsteps on gravel roads or stony paths can be recreated by filling a shallow box with gravel and using a shoe (or coconut half, for horse hoof prints) to simulate walking.

– Whether a bully picks on his victim, a gentleman is fighting for his lady’s honor, or your police drama has ended in a confrontation, many movies will include a fight scene. The sound of a body being hit or punched can be simulated by hitting thick rolls of newspaper with a wooden stick, such as a baseball bat – experiment with different thicknesses to find the sound you want.

– If your tussle escalates to a shootout, starter pistols used for signaling the beginning of races can be purchased for under $50. If you choose to use a starter pistol, remember to always use ear and eye protection, and follow all safety precautions. If you’re looking for a cheaper solution, take two 1”x4” boards (hardwoods are more effective than softer ones), about four feet long, and attach them with a hinge. After making sure all fingers and toes are clear, set one board on the ground and let the other fall to create the loud cracking noise of gunfire.

– For dark and stormy nights, thunder sheets can be made from any piece of scrap sheet metal – the larger and thinner, the better. Add some lightning in the background with short bursts from a strobe light.

– No action or horror movie is complete without a little blood. While fake blood can be purchased at costume stores, it’s simple to make with ingredients you likely have in your kitchen. A non-toxic version can be easily made by mixing one part water with three parts corn syrup and adding red (and a drop or two of blue, for realistic color) food coloring. The mixture can be thickened with flour or cornstarch for a thinner consistency; substitute chocolate or pancake syrup when thicker blood is needed.

Remember, whether following these tips or using your imagination and creativity to come up with your own special effects, always be smart, use common sense and keep safety in mind.

Still Have More Questions?

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Photo via Flickr

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