In Keep The Change, we see our character, Stu, travelling from left to right when going from scene to scene, which is the traditional direction for characters to move forward in films.
When he is in the car, however, we ran into some shooting problems.
We made this film in England, and if you don't know, in England we drive on the left hand side of the road.
This means the driver’s seat is on the right hand side of the car. So, having the camera shooting from the passenger side towards the driver’s side would result in our character facing the wrong direction. He'd be facing the left, looking backwards.
Well, that's an easy fix, just have him travelling from right to left throughout the film, right?
The problem with this; it starts messing with film grammar. What's film grammar? Well, films have a language, not a spoken language but a visual one, and when you start changing the 'words' in this language (such as a character's travelling direction), it can impact on an audience member's enjoyment of the film.
It’s not just films that do this either. Most, if not all, platform games run from left to right.
So anyway, this was an issue. And we had 2 options. Option 1, shoot the film with our character moving from right to left, breaking traditional film grammar.
Or option 2: find a way to shoot from the driver's side. Option 2 is a lot more difficult, but it might provide better results in the end. Plus, it's a learning process.
In the end, we took the challenge.
The next problem was, how do we film our actor Liam driving the car?
Use another car and shoot from the window alongside it? Too dangerous.
Stick it on a trailer? Too expensive.
Put a camera on the dashboard? Not enough room.
So instead, we tried our best to fake it.
We considered a lot of things when trying to fake the driving of a car.
You'll see others achieving this effect by using lights to act as street lights, beaming them across the car from front to back and repeating the process.
We tried this, but because of the small space and the white walls of Rob's garage, we ended up light up the walls and it would spoil the effect. So that method didn’t work for us.
Instead, we shot an establishing shot of the car driving past at night on a country road that had no immediate street lights. This helped establish the scene and the environment once we cut into the car.
Then we dressed the car with items which would move when the car is travelling. A bobble head and a pine fresh. Then we rocked the car gently to fake the bumps of the road.
Unfortunately, Rob’s car being rocked in his garage didn’t sound like it was driving on a road.
So we grabbed the microphone, got back in the car, and drove around, recording the car at different speeds, and we put the rumbling noise of inside the car back into the film.
Doing it this way was never going to be perfect, but it worked for the short time we see him in the car.
To achieve the pot hole effect, we used the wiggle expression in After Effects to generate a camera shake and added a bunch of different sounds, such as: going over a speed bump, the engine switching off, and radio jitters.
For the limited time and no real budget, this was our best option. Obviously with more cash, using a car shooting rig or a trailer would be a lot better.
And if we had a larger space to work in, using lights to fake street lamps would have sold the effect a lot better too. But, you gotta work with what you have!
Anyway! Now that we had the car driving and hitting a pot hole, it was time to make it look like it was totalled. This is where the smoke machine comes in.
The whole idea for Keep The Change started because we wanted an excuse to use a smoke machine.
We wrote the scenes around the techniques we wanted to demonstrate with the smoke machine, and wrote the over lining story around the scenes, working the opposite way to usual, which was a learning process in itself!
So, here's what you'll need:
Firstly, a car. Luckily, Rob's old Peugeot 106 helped sell the effect of a breakdown because it’s…well it’s not brand new.
Secondly, you’ll need a smoke machine. I found this one on sale at a costume shop just after Halloween, so it was really cheap.
It runs on 230 volts, so it has to be plugged into a mains socket. We have a caravan battery for wireless power, but an extension cord will work just as well (as long as you can find a socket).
So now that you are powered; position the smoke machine under the engine and angle it pointing up or use some sort of funnel to direct the smoke up through the engine.
We used a nozzle from an airbed pump and duct taped it on. Give the smoke a good 10 seconds to build up under the bonnet, and you’re good to go.
We also used the smoke in the last scene to fill the room with haze. Blast it a few seconds, then waft it to fill the room. This helped achieve the light rays from his phone light and gave the room a hazy glow.
We also pumped a little bit in through the back of the pizza box to create a steamy vapour when it opened up.
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