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Old May 4th, 2004, 06:10 PM   #1
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How to shoot a big hit in the head

Ok.. Im about to shoot a scene where a guy is running blind and hits his face against an obstacle (probably a tree).

I want to make it look as realistic and graphic as I can without hurting my actor, I need him for a few more shot after that one :-)

But I want people to feel pain when they watch it.

Ive a few plans of my own... but Id like to hear if anyone has done it before or has any ideas that could work better than mine.

Of course this is a no-budget thing, so wires, rigs, fake trees, and professional stuntmen are out of the question.

Thx.
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Old May 4th, 2004, 07:26 PM   #2
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I haven't done the running into a tree shot, but I have done shots in which a girl's arm was chopped off, a woman poked her eye out with some needle nose pliers, and we poured a pan of boiling water over a little kid. Oh yeah, and there was the POV shot where I got buried in a trench, and the one where a guy fell off a telephone pole. I used to do a lot of that fun stuff.

The poking the eye out shot is probably the most similar to yours. What I did was get back as far as possible and shot with a very long lens, which foreshortens the image and makes things look closer together than they really are. The woman who poked her eye out was supposed to be stripping some wires in a telephone substation, not wearing her required eye protection. (It was a safety training show.) She practiced a lot...letting the pliers slip off the ends of the wire, swing toward her eye, just as her head would throw itself back as if actually hit in the eye. In reality she never got more than within about a foot of her eye, but through the lens it made you queasy to look. The trick is to edit in the right place too. You see the pliers going right for the eye, hear a scream and cut to black, and hold for a couple of beats and she wakes up in a hospital with an eye patch.

So, I'd get way, way back and zoom in all the way...have the dude run toward the tree, and as his head gets close, he stops abruptly and snaps his head back. You can speed up that last part, just as the head snaps back, when you edit. He'll have to practice a bit.

You should also rent "American Movie." It's one of the funniest documentaries ever made. There's a great scene where this guy is supposed to shove another guy's head through a cabinet door under a sink. They cut the plywood so it would pop out easily, but it didn't, and the guy kept bashing the victim's head against the cabinet till the door collapses.

In case you're interested, the way we poured boiling water on a little kid...I had a pan of water on a stove...you see the pan...then the little kid walking up...then a closeup of his hand reaching up to the handle of the pan...then the pan tips over right to the camera and you hear the kid scream like crazy. For the last shot, I moved in closer to the pan so you couldn't see the adult hand that grabbed the pan for real and dumped it back toward the camera, or actually toward a big garbage can in front of the camera so the boiling water looked as if it were pouring right toward the kid's POV. The little kid was great--he could scream on cue. Also, when the reall little kid's hand was going up to the pan, the water was cold...just in case. We didn't see the water boiling till the kid was out of the shot--can't be too safe when staging "accidents."

And the time I got buried in a trench...the idea was a trench collapse...they dug me a trench, I got in, CP16R mounted on my shoulder (this was back in my 16mm days), and I told the guy on the backhoe to just start dumping a bucket load of dirt right on me, slightly in front so it would look like dirt pouring right down on the camera...but don't dump on the camera, I said. So he did it and it was looking great...and the dirt was going all over me and it kept coming and coming and coming...I didn't know the damn bucket of the backhoe held that much dirt. By the time the shot was over, I was buried up almost to my armpits. Great shot. I invented shakycam that day long, before they did it in "Born on the 4th of July" and turned it into a fad.
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Old May 4th, 2004, 08:14 PM   #3
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Here is an altered version of Bill's suggestion- Have the poor shmuck run at the tree, filming from behind him. Try not to get the bottom of the tree, or his feet in the frame, as it would show he is further from the tree. He runs at the tree, and snaps as if hitting it. Next shot is a close up from the side, have him press his face into the tree, and shoot him snapping his head back.

Edit this together, and it would look like he hits the tree, and you get to see his head bouncing off the trunk.
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Old May 5th, 2004, 05:34 AM   #4
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Hey thanx for the suggestions...

Since I have a few hours to shoot this part of the secuence.. I guess Ill be doing some experiments and see what I can end doing.

I expect the actor has the physicall abilities to act this. He is good on spoken word... but Ive never seen him doing action.
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Old May 5th, 2004, 07:10 AM   #5
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I'd be inclined to go with the reverse action suggestion as well. I've used this on numerous drama sequences with people walking into doors, being hit by cars etc...

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Old May 5th, 2004, 01:49 PM   #6
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I think that the main part of making this believable is the sound effects that are used in post production. It should be pretty simple to have some one run at a tree and look like they ran right into it. But to cause the users to cringe and feel his pain you need a really good sound effect to go along with the video that is taking place, a nice loud thud, maybe some kind of crunch. Something that really sounds painful. Maybe record someone hitting a tree with a wood baseball bat for the thud, and then maybe someone hitting a watermelon or something with a baseball bat to get that soft kind of crunch sound. There are tons of things you can try to get the right mix of sounds, but I think this shot is more about the audio than it is about the video.
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Old May 5th, 2004, 02:33 PM   #7
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I read someplace one time that foley guys bash heads of cabbage onto concrete, etc., to get the head squishing sound.
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Old May 5th, 2004, 02:40 PM   #8
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Sound... mmm it sounds good..

And the fruit and veggies thing reminded me that a few years back I used to watch Movie Magic...
That was a good school.

And they had one show where they explained a few Foley tricks....
Cellery makes good bones and tendoms breaking sound..

I guess Ill be doing some salad in a few days.
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Old May 5th, 2004, 03:01 PM   #9
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You know Bill, for Lady X Episode 13, I went through several veggies.

But I was looking for a sword slashing into flesh sound. I finally settled on a big fat spade into a watermelon combined with a bag of gravel. All mixed together. I did try cabbage. My bathroom was a mess. It was fun, though.
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Old May 11th, 2004, 07:52 AM   #10
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Any pictures of that, Keith? <g>
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Old May 15th, 2004, 02:31 AM   #11
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Shoot all those other scenes where you need that actor before you do the one with the tree. That should solve <your>
problem.

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Old May 15th, 2004, 10:35 AM   #12
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<<<-- Originally posted by Bill Pryor : I read someplace one time that foley guys bash heads of cabbage onto concrete, etc., to get the head squishing sound. -->>>

The easy way to do this is to go to www.soundogs.com

When I needed the sound of a sword plunging into a body, I was offered a wide set of choices. Inexpensively too.

With regard to the tree action. You don't have to get the actor into any kind of danger to make the shot look real. To see what I mean, watch the 2nd disk of the "Pirates of the Caribbean, The Black Pearl" to see what I mean. It's all done with smoke , mirrors, and sound effects.
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