Operation: Red Retrieval Visual Effects

I use the term, "visual effects" to cover both digital effects I do in post-production and practical effects that would include effects done on set in front of the camera. I guess I'd also include make-up work as practical effects even though on larger projects make up could be its own dedicated thing.

Have you already seen the movie? See the shot-by-shot break down of every visual effects shot in the film (packed with spoilers)

Practical Effects

I hired an effects artists for 2 days on set. The effects team, Monster in My Closet, made a pair of fake hands whose fingers had been blown off, "as if a bomb exploded while a person was trying to defuse it." (WHOA, did i give away a plot point???) MIC also did make up for those shoot days which included adding blood, grime, dirt, burns to some of the actors. I was going to ask them to also make the actors appear sweaty, but the lights took care of that - that's all real sweat on them. One thing they added on their own accord which I thought was amazing was weathering the costumes to make them look used and dirty.

Make Up - Weathering

Because my budget was tight, I did my own basic make up for the rest of the shoot. One trick I developed for dirtying up costumes was to use chalk- the big type you buy for your kids to draw on the pavement with. At Target I found a set that included the colors, black, brown, white, grey, and olive. PERFECT! If you grip the chalk and run it's entire side along swat vests, helmets, BDUs (battle dress uniforms), it'll make virtually anything look extra worn out. To make the chalk dust stick for longer, I used a spray bottle filled with hair spray. It works sort of like a coat of transparent glue. The actors ended up sweating so much though that we often would have to reapply 2 or 3 times during the shoot. Another side benefit was that the hairspray was apple scented which helped combat the body odor from all the sweating (it said it HELPED but not entirely succeeded)

Digital Effects

The digital effects for the film were done entirely by myself, partly because I enjoy it and think i'm decent at it, but also because i don't have the budget to hire the level of quality I believe the film requires.

I work in Adobe After Effects and Photoshop. Most of the work I've done is compositing digital assets that I've purchased, found free online, or made myself.

I'd loosely categorize the digital effects work into these categories:

* muzzle flashes
* debris and explosions
* smoke
* tracer fire
* lighting
* other miscellaneous stuff

I'll go into greater detail in subsequent blog posts about these, but for now I'll say that the first 3 were largely done with the help of digital assets purchased from VideoCopilot. (If you're a filmmaker and not nodding like, "Oh yes i know them," then you better go learn about them NOW). I did the remaining items on my own through various means.