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30 CHEAP SPECIAL FX TRICKS

30 CHEAP SPECIAL FX HINTS



1. Make your own home camera filters using a plastic sandwich bag filled with different liquids or gels.

2. By using non-revealing camera angles and different costumes and wigs, you can double or triple your cast for non-essential roles.

3. Never underestimate the power of a miniature set with good lighting.

4. Sound can make or break your film. If you can't afford good sound, dub it in later.

5. A cheap mic Pop Filter can be made with a circle of wire and pantyhose.

6. Use perspective to your advantage...can't afford a huge set...? Use camera placement to trick the eye.

7. Create those swirly filters in-camera by shooting through a clear container full of water (just watch for electrical cables).

8. Make a boiling planet by taking an overhead shot of scrambled eggs in a frying pan dyed with food coloring.

9. Hangers work great for prosthetics that don't need much mobility.

10. Buy blankets with different patterns (ex. waves or sand), as a cheap landscape for your miniatures.

11. Stop motion animated water can be made with thick hair gel (it stays in place after movement is made).

12. Go to the toy store or dollar store to purchase ready-made props for miniature sets.



13. Use different combinations of cheap eye shadow to create convincing bruises.

14. If your computer software takes too long to render, try exporting small internet-sized videos to check for mistakes. With some programs, that may take only 25% of the time of a full render, and you have something portable to share.

15. Always buy cheap special fx makeup after Halloween. You can also stock up on great costumes, wigs, and props.



16. Beef jerky hot-glued to a knife looks a lot like flesh when mixed with fake blood.

17. Don't buy fake blood, just make it -Corn syrup, red food coloring, and a single drop of blue food coloring.

18. Practice aging yourself. (Older-dark makeup on shadows and lines. Younger-lighter makeup on shadows and lines.) Don't know where your shadows are? Make a "fish-face", angle your face slightly downward, and look in a mirror with overhead light.

19. Test your imagination by taking a box of random junk and making a creature out of it.

20. Don't have enough medieval hoods? Have everyone wrap large brown or black t-shirts around their heads, hiding the sleeves.

21. Miniature sets are often a lot more time-efficient than computer generated imagery if your computer is slow. While storyboarding, try to see what elements may be more efficiently worked out with a miniature. Then you can dedicate more time to complex scenes.



22. If you need to demolish something, always have a spare around in case you need to reshoot previous scenes.

23. For a quick, cheap, washable solution (great in educational settings), you can use Crayola markers for some simple makeup work (tatoos, fantasy marks), etc. This is only good for short scenes where sweating does not play a factor.

24. A trip to the grocery store can provide some cheap alternatives to expensive materials (ex. chunky strawberry preserves for guts, baby powder for gray hair or ghosts, clear hair gel for a goopy creature, ketchup for blood spurts).

25. When you are limited in time or computers, try to do as many effects in-camera as possible. Believe it or not, the urgency of getting the perfect shot in a minimum number of takes will produce better results than a scene you know that you can "fix in post".

26. Crappy sound during production will still be crappy sound in post production (nope, there is NOT a good way to get rid of the airplane roar during dialogue).

27. Master several different voice changes for yourself. You never know when you may need a child's voice or an extra with a foreign accent.



28. Don't have the latest Final Cut Pro or Avid software? See what you DO have and then explore the possibilities. Sometimes you can cover up cheap software by creating a convincing stylized look (ex. grainy, monochromatic, pixelated, home video, cell phone movie, etc.).

29. Study color theory to get some ideas about creating eye-catching sets. (A good example is the very stylized color schemes of CSI Miami, the House of Hidden Daggers, or Sweeney Todd..a little overboard sometimes, but still more interesting than just mixing whatever colors are available.)

30. Don't create a set if you can find a ready-made set. A university open at midnight, a public park, an abandoned building, local graveyards, or a church are examples of all kinds of locations that can easily be usurped for location shots.

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