How to make 3 great practical effects for your videos

May 11, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to make 3 great practical effects for your videos

May 11, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Filmmaker Daniel DeArco is big fan of DIY. If you follow his social media, you’ll see that he comes up with all kinds of self-built solutions to overcome the challenges he faces in his productions. Not all of these projects are to solve a technical problem, though. Sometimes it’s for visual effect. And in this video, he talks about three of the practical effects he made for a recent video.

YouTube video

This video came about after Daniel posted some things to Instagram about a video he was working on. Specifically, some storyboards, which contained some unorthodox ideas. People were curious how he would achieve these ideas, and so here we are.

Daniel doesn’t provide much commentary about the process in the video. It does show enough, though, that you get some hints about what you’ll need to search for.

Tempered glass resin crystal

This was created to provide some unusual light effects in the b-roll footage. Essentially, a small piece of tempered glass was shattered, and then the glass shards were cast in clear resin to make a cylinder of trapped glass. When a light is shined through the cylinder, it creates a very interesting look.

The materials list for this is quite simple…

Simply seal one end of the PVC pipe, shatter the glass and pop the shards into the pipe. Then, mix up your resin and pour it in. This will fill in all of the gaps around the shards to create a cylinder. You’ll probably want to use some kind of mould release agent so that you don’t have the problem Daniel did with his first cylinder.

Air Cannon

Blasting coloured dust in the air seems to pop up quite often. I don’t think anybody films them quite as well as the Slow Mo Guys, but then most people don’t have cameras capable of shooting at 10K+ frames per second. For most of us, 240 frames per second is about the best we can do. But how do you launch the powder into the air? That’s what these air cannon manifolds are for.

Construction here is a little more tricky. You’ll need some kind of metal pipe, a tap set and all kinds if pneumatic and plumbing parts. Ultimately, what you want from an air cannon will vary wildly depending on your production’s needs. So, this is one you’ll want to do a lot more research on before you decide what to buy and how to build it.

Prism Spinner

Prisms have become quite popular for photography and video in the last couple of years. They can add some interesting and unusual aspects to your shot. But have you ever considered physically animating those crystals in front of the camera while filming? Well, that’s exactly what Daniel wanted to do for one clip in this production. So, he built a rig to do it.

There are a million different ways to make something like this, but they’ll all ultimately require a little electronics knowledge if you want some control over how it works. Even something as simple as ramping up the speed will require at least a handful of components. Daniel’s design is quite straightforward.

Daniel cuts a wooden frame for everything to live on and adds a geared DC motor at one end. On top of this he adds a timing pulley to drive the rotation. A belt goes around this to drive to a larger pulley attached to a platform on which the two large prisms sit. As the platform rotates, so do the pulleys and the prisms. An electronic speed controller determines the rotation speed of the motor, and how fast the prisms will move across the camera’s view.

You can get more advanced with the electronics if you wish. You can go with an Arduino and stepper motors, for example. You’d probably want to get some kind of CNC shield and you’d need a stepper driver, too. It would take a little more work to set it up, and you’d need to do a spot of programming, but it would let you coordinate multiple moving things, and offer a repeatability you wouldn’t otherwise easily have.

The practical vs cg debate will go on forever. But one thing’s for sure. Building your own devices and having them actually work the way you intended is extremely satisfying.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “How to make 3 great practical effects for your videos”

  1. Nuri S. Gedik Avatar
    Nuri S. Gedik

    pratical ? Are you f.ccking kidding me.. You need just cell phone flash and lanthern mode :) you can make light scattering on your video :)