Diamonds are not just a girl’s best friend. Time to add armor-piercing capabilities to a .44 hollowpoint.


Oh, and hey! Max let me throw some of my own fire into this one! Mostly hidden behind a truck, but still.



Shooting Fire


All right! Back to writing about subjects in which I actually feel somewhat knowledgeable! Like damaging my own equipment!

Actually, I managed to avoid scorching anything this time, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The black smoke and fire mix used for the effect on this page was good ol’ DetFilms Black #2, which was a major upgrade to Detfilms Black #1. Nothing wrong with the look of #1, but it was mildly toxic and rather smelly. DetFilms Black #2 is none of these things, and I think it looks great. Here’s a teaspoonful of the stuff being ignited against a greenscreen backdrop.


This fireball is only eight inches high, but it has a good rolling billow, red-orange flame and some marvelously dense black smoke. It’s surprisingly tough to get a good black smoke in small quantities. People say things like “burn old tire rubber” but if you’ve ever tried it, you’ll discover that it only works if you are burning a whole stack of tires. Burning a small piece of rubber just doesn’t give the heat needed for soot generation. So I’m fairly pleased with this formulation.

I was also shooting a few titanium comets. These are a fairly standard effect, often seen in Michael Bay films as an adjunct to — well, almost anything, really. Explosions, scraping metal, things crashing in the street, lights being shot out; if it’s mechanical action, sparks improve the look, and titanium comets are just a way of pushing the spark thing one more level. Every time Mr. Bay makes a film titanium prices shoot through the roof, and when I see his movies I understand why. His pyro guys must buy up China’s whole output for two straight months.

But the nice thing about spark stuff is that it is one of the easiest things to add in post. And while the completely computer-generated spark effects are getting pretty darned decent, I still prefer the look of the real thing, even if composited in afterward. (Yes, I sound like one of those audiophiles waxing nostalgic about “vinyl.” So sue me.) And let’s face it, firing streaks of sparks around in the darkness is just plain fun.

So I whipped up a batch of comets, set up three cameras carefully arranged to catch as much of the effect as possible while not actually getting in each other’s way, and did my best to actually punch a comet right into a lens. I figured if I’m trying to avoid it, I always manage to end up smacking a camera somehow. So maybe if took deliberate aim at the equipment, the Invocation of Murphy would cause me to just barely miss.

Which is how it turned out. This is one of the shots, seen from the three different cameras. I could not have threaded that needle any closer if I’d tried.


So I got the shots, and no cameras were injured in the process.

But I know that now I’ve written about it, it will never work again. For such is the curse of Murphy.

— Bob out.