Courtesy of Simon, from HitFilm

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Today it’s all about making guns go boom. See this? This is my BOOMstick!
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We’ve already shown you how to film fake guns so that they look real. Now let’s take
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a look at how you make them actually do something. We have two shots and two techniques. Let’s
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go. Shot number one – here we have stuntman Christopher
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firing off controlled, carefully aimed shots. When you’ve got a character shooting individual
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bullets like this, you probably want to hand-craft the look, which means using stock footage.
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Here’s the original clip. Let’s find a frame where we see a puff of smoke coming
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out of the prop. Just before that puff is when we need our muzzle flash to happen.
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You can download project files for this tutorial. Click the infocard or check the video description
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for the link. We’re giving away a high quality stock clip, so it’s worth grabbing.
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OK, so I’m going to create a point layer and position it over the gun barrel. Because
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our muzzle flashes are not too frequent I’m not going to bother doing any tracking this
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time round – positioning the point manually is fine. I’ll rename it to Barrel.
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Then I’ll drop my stop clip onto the timeline. First up I want to get rid of the black background,
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so I’ll find the Demult effect in the library and drop it onto the layer. I’m now going
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to parent it to our Barrel point, then position and scale the clip until it looks about right.
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Too small and muzzle flashes look silly. Too big and they’ll look unrealistic.
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Once you’re happy with the position, let’s tweak the look. I’m going to use an Exposure
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effect, and bump up the exposure to make it look more intense. I’m then going to add
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a Hue, Saturation & Lightness effect, go into the Red channel settings and drop the saturation
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all the way down. This stops it from looking quite so day-glo.
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Now here’s the interesting bit. I’m going to sling the Heat Distortion effect on. By
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fiddling with Distortion and Diffusion Strength we can alter the look of the muzzle flash
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without changing it’s overall shape. This is a really neat way to get lots of slightly
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different muzzle flashes out of a single piece of stock.
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Finally, I’ll put a zoom blur on, which gives the flash a bit more dynamism.
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OK, we’re done with the stock. It’s only a handful of frames, so we don’t need to
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worry about additional tracking or animation. It looks a bit pasted on, so let’s tweak.
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I’m going to add a new Plane layer, above the stock, and to that I’ll add a Light
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flare. In the light flare properties I’m going to choose the Sun Glare type, then in
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rays I’ll drop the brightness down because I don’t want none of yo rays. In the Hotspot
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options I’ll parent the flare to the Barrel point we created back at the start, and zero
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out the position so it’s right on top. I also need to change the blend mode, which
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I’ll set to None, and then change the layer’s blend mode to Screen.
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Then it’s about tweaking the scale to make the flare nice and big. I’ll then activate
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keyframing for the Intensity, and over three or four frames drop it down to zero. Finally
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I’ll use the Slice tool to cut the ends off the layer, which I’ll delete, to keep
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things neat and tidy. So it’s also a good idea in this case to
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change the light flare color, to better match the muzzle flash. I’m going to do that by
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simply selecting one of the yellows in the flash.
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Right, last step. I’m going to duplicate the video layer, and rename the top layer
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to Lighting. I’m then going to select the freehand mask tool, and draw a really rough
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shape around the front of Christopher, where I think he’d be illuminated by the weapons
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fire. Once I’m happy with the shape, I’ll increase the roundness to smooth it off, put
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the feather up to hide the edge, and tweak the expansion if needed.
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To this layer I’ll add a Curves effect, and ramp the brightness way up – even so it
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clips and blows out – while keeping the blacks solid. I’ll then animate the layer’s Opacity
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so that the curves adjustment is only visible over the frames when the muzzle flash is happening.
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And now we have the illusion of Christopher being lit up by the flash, which immediately
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adds a HUGE amount of realism to the shot. It’s one of those elements which an audience
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will KNOW is missing, even if they can’t quite pinpoint what’s wrong.
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Now, the cool thing about how we’ve set this up is that if we want another muzzle
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flash, say over here at this point, all I need to do is select our flare and stock layers,
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copy them, and then paste them in over here. Because these copies are still parented to
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the Barrel point, all we have to do now is move that point. So I’ll head back to our
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first muzzle flash and activate Position keyframing for our Barrel point. Then I’ll go to our
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second muzzle flash and move the Barrel point to where it needs to be.
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By default we have linear keyframes, which means the point animates between those keyframes.
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We don’t actually want that, so I’m going to select both keyframes and switch them to
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Constants. That means that the value doesn’t interpolate between keyframes: it’ll hold
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on that value until it reaches the next keyframe, at which point it jumps instantly there. Because
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our flare and stock are linked to the point, they both move at the same time, which saves
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us having to reposition both elements manually. SHOT 2
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OK, shot #2. This one is very different, because it’s
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a much wilder shot, with more movement, and the character is firing the weapon indiscriminately
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and rapidly. Placing individual, stock-based muzzle flashes on something like this would
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be incredibly boring. So let’s not do that. We’re gonna get
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procedural. First up, we’re going to track the gun.
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This is actually a little awkward, because it’s a black gun barrel which frequently
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passes in front of a very, very dark background. Tracking a black thing in front of a black
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thing isn’t ideal. I’ll create a new tracker using the + icon
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next to the Tracks group for the layer. Then I’m going to go into the options for Optical
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FLow and ramp iterations up to 50. You don’t normally need to do this, but it’ll help
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in this case by giving the tracker more data to work with.
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Next I’ll go to somewhere in the middle of the clip where the barrel is visible and
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position my tracker over the barrel. Red rectangle define what we’re looking for, green rectangle
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defines where we’re going to look for it on each frame. OK, let’s go. This track
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does require a bit of manual nudging here and there, but on the whole HitFilm does a
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pretty good job of figuring out what’s going on.
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OK, skipping ahead, I now have my nice track. Tracking data is just a bunch of numbers until
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you do something with it, so let’s create a new Point layer, again called Barrel, and
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we’ll assign that tracking data to it. This time, instead of pre-made stock we’re
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going to use HitFilm’s Gunfire effect, which can create an infinite variety of custom muzzle
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flash shapes. It’s pretty neat. Once the gunfire effect is on the timeline,
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I’ll parent it to the tracked barrel point and make sure its position is zeroed out.
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It’s as bit diddy right now, so I’ll scale it up to about 360%. So the other super cool
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thing about the Gunfire effect is that it’s in 3D, so I’ll adjust its orientation to
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point in the right direction – the great thing about this is that you’re not limited to
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stock flashes which always tend to point sideways or towards camera – with the gunfire effect
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you can handle any angle. Now it’s time to dial in all the options
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so this actually looks good. Being British, I don’t know for sure what this kind of
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gun SHOULD look like, so I’m going to go with what I think looks cool. Remember that
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the effect is totally customisable, so you can make it look like whatever you want.
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I’ll start off with the core flare options, tweaking its length, radius and tapers until
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I’ve got something nice and punchy. Then with the side flares I’ll reduce them
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down to 3, and tweak the barrel gap and barrel angle before adjusting their size with the
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length and radius options. This isn’t an exact science.
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In Appearance, I’ll switch the texture to Assault Rifle (Daylight). You can tweak the
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color if you want as well. Now for the cool bit. Currently our flash
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is visible throughout the shot, and looks the same all the way through. I’m going
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to go to the first frame and activate the Seed property. THen I’ll jump to the end
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and change the seed to something else – the specific value doesn’t really matter. What
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this means is that the flash will be randomly generated to look slightly different on each
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frame, while still retaining your overall design.
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Finally, I’ll drop the rate of fire down, to maybe about 35. This automatically turns
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the flash on and off, which is fantastic for a rapid-firing automatic weapon like this.
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No tedious keyframing.
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This prop weapon didn’t generate real puffs of smoke, so let’s add those digitally.
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Conveniently, there’s a preset in HitFilm 4 Pro called Gunsmoke. I’m going to drop
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that on beneath our gunfire layer, and then I’ll go in and find the emitter shape and
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parent its position to the Barrel point. I also need to do a bit of keyframing work to
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the particle system’s Active property, turning it on and off at random intervals so that
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the smoke puffs out every now and then. Another good tip for the muzzle flashes is
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to add a slight blur to them, because the depth of field on these shots was actually
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quite shallow. And that’s pretty much all I need to do,
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other than maybe dropping the layer’s opacity down a bit to make it subtler.
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The final steps are similar to the other shot – creating a masked duplicate of the video
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to create artificial lighting. The only difference here is that I used the Flicker effect to
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add random flickering. The same Flicker trick can be used on a light
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flare, also parented to the Barrel point. Another good tip for the muzzle flashes is
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to add a slight blur to them, because the depth of field on these shots was actually
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quite shallow. There you have it – two very different techniques
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for creating muzzle flashes. Which one you use depends on the needs of the shot, and
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whether you’re dealing with individual flashes or hundreds of the damn things.
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That’s all for this week – many thanks for watching, and remember: if you’re shooting
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with guns, always inform the police ahead of time and stay safe.
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We have a new video every Tuesday, so hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss out and get s



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