How to Shoot Fire and Explosions

Fire and explosions are spectacular on the screen, and create immense production value when properly done.

If you want to maximize the effect, shoot them at night or in a dark location to get the best bang for your buck. The lighter the location the more it diminishes the impact of the effect. Remember in the dark of night you can see someone strike a match from over 300 yards away. It’s not just the actual ball of fire or explosion but the way it lights up the area and creates a visual concussion. It’s kind of like going to the trouble and expense to hire a great actor and immediately putting them in a monster suit which will greatly hinder their effectiveness.

It’s not that you can’t shoot during the day, but just keep in mind that it will compromise the effect. If you must shoot it in daylight try to create a dark background or be very near other objects, buildings, shaded areas etc. In a lighted area you want to at least achieve contrast. Frame you’re A-camera from ground level or low and tilt up with the subject matter low in the frame so it will catch the entire explosion and immediate aftereffect and rising ball of fire and smoke to totally fill the frame. The most important thing to achieve is Safety.

NOTE: Make sure you have a certified and licensed pyrotechnic technician if you’re planning on doing explosions. You can usually get cooperation from the local fire department and in some cases an EMS crews standing by when people are included. For body burns you should definitely have an experienced Stunt Coordinator and at least 4 to 5 others in the safety crew that focus on each individual task and assignment. (Don’t trust fire extinguishers as your only source of fire control especially on body burns; have something like wet blankets or other backup).

Stay safe,

Bobby Sargent
Producer, Writer, Director, 2nd Unit Director, Stunt Coordinator, Stunt Performer

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