Movie car scenes, particularly high speed chases, can make our heart pump with excitement because they look so dangerously real and terrifying. What could be the techniques used by filmmakers when creating spectacular action scenes inside moving cars?
Not a few of those involved in filming car scenes say that those are among the most difficult and expensive shots of modern action movies. There was a time when actors merely acted everything out, from driving the car to making viewers believe they are being chased at breakneck speed. Yet that was a long time ago, when a technique called chroma keying or chroma key compositing was the only and safest method to use in shooting footage of car scenes.
Overview of the Chroma Key Compositing Method
Chroma key compositing is actually a method used in creating visual effects, mostly as part of the post production processes. This technique is widely harnessed not only in movie making but in other fields as well, such as in video game development and in newscasting. Two images or video streams are fused together, by laying one on top of the other.
Earlier chroma key compositing methods entailed removing the background of one image or video clip, whilst using the other image or video as new background. The contemporary version of this approach, made the compositing or layering process easier by shooting or filming an actor or subject against a “green or blue screen.”
Post production technicians will then insert the desired background image or footage, as backdrop of the foreground actor or object in ways that will allow the green or blue screen to become transparent. The chroma keying process will then make it appear that the footage of the actor or object was filmed in a setting or location deemed appropriate for a particular scene.
In more ambitious film projects and in the most successful ones like the “Fast and the Furious” film franchise, other techniques using camera mounts and process trailers are the key elements for creating riveting car scenes with maximum reality.
A Brief Glimpse at How “Fast and the Furious” Movies were Made to Look Superbly Realistic
A film-making technique that can create realistic scenes on a different level, is one in which actors are actually riding in a stationary car, while acting in real time background. As an actor is made to appear as if he or she is actually driving a car, the filming process requires the use of a process trailer.
What is a Process Trailer
A process trailer is a trailer used as a low platform on which to load a vehicle where an actor or his/her stunt double, acts out a scene inside a non-moving car. The stationary car will still appear as a moving vehicle in the filmed footage because a tracking trailer tows the low platform on which the car is positioned. At the same time, the tracking trailer also serves as a moving camera platform, where the camera men take positions in front, on both sides, and on top of the towing vehicle.
The production team of the “The Fast and the Furious” franchise films takes pride in sharing that they also used a fleet of real cars to make every difficult car scene incredibly realistic. Dennis McCarthy, the lead car coordinator for four of the “Fast and Furious” series, said they actually purchased cars to partially or fully destroy.
As part of the filming processes, McCarthy’s crew built identical copies as backup vehicles to use, after one has been totally wrecked or damaged intentionally for a film segment. He also let out the secret that when it comes to buying junk cars, they usually have to meticulously comb classified ads.
They were able to track down cars in models and make that they were looking for, in the Mojave desert. Each piece cost them at least $7,000 plus cost of auto towing, because most of the cars they bought were actually “90 percent garbage.”