Making of Teaminator: Adding transparent bullet holes onto an actor

One Saturday my girlfriend and I thought what to do and came up with the idea to make a short experimental movie with the Canon 7D in preparation for a bigger one. Also, I always wanted to do some more technical tests with using the slow-motion mode as well as doing some more advanced video effects. The result can be seen here and this is how we made it:

We first had to come up with an idea. We quickly pinned it down to a scene from Terminator 2 which I had just seen some days before, the one at the end in the steel factory when they shoot the T-1000 down into the lava. He has big bullet holes from the shotgun which allow the audience to see through him. Of course, shooting your girlfriend isn’t the nicest thing to do, so we improvised a little quarrel to justify it 😉

From other movies I still have some props. We could reuse some of my softair guns. They have moving parts but don’t fire or anything like that. They also have no bullets flying out.

Filming was pretty straight forward, we did only 4-5 takes since the full shot only lasts for 11 seconds. We had the camera in 1280*720 at 59 frames mode. Important for post-production is that she did not have her arm in front of her body, it would have taken forever. So this is the reason why she switches her gun which might seem quite illogical otherwise.

The biggest part by far was post-production. The movie basically consists of two parts: the acting and the commercial. First step: slow-motion scenes. With Adobe Premiere Time Stretching I reduced the speed to around 25-30% during the shooting sequences, having the reload only in the second one for more drama.

Then the bullet holes were added in After Effects. This took some time to get the right mixture of growth animation and glow. In the background is a photo of the scene without the actors which acted as the background in the holes. I took a picture of a metal bullet hole, masked out the middle part and let it grow and shrink on where the bullet hit with transfer mode divide. With motion tracking I locked it to the actor but since there is bending and rotating I fixed nearly every frame to get the rotation of the hole correct so that it does not move unnaturally.

Some muzzle flash was added to the gun and also a bullet being thrown out of it. If you look closely there is also a tiny explosion and hole in the sofa where I used the picture of a flesh wound (fits to the red sofa) with color burn transfer mode. The final bullet contains some layered firecracker animations to create the sparkling electrical effect.

Now to the commercial. The box consists of three sides which were created as separate compositions. They then were rotated in 3D space to form the illusion of a single box. The font is supposed to match the original movie font. The melting animation uses several effects: the melting itself is done by Blobbylize. To get rid of the borders which would appear a CC lens adds a spherical effect. An animated Leave Color reduces it to the chrome like look adding a tiny amount of color back during the animation. Light Sweep is used to show the glowing bar when the original box appears, which is brought in front with a Linear Wipe (where one box is wiped out and on wiped in meeting exactly at the Light Sweep).

The final element was to put sound to it. We had the audio track with the actors speaking already. Right with the first shot the Terminator theme music starts and is taken up again with the beginning of the commercial. To intensify the slow-motion effect of the second shot where also the reload happens in slow-motion the audio is slowed as well. Finally during the melting animation the typical Terminator sound effect is inserted, the tata ta tata, tata ta tata.

My learnings were that even such a small movie can take incredible amounts of time when one wants to get the details correct. The funny thign is: When I took another look at Terminator afterwards I realized that they cheated a lot. Most of the times they simply planted some fake bullet holes on his body and filmed sideways so that you cannot look through him. I guess back in the days also the pros struggled with this effect 😉

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