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Old 06-13-2015, 05:36 AM
Mazryonh Mazryonh is offline
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Question Ways of making coloured muzzle flashes in films

I know that the chemicals to make coloured flames (and by extension coloured muzzle flashes) have been around for a long time, probably as long as fireworks making coloured lights have been around. The question is, how often have they been used to make coloured muzzle flashes in films?

I'm pretty sure that chemicals of that kind were used in old films like Akira Kurosawa's Ran, since that was made before CGI post-processing became mainstream (of course, this still leaves open the possibility of analog post-processing techniques, but with the number of visible muzzle flashes on screen for that movie that may not have been an economical or timely option). What about the original trilogy of Star Wars movies? The wiki states that the E-11 Blaster Rifles were actually blank-converted Sterling SMGs firing real blanks with the "blaster bolts" added into the film frames later, but were the red muzzle flashes added in later, or did they use special chemicals in the blanks to achieve that colour?

Can someone "in the biz" (as it were) tell me how much it would likely cost to get blanks loaded with those chemicals vs changing muzzle flash colours with computers? Just as an example, Ridley Scott's Prometheus used blanks for its firearms but changed them via digital manipulation, according to the wiki. Would it have been more expensive had they used special chemical blanks instead to get those blue muzzle flashes?
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Old 06-16-2015, 09:57 AM
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MoviePropMaster2008 MoviePropMaster2008 is offline
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Japan has prohibited firearms ownership for generations. Most of the Japanese films I've seen have 'flash paper' fake firearms (like the 'crime saga's of the 1970s-1990s). Kurosawa's RAN used actual Matchlock muskets and there is a special low powered black powder charge that looks 'pink' or 'magenta' when fired. I use low powered black powder charges and they have a definite 'pink' hue to the flash. But most of the Japanese cinema uses proprietary 'flash paper' guns.

I have never seen other colors in use (doesn't mean they don't exist but I haven't seen them). Most of the color variations are because they aren't using real firearms. Case in point: "the acetylene 'uzi' used in "The Osterman Weekend" had a very 'odd' color to the muzzle flash. What's weird that in the movie, when the assassin removes the 'magazine' from the gun, we see a flame flash out of the mag well, very strange looking! Wow, what a weird gun and back then, they thought it would replace real firearms, but those 'non traditional' solutions for having to fire real blanks never caught on.

No one ever stopped anyone from using various chemical to get colored flashes, but ultimately it's too expensive and too much of a hassle now, especially since we can change the color in post production. Just remember too, some chemical compounds to make weird colors are CORROSIVE and thus people don't want them in their blanks.
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Old 06-18-2015, 12:59 AM
Mazryonh Mazryonh is offline
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Thanks for the information about Ran and its pinkish muzzle flashes. Which pyrotechnic colouring chemicals are corrosive, exactly?

As a concrete example, the Chiappa Rhino 50DS used by Kate Beckinsdale from Total Recall (2012) had blue muzzle flashes (even though every other firearm in that film had conventional muzzle flashes). Let's suppose that, instead of relying on digital post-processing to turn muzzle flashes blue, they used special chemicals in the blanks. Wikipedia claims that the chemicals to make flames turn blue are copper-based, which shouldn't normally be corrosive, otherwise leftover copper from jacketed bullets would corrode gun barrels. Just how much more expensive would it be to use those chemicals?

There are times when CGI muzzle flashes don't really cut it. If it's an indoor area or a scene where there are walls or similar environmental objects close to the gun being fired, those objects usually won't light up with the muzzle flash (because lighting up the area with the properly-coloured light or doing so via CGI needs more out of a budget), which is fairly noticeable. Of course, if the background itself is largely CGI, such as in the Star Wars prequels, then it's easier to get the needed "environmental lighting" with CGI.

Last edited by Mazryonh; 06-18-2015 at 01:01 AM.
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