Help with 3D models in Hitfilm?

HeySiri Posts: 386 Just Starting Out*
edited November 2018 in Practical Filmmaking

First off, thank you to everyone who replies to these and helps out other filmmakers in need!

So, I'm making a short film, and I don't have Hitfilm Pro (yet) but I may buy it during the sale starting tomorrow. Let's assume I have it for simplicity's sake. In the film, these seven teenagers are attempting to shoot down an alien freighter (about 350 feet in length—the ship will be a 3D model), and as they do it crashes in a field behind them.

Two things about this scene:

One, as the alien ship crashes there'd be a lot of dirt, dust, debris, et cetera, and the ship would probably be lodged into the ground a bit (although I'm good with it resting on top of the ground instead of being a bit worn into it). How do I create this crashing sequence? To save work, I could do the ship approaching the ground, a reaction shot from the teenagers and then looking back at the already crashed ship. But, there would still be much dust and debris and stuff, so how would I do that?

Two, and MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY, in the following two minutes during a small action scene the crashed ship is behind them nearly the entire time. I can shoot from all angles so I don't have to be seeing the ship constantly but it should be in the background for a few seconds at least once. How do I have it connected to the background when the camera is going to be rotating and panning a lot? And how do I have it in the background if actors are standing between the cameras and the field?


  • JBaymore
    JBaymore Posts: 386 Enthusiast

    If you haven't yet checked it out, go look at Production Crate's various effects for ideas about what you can possibly add to the "crash".  Some effects are free, and the membership rate is very inexpensive to get access to all of them for a year.  Lots of dust and smoke and debris flying type effects.



  • tddavis
    tddavis Posts: 5,200 Expert

    @HeySiri I thought I'd seen a tutorial on something like what you describe but a google search didn't turn it up and then I remembered it was a Udemy course I took.  It's only $9.99 but that may put it out of your budget.

    Just in case...

  • JBaymore
    JBaymore Posts: 386 Enthusiast
    edited November 2018

    @HeySiri I'm FAR from a pro at this......... and others I am sure will have far more 'elegant' and professional  ways....... but relative to this:

                 "And how do I have it in the background if actors are standing between the cameras and the field?"

    Maybe shoot the actors on a greenscreen backdrop for that one short ship-in-the-background shot, and then place them over a composite shot that combined both the crashed ship (and effects) and the general field background video that was shot without the actors for that one shot. 

    Duplicate the camera angles that you shoot the actors in the field with WITHOUT THEM in it so that you have one that can be greenscreened.




  • HeySiri
    HeySiri Posts: 386 Just Starting Out*

    After several script changes, I now don't have to see the ship crashing (which is nice and easier). But, the main characters still have to come across the crashed ship in the field. When they come across it, I can set up a green screen so that it appears behind them, but how do I blend the 3D model of the ship within the environment? It's not just tracking it, it has to kinda look crashed, so I how do I do this?

  • CleverTagline
    CleverTagline Posts: 3,331 Ambassador

    "how do I blend the 3D model of the ship within the environment? It's not just tracking it, it has to kinda look crashed, so I how do I do this?"

    Very carefully. ;)

    All kidding aside, it's going to be a multi-pronged process (and for full transparency, I've never done anything like this; just going from what feels right). One prong is going to be lighting, i.e. matching light and shadow from your live environment on the ship model. Another prong is texturing, making the ship look properly weathered from general use, as well as damaged from the crash. Another prong will be blending the ship into the environment: color correction, lens blur, masking parts that need to appear to be behind items from your live plate, adding debris around the ship to represent the crash, etc. (and the debris may also need its own lighting and texturing passes as well). Another prong will be effects: smoke, sparks, etc. (also requiring lighting, texturing, blending, etc).  Another prong will be audio: engine hum, mechanical noises as you see fit, even subtle sounds of environmental stuff (trees, grass, bushes, people, animals, etc.) that might be interacting with the ship.

    There may be more, but those are the key prongs that come to mind off the top of my head. Take each one of those and think carefully about what you want for each one, then start working on them one at a time. After a while, you'll be jumping back and forth between them to fine-tune things, but at the start you'll likely spend more focused time on each one. Just work through them all methodically. Also pull up footage from professionally-made projects where spaceships have been added to a live scene and study what they did to make it look right. Find VFX breakdowns of stuff like that, especially those where they show each layer being added, and study those.

    And most importantly, get feedback. Share your in-progress work here, and with folks around you who you trust.

  • Stargazer54
    Stargazer54 Posts: 3,798 Ambassador

    Excellent advice @jsbarrett@HeySiri I can't stress enough that once you have identified each effect layer that goes into the shot you need to work on each one independently in a test mode until you get each part of the effect working.  For faster feedback on your tests, you should use simple models as stand ins so response time is faster and  you can accomplish iterations of your tests much quicker. 

    Definitely look through breakdowns of SFX shots for ideas.  And don't be afraid to scale back.  Sometimes, less is more.  Maybe you don't have to show the whole ship, just a tail section and some smoke?

    Probably one of the worst effects shots I've seen in a feature film is the crash of the Enterprise D saucer section in Generations.  Great CGI of it hitting the atmosphere but when it hit the surface they switched to a physical model being dragged along and mowing down miniature trees on a physical set.   In some shot angles, the scale on the motion was off and it just looked "fake".  It was old school and probably would have sold visually 30 years ago, but not today.  Cutting back and forth between CGI and miniatures can be a very tricky proposition.  The director would have been better served to use only the best miniature shots and only sparingly.  Hanging on marginal effect too long will give it away and take the audience out of the story.

    The story is the most important part.  The rest is window dressing.

  • HeySiri
    HeySiri Posts: 386 Just Starting Out*

    @Stargazer54 I know exactly what you mean about that Enterprise D scene. It was supposed to be all CGI but the budget couldn't afford it. But as a kid it looked cool I guess! However, now it does look kind of fake. That was a good movie, though, in my opinion...

    Anyways, I like your idea of less is more. I could use a lot of smoke to hide the blended edges between the ship and the environment.

  • JBaymore
    JBaymore Posts: 386 Enthusiast

    @HeySiri "Anyways, I like your idea of less is more. I could use a lot of smoke to hide the blended edges between the ship and the environment."

    Smoke, fire, and sparks can hide a multitude of sins.  ;)



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