Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Bullet POV


Hi to all on the List

I have a drama script is asking for the following shot.

...Inside the barrel of (handgun), from bullets POV, moving forward as if travelling along a dark tunnel, picking up speed, to lightening fast, toward circle of light ..expanding to fill middle of circle of light, a face, a human face looking towards us for a millisecond as the bullet reaches the end of its journey....

How much of this could be achieved "in camera" (super 16mm) Special Rigs? Any ideas?

Would love to hear from list members

Lawrence Jones

Dear Fellow Worker :

What you want to accomplish is a powerful abstract visual which although possible could be done in camera. You could use as a base the exterior of the gun and the visual source of the face but you really should use the technological tools easily available to us to present ULTRA reality.

I have seen work my 21 year old grandson has done not unlike your shot and let me tell you it is scary. Going IN Camera would be a challenge but why take it ? It wont save you any money, it wont allow for many far out things available.

It may make you feel good by doing something very tough, but I am sure you have other challenges in your life more pressing and meaningful.

Take it easy but take it.

Haskell Wexler

A good peg would be the re-enactment inserts in the series CSI : Crime Scene Investigation.

I think there was an article on the series in a recent (within the last year) AC Magazine issue. Also the DVD collection of CSI has a behind-the-scenes featurette that talks about how they create these inserts. A lot of it is in-camera, if I remember correctly.


Paolo A. Dy
Director | Cinematographer | Screenwriter
Manila, Philippines
Work portfolio -

If you have the budget you could recreate the inside of a gun barrel with your art department. Make it large enough to actually be able to put .. say a Frazer lens system.

Sounds like it could be cheap enough to do for me.

You could make a bullet as well, and the fact that everything is dark will help you. Once again depending on your budget you could have them add a digital bullet.

Hope this helps.

Just using my imagination.


Ed Gutentag

>...Inside the barrel of (handgun), from bullets POV, moving forward[...]a >human face looking towards us for a millisecond as the bullet reaches >the end of its journey...

Aside from how to best achieve this from a technical stance (a live action under-cranked track in/out from the victims face combined with CGI barrel for my money) I can't help thinking that your script sells short the potential of such a 'look at me' sequence.

As well as the bullet POV you'd have a much more potent shot if you also initially saw the bullet at the bottom of the barrel then, as it travelled towards the camera (after seeing a nice 'thundercrack' of exploding gunpowder behind it!), performed a 180 degree pan inside the barrel to then assume the bullets perspective. To do this all without cuts would have to involve partial CGI. To hold focus down the barrel of a real gun, of even a model scaled up to accommodate a probe lens is going to require a hell of a stop.

The best method to create the shot depends a lot on how 'slick' you want the effect to be. There's a great 'bullet POV' shot at the end of Performance that travels through the crown of Mick Jagger's head and carries on through his brain.

There's certainly no CGI involved in that one!

Don't bullets spin anyway?

Tom Townend,

Wasn't there a similar bullet in barrel shot at the beginning of "Kill Bill Vol. 1"?

Dave Luxton
Edmonton, ALberta

Leaving aside how well the shot works in the film etc etc, and leaving aside for the moment the relative ease of doing this shot with photographic elements as opposed to CG, you might consider having a prop maker build a nice BIG barrel to work with - my first thought was to start with some sono-tube (the big cardboard tubes that they use as concrete forms when pouring columns or footings) and build an 18 inch or two foot diameter barrel.

You could route the rifling grooves right through the sonotube from the outside, taping it over (or gluing over the groove with something) as you go so the tube doesn't fall apart. Bondo and glossy paint and you have a gun barrel large enough to get a camera on a stick through just some musings...may not be cost effective etc - it depends on your resources - but might be fun to work out

Mark Weingartner
LA based

Shots like this beg to be a blend of practical effects and CGI. Under cranking and an oversized gun barrel interior could be done in camera; flourishes of a gunpowder flash around the fringe of frame, as well as the "circle of light" would probably be best done in post.

I gaffed a project recently that involves a shot that follows a bullet through the sky, bouncing on the ground and rolling to a stop at the base of a road sign. The final shot was a tilt down from the sky (allowing room for a CG bullet to fall), then the camera picks up the bullet as it rolls along the sidewalk. The camera dollied along the edge of the sidewalk, and an over scaled bullet was mounted on a rod to the dolly. The bullet could spin freely on the rod as it "rolled" along the ground, and the rod was painted chroma blue for removal. I haven't seen the final composited shot, but the element of in- camera effects added to the CGI will help blur the line between reality and the artificial.

Michael A. Nash
DP - Pasadena, CA

Michael A. Nash wrote :

>The bullet could spin freely on the rod as it "rolled" along the ground, >and the rod was painted chroma blue for removal.

This is a bit off topic, but it always cracks me up when prop guys do that (paint the rod blue "for removal"), as if painting it blue allows a compositor to magically press a button, have the object disappear perfectly, and magically reveal what was behind it when it was shot. The reality is that removing an object is the easy part. You create a mask around it, and animate the mask - necessary in almost every case because regardless of what color you paint it, it still won't be able to be keyed cleanly due to shadows and the fact that it isn't flatly lit any more than anything else in the scene, especially in the case of a round object like a rod. The more difficult task is recreating whatever is supposed to be behind it, particularly if the shot was not shot with motion control and a clean pass performed, and particularly if the rod was casting a shadow that is visible in the frame.

Personally, if the object to be removed is obvious, I usually don't paint it anything but black, because blue or green in any kind of brightly lit environment will likely cause spill on nearby objects that become yet another problem in compositing.

Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles

Lawrence Jones writes :

>bullets POV, moving forward as if travelling along a dark tunnel, picking >up speed, to lightening fast, toward circle of light ...

Your target represents a bellicose, ignorant, lying, corrupt politician who has violated the public trust, I presume.

Anyway, I'm not clear about the level of realism you're after. Presumably you're not going to simulate the real acceleration and muzzle speed of a bullet -- otherwise your sequence would require less than a single frame. And bullets shot from rifled barrels spin on their long axis. You probably don't want to simulate that, either!

Mark's tube suggestion sounds like the way to go, but I'd use a much smaller-diameter tube (3"-6"?) and a probe-type lens so you can use a seamless tube of the right proportions and still move the lens all the way through it and beyond.

If you're planning to do the shot practically you'll no doubt want to use a dollying camera with wide-angle (probe) lens -- I doubt that a zoom will give you the feeling you want. You might also consider shooting it in reverse, so your shot ends up right on target with no appearance of last-moment corrections as the camera approaches the face. On the other hand, it'll probably be easier to shoot forward, start with the tube clamped down, and then release the clamps as the probe comes out the other side of the tube -- so the tube can travel forward with the camera

Painting and lighting the inside of the tube will be critical -- and obviously the smaller the tube the more difficult to paint and light. You'll want it to pass for shiny, dark metal, and the rifling grooves will have to look distinct and believable throughout the entire move inside the barrel.

Dan "bang, he's dead!" Drasin
Marin County, CA

"La Femme Nakita"... the French one ... had a good bullet POV.

I agree with Haskell do it "in computer" rather than in camera.

Nick Hoffman NYC DP

Michael Most wrote :

>it always cracks me up when prop guys do that (paint the rod blue "for >removal"), as if painting it blue allows a compositor to magically press a >button, have the object disappear perfectly

Wise words Michael.

It's amazing how many times producers have said we are shooting a pack against blue or green with all its attendant spill and reflection problems than against white or black .

Mike Southon

>as if painting it blue allows a compositor to magically press a button, >have the object disappear perfectly, and magically reveal what was >behind it when it was shot.

I agree completely!

In this case, the prop bullet/rod was lit with pools of overhead light with double Bastard Amber gel to emulate sodium vapour streetlights -- almost no blue wavelengths in there! Not to mention the hard shadows and lack of a clean background plate. FWIW, the DP was astute enough about the issues and simply framed out the rod.

Michael A. Nash
DP - Pasadena, CA

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