Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Simulated Collision

We need to shoot a night scene where a small raft collides with a giant lake freighter. The scene calls for the freighter to hit the raft with a glancing blow off it's starboard bow, then we see the damaged raft rub along the side until it passes. A kid riding the raft jumps off just before collision.

We have a derelict freighter to use, one that's tied up in a harbor, and were thinking of dragging the raft along the ship's sides (with an offscreen boat towing an underwater a-frame hook) and the camera boat will flank the raft to give the illusion that the freighter's moving. The main problem is how to make the initial collision look realistic. A moving freighter throws quite a bow wave (while a stationary one throws none at all!). Any suggestions? Ideas for lighting would be also appreciated (a full moon and a few lights on the freighter would be the only logical practical sources of light). We thought a day-for-night would be a possibility, keeping the sky out of shot.

This is low budget video shoot.

Rob Tymstra
DP, Sarnia, Canada

>A moving freighter throws quite a bow wave (while a stationary one >throws none at all!). Any suggestions?

You have to make up your own water streams rushing sideways by the stationary freighter, starting as close to the boat's bow as possible so the water ahead of it is relatively still. Perhaps by using two - stationary - outboard engines: one slightly ahead of the boat's port bow, so it is hidden by the bow, with the propeller thrusting towards the bow; the other just working in the opposite side of the boat's bow, so the combined effect is that of a water stream being broken by the bow while the water ahead of it keeps more or less still.

I don't think this setup fits low budget (my concept of low budget, at least) if executed properly and safely anyway. The presence of a kid makes me shudder even more.

Being it low budget, IMO, shooting day for night is the most sensible approach (also the best if there is any decent portion of sea to be shown
in frame - you can even show sky, darkened by a good pola filter: I've seen two true-pol filters together making the sky literally black; shoot almost at noon). Also I think it would be better to put the available bucks into the setup and safety. Be ready to fill the shadows with some soft reflected sunlight if needed anyway.

Good luck!

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Madrid (Spain)

Robert Tymstra writes:

>A moving freighter throws quite a bow wave (while a stationary one >throws none at all!). Any suggestions?

I'd simply avoid the bow wave -- by having the foreground action hide it, and/or by choosing appropriate camera angles and fields of view. Then I'd put the bow wave on the soundtrack, advancing and receeding as appropriate... along with the requisite bumping and scraping sounds.

A heavy waterfall sound might serve as a dandy basis for a bow wave... but make sure there's a bit of irregular sloshing as well. Slowing down the sound by 5-10% should add some "gravitas."

Being forced to avoid the bow wave visually might even inspire more "oblique," creatively ominous shots. Keeping the ship out of focus as it looms up, or seeing it encroach only into the corners of your frame. That sort of thing. Then when the collision occurs you could slam into to a more straighforward, starkly realistic kind of coverage that emphasizes the sheer massiveness of the ship and the brutal texture of its exterior.

You'd still have to avoid seeing the waterline and avoid the raft's own bow
wave, or if you can't avoid it, at least tow the raft very slowly and undercrank the camera.

You might even avoid seeing the raft (hence, the waterline) entirely by shooting upward from the raft's position with a wide-angle lens, making sure the camera platform bumps the side of the ship regularly for effect. Appropriate sound effects will augment the tension considerably.

Dan Drasin
Marin County, CA

Robert Tymstra wrote:

> A moving freighter throws quite a bow wave (while a stationary one >throws none at all!). Any suggestions?

Get 1 or 2 fire hoses aiming directly at the bow. You can even test this out with a garden hose and a toy boat in a backyard wading pool.

Jay Madore
Calgary, AB

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