View Full Version : Controled Burn of Car

12-23-2011, 09:19 AM
Hey Guys, not sure of where to put this so if this isn't the right area let me know. I'm working on an upcoming short film in which I will need to do a controlled burn of a car with an actor "relatively close." He will be passed out on the ground. I'm wondering if anyone else has done this before LEGALLY. I am going to get in touch with my local fire department and see what they will need in order to do this. We are going to be getting the van from a junk yard (not working van) and have it towed to our location. Im thinking I will need to have all of the engine, gas tank and gas lines removed for safety wouldn't you think? Who would I need to contact to clean up the wreck afterwards.

Any and all help on this is greatly appreciated!!!

Matt B.

David W. Jones
12-23-2011, 10:25 AM
You might want to contact a pyrotechnician or FX specialist to setup a propane burn rig which has adjustable flame and can be turned on and off without actually burning up the vehicle.

Good Luck!


12-23-2011, 06:01 PM
Im thinking I will need to have all of the engine, gas tank and gas lines removed for safety wouldn't you think?

Good to see you've thought of this, but there's still the risk of other random mystery bits being dangerous, either burning or exploding unexpectedly during the burn.

If you're doing this for no money and so can't afford a pyro technician's help, you might want to consider designing the shot to be from ground level - that way you could fairly easily shoot the actor against greenscreen and then separately shoot the van with no one near it? Greenscreen can be a can of worms to get right though, especially if you haven't done it before, and involving fire will give you soem extra grief matching the lighting between the two shots.

Yes, at the very least involve your fire department (if only to avoid wasted time when concerned passersby call to report a fire), and prearrange someone to dispose of the wreckage later - the junk yard may have some good ideas re that.

Jarrett P. Morgan
12-23-2011, 06:30 PM
You may want to contact the local fire department with the proposal that they can put the fire of the car after you are finished filming as a training exercise. I did a shoot like that for a Diorites commercial (http://vimeo.com/16831151) where the firefighters came and used the shoot as training after we had finished shooting.

Also, you may need to have some wood inside the vehicle to provide the flames that you want for the film.

Also, be wary of the smoke coming out of the van. The smoke coming out of the plastics and such is NOT good to breathe, and can also corrode electronics (so be careful with the camera).

Just thoughts.

12-23-2011, 08:56 PM
All great things to think about thanks. I've contacted and am in the middle of negotiating with my local emergency services. We have received permission to shoot on private property thus negating the need for permits. We are going to shoot the actor on the ground a good 50 yards away..then place the camera another 6 or 7 yards from the actor....zoom in...and have the van out of focus in the background to make it harder to determine the distance between the van and our talent.

JPM thanks for bringing up the fumes...completely didn't think about it. Will def get masks for everyone and some form of cover for equipment. Good thing is the shot we need is only about 30 seconds haha.

12-24-2011, 04:23 AM
If an already burned-looking car is appropriate for the shot, might be good idea to burn the car once before the shoot away from everything. This way all the nasty plastics and other surprises would be gone. Second burning should be more safe and controlled.

12-24-2011, 06:00 AM
If your gonna blur the burning car, why not just do it all in post. I mean you can make some small fires around the car for smoke, then add the flmes in post. Just seems like an awful lot of work for a scene thats going to have the car blurred anyways.

12-24-2011, 08:13 AM
Meh, post/cg fire never looks right. This film is heading for the festival circuit and we are spending a good bit of money on it....better do it right. I did hear back from the fire department and they are excited. Said they would get me a firetruck to be at the set for free as long as they get to do a practice run on the car after we're done shooting. We are shootin' on private property...no permits. One of the reasons living in a small town is great. Everyone gets excited when you say the word movie and wants to be involved.

Michael Carter
12-28-2011, 01:56 PM
One small detail - you don't want masks (as in dust masks), you want respirators. Check with your fire guys. At the distances you're describing, if the wind is right, you may not need anything (but the firemen will!)

My understanding is that for fire scenes, gas talks are pulled, oil drained, steering and brake fluid reservoirs removed, AC systems purged, etc. For car-in-the-water scenes it becomes even more extreme.

01-02-2012, 10:59 AM
Thanks, when it gets closer to shoot time and I start me search for the right burnable vehicle I'll post info. I'll keep you guys informed!

David W. Richardson
01-03-2012, 06:57 AM
Be sure you have the airbag removed. That's a packed explosive sitting in your burning vehicle. Not good. I would also purge the pressure in the A/C line, personally. And, of course, remove the battery.

David W. Richardson
01-03-2012, 06:59 AM
There's also a part called a seat belt pretensioner. I'm not sure what it is, but it's labeled as a hazardous material when it's shipped as a part. I assume there's one on each seat belt, but I don't know that. Ask the shop that's providing the van.