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Gunfire Blasts, Flashes and Muzzle Flares
Adding and/or emphasizing muzzle and gun barrel flares.
By Ryan Foss as seen in Bullets over Breakfast

Too cheap. concerned for safety, not enough time? Screw using blanks, just add digital effects. This tutorial explores the methods Quantum Petshop developed to add gun blasts and muzzle flares to gunfire action scenes. Though the concept is easy, this method explains how to make more flashy effects by using simple methods. Don't settle for hand drawn effects or generic plug-ins.

muzzle flash flare
Sample Image

See the effect in action by watching Bullets over Breakfast.

Bullets over Breakfast gun blast sample frames

Due to continued interest from Quantum Petshop's short film Bullets over Breakfast, and to help promote the DVD sale, we've turned one of the Bullets over Breakfast Special Edition DVD's extra features into an (abridged) online tutorial. In other words, this is basically a written version of the Gunfire extra feature provided on the Bullets over Breakfast Special Edition DVD (see details about the DVD and its extra features). It should be stressed that this method was used to make some of the gun barrel blast effects, though the concept has been represented in its entirety.

First off, if you want to add muzzle flares/gun blasts easily there is software and plug-ins that already do it (such as DigiEffects' Delirium for After Effects or Premier). Course, Quantum Petshop is too cheap to buy these things and we feel they always look too generic anyway. Besides, we enjoy figuring out how to do it ourselves. (Hire Quantum Petshop to do it for you? Contact us.) On with the tutorial, here we go.

Start out with a still from the moment in the video where the gun is fired. Bring it into Adobe Photoshop (version shouldn't matter). Still from Bullets over Breakfast

Draw a rough shape. In this case I used white to emphasize the center area of the blast. The shape was done very quickly, with little regard for actual size or direction. Add a simple white blast shape
Add color to the edges of the blast. How you do it is up to you, but I just selected the white area and then expanded upon my selection with a new color. Add color to the edges
Blur some. This will help the edges become more interesting. Blur the rough blast shape

Ok, so it looks cheesy so far. Well, what can you expect from 1 minutes effort. Don't stop here because here's the trick: use the Distort>Displace filter and use a grunge image of some sort. You could use a picture of dirt, or a picture of your Mommy, but we use a render & difference clouds image like below. You can make your own "clouds" image easily, but for greater detail, consult our The Versatility of Photoshop's Render Clouds tutorials.

render clouds
Example image used for displacement.
Must be saved as a .psd file.

Ryan with render cloud displacement distortion applied
An example of what using a cloud image and the Distort>Displace filter will do.

After 5+ distortions with various % settings (both positive and negative), the flare should now look more organic and interesting. However, since it depends greatly on the displacement image and the percentages (& direction) applied, there's no telling what the blast might look like now. In this case, we decided to rotate and scale it to fit better.

distorted gun blast effect

Additionally, I cutout the gun blast to match the scene. I also added some glow and glare around the hand and gun.

Bullets over Breakfast gun blst frame

This image was saved and brought directly into my NLE, Adobe Premier, and placed on the timeline with a duration 1 frame (~1/30th of a second).

Again, I want to stress that this tutorial is provided as promotional material for our short film Bullets over Breakfast. Its a short and condensed version of one of the Gunfire extra feature on the Bullets over Breakfast Special Edition DVD. (Follow the DVD link for sample videos of the extra features.)

Don't forget to checkout our entire Tutorials section.

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