Introduction: Movie Miniature Special Effects Magic

Rambo MIkeasaurus style.

Long ago on Instructables, I was really interested in seeing Indy Mogul(Backyard FX) projects as they had some great builds to create DIY special effects for film making or videos. Taking inspiration from them, this was just a fun after dinner project…well, one that spans a few dinner nights.

I think you should build up skills and technique on anything and everything to strive to be a MMA, mixed media artist. This project requires a whole random mix of stuff to accomplish so it will be more of an outline of what needs to be done as details will bog you down. Half the fun is experimenting yourself to be able to figure out the fine workings of each step as necessary.

Step 1: Getting Scrappy...

There is a Big and Small instructables contest going on. I'm tossing around ideas on what to do.

For my first ever instructable I made a Giant Toothbrush.

I already did a Giant Thermometer Scarf and so on…..

On the other end of the scale is to go small. But I like making giant things.

How about something along the lines of a Godzilla movie.

I guess the only big troublemaker I know is Mikeasaurus.


It just happened I had some scrap material left over when I recently hemmed up a pair of pants. Hmmm, with that bit of scrap I could make a pair of tiny pants. You could then put that on like a glove and use your fingers to move the legs. Hmmm, a miniature puppet person. I just sewed a few seams and had a miniature pair of pants. Kinda like doll clothes but bigger.

Step 2: Put Your Foot in It...

To complete the look, I needed a pair of shoes.

I glued up some craft foam.

Just like constructing a real shoe, start with a couple layers of craft foam for the sole and glue them together.

Since glue takes a long time to dry with a nonporous material like craft foam, I glued on pieces of cut index card to form the heel counter.

I built up the thickness with craft foam.

I then built up the front of the shoe with more foam layers.

I embedded two penny coins to give the shoe some heft and weight(used for later...)

More bits of card and paper were used to "tape" or cover the foam pieces so that they would be held in place while the glue sets and holds.

I painted the shoe with a wide tip black marker.

I coated with glue to protect the finish.

After trimming around the foam to its final shape, I glued on a piece of knotted string to be the laces.

I found some textured craft foam at the discount store so I glued that on to the bottom of the shoes to more closely resemble the textured bottom of a real shoe.

Step 3: Suit Up...

I tested out how the pair of miniature pants fit on the hand and wore the shoes on the fingers.

It kinda fit like a glove with the non-leg fingers bunched up. I added a piece to fill the opening that was around the back of the pants. This made it easier to hide the hand when the puppet legs move and are filmed.

I added a strip of fabric to be the lower part of the shirt. It additionally helps to hide the rest of the hand.

Since I was going to do some green-screen effects later on, you want to plan things ahead on what color you want the people and props to wear so it doesn't get blurred out in the green-screen process.

The top of the "glove" was hemmed into a closed tube with a band of elastic webbing to help keep it snug when worn.

Step 4: Smoke and Mirrors, and a Green Screen...

I use open-source GIMP as my graphics editor. I am still learning how to use it. It's little things like making images you need that challenge you to figure out how to create it.

I have iMovie on my mac machine. It has a green-screen feature in the movie editor. I had switched from a Windows machine a while back since green-screen was difficult or cumbersome to do in Windows Movie Maker.

But anyway, I think with making any video or short film, you want to have a storyboard or list of ideas of what scenes you want to create.

I had a couple of ideas in my head and went out to create some still images that I will overlay onto live action video clips.

Post-production or when you go edit the video, is when you can use the special effects that you have in your movie editor. Crop your shots to focus your attention on the screen.

I used the "noir" film filter effect to turn everything into black & white color. It also cuts out a lot of the color/brightness matching you would want to do with a video in color.

Make your story come alive.

Step 5: Just Crushing It...

I wanted to create something similar to the monster destroying a building in its path.

I made cardboard model of a building. It is just the printed image glued on to a cardboard backer. Cardboard strips were glued on the back to prop up the building "Western" town facade set style.

The miniature letter puzzle pieces will appear giant in the video.

The miniature facade has a chute attached to the entry portal to drop the tiny prop letters.

I cut out the arch facade of the building as the second set piece. It will pivot down when the scene is shot.

The interior is covered with crumbly-type(sugar wafer) cookies to simulate the building that the feet crash out of.

When filmed in slow-motion, it will look like all the dust and debris from real demolition. Add flour or talcum powder for additional dust.

Leave real pyrotechnics to the professionals. You can simulate electrical cables sparking and flames by strobing a flashlight at the scene.

Use a low camera angle to watch the carnage unfold.

For editing and post-production, you will want to use all the features of your movie editor like adding effects, adding transitions to blend scenes and trimming the boring stuff out.

Demolition scenes are always better in slow-motion. It becomes more realistic when the crumbs look like real debris breaking off the building. Real sets sometimes get destroyed too so hope you capture what you need on the first go. Film in normal real time and use your movie editor to slow down or speed up the footage. At least this was not expensive and you can eat the cookies crumbles as you clean up the mess.

You then want to add sound clips and sound effects(Foley arts) to make your video more interesting. Become familiar with the "Wilhelm Scream" as it is incorporated everywhere like a filmmaker Easter egg.

Go out and make your own feature film.


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