Compositing – Car Crash as a Special Effect for a Short Film

For the short film “PHANTOMSCHMERZ” of students of the Baden-Württemberg Film Academy in Ludwigsburg Germany, Malte Derks und Daniel Jacob, the UNEM-Filmpro­duktion made a visual effect scene. The driver of a car should collide head on with a motortruck. To avoid complex stuntdrives the sequence was done in a 3D-Compositing.

Video of the sequence with making of at the end of the article: (Link to the video)

Background for the Film-Scene

In the story a young couple is driving in their car on a forest road. The young driver gets distracted by his girl friend. He drives on the opposite lane and both are meet with an accident. The car collides with a truck, that can’t get out of the way.

Source Material for the Compositing

As source material we use the recording of a road, a truck on the companies parking space and the interior of a car. Like in the short film itself the plates (compositing-layers) shots were filmed with a Sony PMW-F3 of the cameraman Malte Derks in Standard-Mode without S-Log.

Background Layer

At first the bumpy ride on the road is stabilized. Because the street was filmed from the passengers seat, we flipped the image and swapped the side markers to get the impression as if the car would drive in the middle of the road.


3D-Compositing of the Truck

The motortruck was filmed on the parking space of a trucking company. It drives slowly towards the camera. The background is masked out.

To avoid a flat looking motortruck the sides of the truck are extended as a 3D compositing with a photo.

Motion-Tracking for the 3D-Sequence

After calculating the pathway of the road through 3d motion tracking, the 3D motortruck follows the road. At the moment the motortruck looks like an alien element because the colors and the cue state of foreground and background does not match.

Therefore a color-correction is applied and a relection of the environment is projected onto the surface of the motortruck. A shadow below the truck and on the side of the road is also needed for a consitent image.


Composition of the Foreground

For the first-person perspective of the car driver the indoor shot of the car is cut out. Therefore the windscreen disapears.


A simulation of the front window is realized with a reflection of the dashboard in the windscreen. The dashboard and the hand is color-corrected. A small movement simulates the drivers point of view. A slight blur of the foreground creates a filmic look.

At last the head lights of the truck are equipped with light sources which are generating a lens flare on the windscreen of the car. The trucks headlight are flashing but he can’t get out of the way. He breaks, the tractor unit is lowered and the trailer swings off to the right side.

The finished Compositing in a Making-Of Video

The sound-design of the video is not from the short film. It was done separatly.