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How to Shoot a Miniature Effect

Published on June 19, 2013, by in VFX.

Miniature is a very common term in the process of visual-effects film making. In the process of miniature shoot the real life object is duplicated to a smaller size. The concept of miniature has been used in many Bollywood and Hollywood films like Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Cliffhanger, Terminator, Batman Begins, Ra-One and many more.

Shooting miniatures is a very creative and interesting process. One needs to understand perspective, size, scale and proportion. There are a lot of visual effect courses that help you understand the basic and core elementsto help you enhance your visual effect skills. It’s not just a simple or small-size toy or model, which is used in miniature shoots. In fact, the details have to be more precise in the miniature sets/models, so that it should not look like a toy after the shoot.

How We Shot a Miniature Effect?

Inspired by old documentaries on miniatures, we decided to develop a miniature shot. The idea was to develop a shot, which should have a 3D character interacting with a miniature model. The scene included a character jumping from the sky on a car roof and the roof dents with the front glass cracked.

Armed with a DSLR camera, we decided to have a toy car, which would give a realistic look. Before picking up the toy we were quite sure about the ratio (every toy doesn’t comes with the ratio mentioned underneath).

We were particular about the body material of the car; it had to be metal. We photographed various cars from different angles to check the reflection of the sun.

angles to check the reflection

Once finalized on the car that we would shoot, we got some sand from the beach and started our shoot. The sand was used as the base ground for the car.

As we were short on resources, we decided to shoot it in sun so that the shadows would be fine and we would not require a lighting arrangement. The location was the terrace of our building.

As we were using a DSLR, we were getting a maximum frame rate of 50fps. As there was no dynamic movement of objects, it was easy to shoot at that frame rate.

movement of objects

After many takes one shot was finalized. We tried to shoot it with chroma but the reflection of green in the car was a problem for us, so we decided to shoot it without the green screen.

shoot with chroma

The final captured shot was taken to a match moving application to extract the camera information. The extracted shots and some trackers from the match moving application were used to create the set extension (background) of a desert in a compositing application.

shoot with chroma

The same extracted image was used in 3D software to frame a 3D animated character. The car roof was modeled in 3D application, so that the character should jump within the right area.

3D animated character

The dent was created at the time of the jump of the character and the dent element was rendered to compose it with the final plate.

In the final compositing the following jobs were done:

  1. Set Extension
  2. Dent On roof
  3. Crack in the Windshield
  4. Shockers in Car
  5. Lights of the car were replaced

And our shot was ready!

3d character

Here are some basic tips, if you are thinking of shooting a miniature on your own.


A miniature is not always small. There could be a possibility of having large size miniatures as well. But the miniatures can never be as big as their reference. If that happens, it would be called a set and not a miniature.


It’s important to maintain the correct ratio between various objects in a miniature as they are in the live location. Suppose the ratio between original objects is 1:5, the same ratio should be maintained in the miniature models.


Generally miniature shoots are done with special camera and lenses. The aperture should be small for shooting a miniature to avoid depth of field in the footage.


As discussed earlier about ratio and scale, the light should also be scaled down by using special lights with different illumination and watts value.

Frame Rate:

Generally films are shot at 24 fps but it’s not the same in case of miniatures. As the size in is scaled down, other factors such as gravity, motion etc should also be scaled down. Now the question is how to scale down gravity or motion. It’s a simple procedure to shoot the miniature data with high frame rate, which is decided by the ratio between the original and the miniature. Suppose the ratio between original and the miniature is 1:10 then the frame rate required to shoot the miniature is 24×10 = 240 fps.

Do share your miniature shots with us at https://www.facebook.com/maacindia

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