The biggest problem for me is safety. When I'm behind the camera I know my ability to rationally determine when something is safe or not goes right out the window. Specifically it goes out the window through which I'm looking at everything — the lens of the camera.
So I hate blank-firing weapons. They're still dangerous. Flame and junk spit out the front of them. They can kill you. Let's go through all the things I hate about them.
- They're dangerous. A semi-automatic round has to have the same load as the full bullet that would be in a similar weapon. So you have to treat them like real guns.
- They're loud. Everyone, even the actor shooting, needs ear protection.
- They're unreliable. They're more unreliable than real guns because all the gasses and schmutz get blown back into the receiver. So you have to clean them and hope that they'll work and actually cycle shells.
- They don't always read on camera. A normal gun flash is frequently less than a frame in duration.
- They're expensive. Ammunition is not super cheap. To which I say "bleh".
It's because CG muzzle flashes look like poop, that's why.
I can't quite figure out the reason for it.
Here are some real muzzle flashes from the movie Heat. Notice that even in a fairly reflective environment (sunglasses, car roof) the muzzle flash does not really light up the scene. There's some specular in the glasses and the roof, but it's not really affecting the exposure on his face that much.
I'm going to guess this video was shot at 29.97fps. That's going to be about the equivalent of a 60fps shutter. You'll notice that there's no muzzle flash at all. There's a bit of smoke which appears a couple feet ahead of the rifle. The kick the gun gives is very difficult to replicate "by hand". By that I mean it's hard to "pretend" that a rifle kicks like that if you're not actually shooting it.
So briefly I thought to myself, we need to get our guns to look better. And if I wanted to use blank-firing 3-shot-burst weapons, I really should just get a Class III gun license. Which is a major pain to do (but you actually need the full license even to own a blank-only firing machine gun because those are all made from actual machine guns and even though they've been disabled from having live rounds put in them the law still considers them machine guns.)
But if I did that, what would I do? Modify them so that they looked like futuristic space weapons? We're starting to talk about a lot of money when it comes to buying real guns and modifying them and getting licenses and... already I'm bored. I'd rather get an exoskeleton robot suit.
Nope. I'm not going to get an (additional) gun license. I'm going to figure out how to make fake muzzle flashes actually work. It may be making them less flash-y. I don't know yet. But if I can keep gunpowder off the set I'll be happier.