I am a 7th grader and in school I have to make a funny movie. In this movie we are going to film a close-up of a model train to make it look like a real train and show a man in the middle of the tracks about to get hit.

Then we are going to zoom out and show the man getting hit by a model train and stubbing his toe. The video-editing software we use is iMovie. Anyone one know how can pull this off? especially the part where we make it look like a real train?

P.S. the train is a model japanese bullet train or shinkansen

  • 2
    Hi, and welcome to Video Production SE! It sounds like what you're trying to do is pretty ambitious, and I'm sure there are people here with good advice for you, but we might need a little more information to be as helpful as we can. First of all how do you plan to achieve these effects? What sort of cameras, lenses, equipment do you have available (particularly, I'm wondering about macro lenses and green screens)? When you say, "Then we are going to zoom out...", are you envisioning a jump cut, or something fancier? For something fancier, I imagine you'll need software other than iMovie. Mar 8, 2014 at 20:11
  • I am planning a jump cut i guess
    – mihirb
    Mar 11, 2014 at 4:00

3 Answers 3


AJ Henderson and Craig have excellent answers. I'd just like to add my own knowledge about making miniatures look full-size. As far as I can tell, there are 4 factors that make a miniature look, well, miniature.

1) Lighting. If the train is supposed to look like it's outside, shoot it outside or next to a window that sun is coming through. Sunlight looks way different than indoor light because of color and the fact that it's one really bright light and a bunch of "ambient" light from the rest of the bright sky.

2) "Thickness" of the air. If you look at faraway mountains or buildings or trees, they're always a little "hazy", a little less colorful, than things next to you. So if a real train is 1/2 mile away, it will also appear a little bit hazy. A model train, which is probably a foot away or less, won't be hazy at all. The artists who did special effects on movies used to up a scrim (a tranparent but hazy sheet) in between the camera and the model to add fake haziness. It looked more "real" on film.

3) Details. A real train has tiny, tiny details like bolts and screws. A model train won't have anything that tiny -- they would be nearly microscopic!! But the person watching the film / video will notice that they're missing, so the model will look more like a model.

4) "Depth of field". That's a photograph/film term that has to do with what is in focus: things that are close, things that are far away, or both. When you focus on something even 10 feet away, everything behind it is (usually) in focus. That's called having a big depth of field. If you focus on something 1 foot away, everything behind it is (usually) out of focus. That means the depth of field is small. If you're focusing on the nearby model, and so you have a small depth of field, most people viewing the film/video will notice that and it will look like a miniature. One way around that is to have a fake background just a few feet away, behind the model, so it will still be in focus.


The easiest way to make it look real would be to film a real train and then use a model of the same kind of train engine. You could use a macro lens to try and get a good shot, but the camera elevation will likely be too high still (unless the track is elevated). Putting the actual person on the tracks would be hard with iMovie as well since I don't know if it has much (if anything) in the way of keying ability.

You may be able to simplify it a lot, including the comedic effect by using direct cuts rather than a zoom as well. I'd recommend you consider building tension by cutting back and forth between the person standing on a track and a real train moving down the track. Start with fairly slow cuts back and forth and then get faster and faster as the train gets closer. Then at the last second, cut to a shot where the model train runs in to the persons foot (it should be the first shot that actually shows the train and person together.)

This will build anticipation as people worry about what will happen before the sudden comic reveal that it was just a model train.


I like Henderson's answer. I'll add two suggestions: consider using stock footage of the 'real' train. I don't think that would be cheating -- even pro filmmakers use stock footage frequently. The real art is in the editing; that's where the story- telling comes from.

If you used stock footage of the train (one example: http://footage.shutterstock.com/clip-7465-stock-footage-historic-steam-train-coming-straight-at-the-camera-camera-locked-down-original-ambient-sound.html) it would be a lot less dangerous than shooting a real live train. And then you could concentrate on getting good scary close shots of the poor guy who's gonna get hit.

You could do that on real tracks when there's no train coming. Try to make the light match whatever stock shots you use.

Also when you cut, finally, to the model train, shoot the collision in a few different ways: long shot (train + the guy's leg from the knee down), medium shot (train + foot and ankle) and close shot ( train + foot), so that you can see which works best in your edit. If you can put in a few model trees or anything else that helps the model shot match the stock shot -- extra points for that!

If you DO end up using stock footage you should get that footage first, before shooting anything else. Do a rough edit, breaking up the stock train shot wherever you think one of your live shots should go. You could make rough drawings of the shots that you'll eventually put at those breaks and insert them into your rough edit. This is a form of 'storyboarding' your project and it'll give you a better sense of the dramatic timing of the whole edit. You'll also get better ideas, in this way, about how to shoot the live shots that you'll make later.

This, by the way, is how many grown-up filmmakers work so it's good practice in case you want to go further in movies.

  • Great advice for the stock footage. Probably easier to match whatever train models you have that way too. Might be a trick to find the right kind of angle and a long enough shot of the train approaching, but if they do find it, it will be easier and safer.
    – AJ Henderson
    Mar 10, 2014 at 0:21
  • the train is a model shinkansen or japanese bullet train
    – mihirb
    Mar 11, 2014 at 3:59

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