In a store, I saw a music video of a woman standing dangerously between two "lions." (The quotes are for a reason.)

How would a director shoot that scene safely?

  1. Is there a way to tranquilize the lions or otherwise make them less dangerous?
  2. Do they use special actors/actresses such as lion trainers?
  3. Or are the "lions" likely to be mechanical, and therefore not really dangerous?

If 3) how does a producer decide when it is necessary to use a real lion (perhaps at a greater distance) in a scene?

  • 2
    Are you sure she wasn't just CGI'd into the scene? Also, could use chains to keep the lions at a specified position, with room for her to be between them and not in danger, then process the chains out of the images. Also, full lions are sedate lions ... feed them before hand and shouldn't be an issue. Commented May 10, 2015 at 14:58
  • @Paulster2: Why don't you convert this into an answer. I'd probably upvote, and perhaps accept it.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 19:11
  • 1
    Why don't you post a link to the music video or at least the title. We'd be able to make a more educated guess that way, at least for this specific instance.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 20:56
  • @Catija: I saw this in a store. It's not like I have it on my PC.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 21:38
  • The title of the question is extremely broad, the content of the question si extremely specific.
    – DA.
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 1:44

6 Answers 6


Are you sure she wasn't just CGI'd into the scene? Also, could use chains to keep the lions at a specified position, with room for her to be between them and not in danger, then process the chains out of the images. Also, full lions are sedate lions ... feed them before hand and shouldn't be an issue.

(NOTE: I'm not a movie making expert, so don't know this for sure. These techniques seem plausible, though.)


First, the animals used in filming are trained professionals, but as we all know animals; like people can be wild and unpredictable, which is why they have personal trainers usually ones that work with the same animals going from set to set (They are not actors but animal trainers). NOTE it is required by law to have a representative of the American Humane Society on set at all times.

Now there are different ways to go about with animals on set. In some movies live animals are used for far shots or shots with out actors. Shots with actors are usually quick takes because of the lights and chaos on set (and there are very few in most cases). Take a look at the Hangover 1, the lion scene in the hotel was a real lion. Other shots can be done with CGI.

Life of Pi is a good example of animals and CGI.

Now before computers film makers rely on the power of cinematography. the shot may have the actor to the right and the animal a safe distance away but with a little camera trickery; on screen it looks like they are next to each other. other cases are the fact that they use real live animals and just took the risk.

TAKE A LOOK at the film ROAR 1981

In other cases they rely on animatronics.

Jaw, Jurassic park is a good examples of that.

The hole idea is to come up with the most real life image you can on the budget you are given with the technology and knowledge you possess.

Today CGI has become the best way to handle this because of safety issues and time restraints.

  • 2
    I'm not sure Jurassic Park is a good example in this context. They didn't go with animatronics because it was safer... Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 23:47
  • 2
    Minor nitpick, it's American Human Association. Since Life of Pi was brought up, there was actually controversy over the animal treatment in that film: theguardian.com/film/2013/nov/27/… Also, AFAIK, there is no law stating the AHA has to be on set monitoring anything. Rather, the AHA has negotiated with Hollywood unions to be there. It's an industry thing--not a legal thing.
    – DA.
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 1:50
  • Judging by that disconcerting article, the AHA is both literally and figuratively in bed with the industry it supposedly regulates.
    – Shiz Z.
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 2:35

Whenever I've worked with exotic animals, big cats, there's always been a special animal handler/trainer who brought the animals & crew to manage them. He was always at the camera with two chair legs to stuff down the animals mouth if he attacked. (Don't ask me. That's what they did after trying everything else.) They also had a very thin, very strong cable on the animal's neck, in shots that would permit it. Through training, not drugs, the animals were passive in this setting -- as passive as one could expect.


Obviously CGI or animatronics (mechanised puppets) can be used. But a more common technique for smaller budgets is to use real animals, real people, but not at the same time.

For the shot of the person between lions, shoot the person alone. Then they go away and one of the lions is shot, followed by the next. The camera must not move, it is locked off.

Then, in editing, all the shots are combined, using masks or wipes between them.

A refinement is to use some or all as chroma key. Bluescreen or greenscreen.

To simulate camera movement, just combine all the elements first, then use a virtual camera or use visual effects to wobble the footage.

In advanced use, several shots can be placed side by side and something like After Effects employed, using a virtual camera to pan across the screens.


In "Dr No", when the tarantula walks across James Bond's chest, you can see where the glass is pressing down on his body.

Pretty standard for 1960.

  • Are you sure it was a tarantula? Tarantulas are not particularly dangerous.
    – bdsl
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 0:01

The first Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) has a scene where Indy is thrown into a deep pit. As he raises his head, there is a line of dangerous asps hissing menacingly at him.

enter image description here

If one does not look closely, it looks like he is within striking distance. But it is fairly obvious in that shot (in the film—the photo appears to have the reflections removed) that there is a transparent divider (glass, acrylic?) separating actor from snake.

Given the effects chops of Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, George Lucas, and the other filmmakers of this movie, it was hard to accept that this is a mistake that would be accidentally left in the film. Possibly it was left intentionally so that "people without brains" might be less likely to attempt the portrayed stunt.

  • While an interesting theory, I'm pretty sure staged effects props are not intentionally left visible in fantasy adventure films to prevent people from copying said stunt. If they were, we'd constantly being seeing a whole lot more set rigging. More likely theory is that it wasn't all that noticeable on film (note that a lot of these gaffs are only discovered on VHS or DVD pause buttons) or--if it was--it wasn't worth the budget to reshoot.
    – DA.
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 1:52

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