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I've wondered about this for years. It's become quite popular to film car crashes from inside the vehicle that suffers the worst damage. These scenes are usually shot from inside the "target" vehicle, looking out a side window as the oncoming "t-bone" impact happens. It seems especially popular in espionage/suspense/thriller types of films/shows.

Here is an example from the movie Adaptation (not at all one of the best FX examples as it's quite old, but it's the only one I could precisely recall off the top of my head)

Here is another (pretty poorly done, IMO) example that cuts just before any crash is actually seen, but if they had gone all the way past the point of impact, this is the kind of scene I'm talking about:

How exactly do they do this? I'm assuming it's a combination of practical and CGI, since it's usually done in such a way as to definitely be able to clearly see the actor's face so as to lend realism to the shot, yet obviously would be way too dangerous to the actor to actually execute. But some of these done more recently look so shockingly real... how do they pull it off?

  • Another example from Disturbia. It is interesting to see that they obviously did not spend too much time on this scene compared to OP's example, which, despite its age, looks more realisitc. – Ian Oct 10 '17 at 6:30
  • Yeah that's a completely different type of effect, done with simple editing tricks and standard practical effects like a ramp for the car to drive up and roll over, etc. I'm talking specifically about these side-impact shots that feel as if you're in the car when it happens, and generally show at least a second or two of the "aftermath" of the impact, not cutting away at the moment of contact. I've seen them so many times, I wish I could remember more specific examples... I think it was done in a Homeland episode and many other espionage-genre shows. – JVC Oct 10 '17 at 6:36
  • For more examples see Surprise Car Crash on TvTropes – Kruga Oct 10 '17 at 15:17
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    It's not what you're looking for, but one really interesting car-crash scene is in the opening of the [short-lived] TV series, Believe's pilot, which Alfanso Cuaron (Harry Potter And the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men) directed---he filmed one long shot--which is a signature of his. youtube.com/watch?v=L-0Jq4tYGYU – Darth Locke Oct 10 '17 at 15:44
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    Wow I'm so bummed, I really hoped someone would be able to point to resources explaining in some detail how they pull off these shots. I'm an FX junkie and this one has bothered me for about 20 years! – JVC Oct 12 '17 at 2:40
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Well I never really got a good answer to this question, but I guess the best answer for how they do these "higher quality" FX shots, is that it's a TON of work! Found this clip which isn't the exact sort of crash I was thinking of, but it certainly demonstrates the level of effort that can be required to pull off a convincing effect with believable close-ups of the interior of the car as things are happening.

The video shows a car crash sequence from Dark Phoenix (2019) where a car is in a head-on collision (It's being towed to a diverting track to ensure it hits the oncoming vehicle just right) and the viewer then gets to see from inside the car, the aftermath of the crash as the car flips over and over, glass is strewn everywhere, and the occupants are battered about. This is done by putting a mangled car on a giant "rotisserie" against a green-screen, and spinning it with the actors inside as high-speed cameras film from several angles. The end result is all composited and edited together to create the final sequence.

Mighty impressive work!

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