Burning a Dollar bill - how to do?

Hi! I'd like to do a video, where you can see a Dollar bill, that burns away, so to say. Juft imagine the Dollar, and with a lighter on the corner the Dollar is set on fire. I'd like to have ash particles to fly away, and a flame, that eats itself through the Dollar, turning it into ash slowly.

Unfortunately I didn't find a tutorial for this. Is there anybody who can help me out? I use HiFilm 3 Pro.

Thank you very much!


  • * create footage of the $ bill in front of a green/blue/red sheet of paper
    * color key away the background
    * create an animated mask eating away the bill frame by frame
    * insert you favorite background
    * put some fire and particle effects at the leading edge of the mask


  • edited May 2016

    I'm sure Triem'll be along to write up a detailed how-to any minute now, but off the top of my head, here's how I'd do it.

    Have a clip of just you holding the dollar, which is the length of the shot.  Duplicate that shot, then use whatever color adjustment tools you like to turn the entire thing dark brown.  Mask it such that you only see the edge of the dollar, and either manually keyframe the mask to move down the dollar as it burns, or use Mocha to track a similar masked path.

    Generate the flame with either the Bonfire effect or particle system.  Ditto the smoke and ash, using a Forces layer to blow the ash away.

    For added cool factor, add a layer with the curves adjusted to make a really bright "glow", masked to follow the burn so that it looks like the ash (brown layer) is glowing.

    Or you could, y'know, just burn a dollar bill and film it.

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator
    edited May 2016

    @SteveKarstensen ;

    "Or you could, y'know, just burn a dollar bill and film it."

    Unfortunately that's illegal and if the original poster actually has money to burn..........well you get the idea ;)


    Fortunately there is a way to burn money without actually burning money



    edited May 2016

    How I'd do it.

    Burn a dollar bill.

    In Sweden it's legal, but I just read that in the US it's not. 

    I agree, Triem should be here any minute now, haha.

     Edit: Buy fake prop money. It's going to look better blending real with CG than completely CG.

  • I'd try the technique in Aladdin4D's video link as an close-up insert of lighting the thing, then cut to a wider shot of a fake bill burning. You won't need to get very far away before you can't tell that the burning bill is a fake.


  • Unfortunately that's illegal.

    Good to know.   Of course, that's why prop money exists.  Still, yes; do your due diligence for stuff like this and don't be me.

  • So is it the "illegal" part holding you back or the punishment that comes if caught?

    That's the real question haha.

    I'd burn the dollar and tell a cop my vfx skills are soooooo good it just looked real... or that I'm a magician ;)

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator

    @SteveKarstensen If you want to make some kind of statement then burn a hundred dollar bill. That shows true commitment. Burning a one dollar bill just comes across as pandering. ;)

  • Why is it illegal in the US but not Sweden? Mind boggling.

    Apparently we have a lot of money that nobody cares about, lol.

  • In the UK, burning money is not in itself a crime, but don't deface it or the Queen will not be amused. (The Queen is never amused about anything).

    In 1994, The KLF, a pop group that had a number 1 hit with the Doctor Who theme burnt £1 million ($1,462,456).


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    Nope, no need for my input. Everyone else covered it! 

  • @KevinTheFilmmaker "Why is it illegal in the US but not Sweden?"

    The short story is that United States has issued a fixed amount of money. This means that when the USD is valued to other currencies you know how much USD that has been issued. If you would start to destroy money, the balance is distorted, and no one knows the amount of money that is "out there". You can compare it with, if it wasn't like this... a state could just start and print money and pay off their debt at the current exchange rate. I guess that wouldn't have been too popular seen from the other states perspective.

    Furthermore,  I am not certain that it is legal to destroy US currency in Sweden. If you want to gamble... you can always try it and post it on YouTube and see if you have troubles with your US visa afterwards ;-)

    Back on topic - I am in favour of one of the fake solutions presented above, instead of burning real money. It is also  cheaper :-)

  • KirstieTKirstieT Staff
    edited May 2016

    I'm stunned that burning a dollar bill in the US is illegal! 

    I would make a joke about whether I can burn a UK note in the US, but because we don't have pound notes, I would have to burn at least a fiver and NO WAY is that happening :)

  • edited May 2016

    Thanks a lot for your help and support! I will try out what you suggested and let you know if I got it to work! Also, funny discussion. I'm from Germany and I'm not sure if it's illegal here, but I want to do this digital anyway, so I have more control of the style. Thank you!

    Edit: One question to the first tutorial:"put some fire and particle effects at the leading edge of the mask" - how exactly do I do that? Sorry I'm pretty new to that kind of effect

  • One question to the first tutorial:"put some fire and particle effects at the leading edge of the mask" - how exactly do I do that? Sorry I'm pretty new to that kind of effect...

    Hitfilm has a couple of pre-generated fire effects.  You can either keyframe or manually move the origin point of the effect to follow the burning edge of the bill, otherwise it'll stay in one spot for the whole shot.

    There's a few tutorials on key framing on FXhome's channel, and also a few on point tracking, which would be useful.  It should be self-explanatory once you've watched them.

  • Ok, thanks!

  • edited May 2016

    @eTV - I don't know where you got your info but it is somewhat innacurate. The money printed in the U.S. is owned by the Federal Reserve, not the U.S. gov't. but it is printed by the Treasury Dept. which is a bureau within the gov't. It may indicate "The United States of America" on the money itself but it is technically a Federal Reserve Note......which is also printed on all the bills. One reason it's illegal to burn U.S. currency is that it costs money to print money, about 5 cents per note.

    "Specifically, this is a violation of Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code, which says that “whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”  The law is enforced by the Secret Service."


  • edited May 2016

    As a conservative estimate is that approximately 1 in 10 US dollars is fake anyway (probably more) - and if they were all removed from circulation the world economy would collapse; fake money makes the world go around - why not find one of those?

    edited May 2016

    @eTV - I'm tempted to burn my own money just to mock them. But then I would lose money., otherwise I would totally do it!

    @Stiegi - Show us the result of your project please, I'm interested to see how it ends up! :)

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator

    @TriFlixFilms You burn the money and me and @StormyKnight will hang outside and film the Secret Service raid in case they decide to go all Steve Jackson Games on you.

    @Palacono the conservative estimate is 1 in 10,000 not 1 in 10! Each bill sent back to the Federal Reserve goes through verification. Unfit bills are destroyed and counterfeits are passed on to the Secret Service for further investigation. It's a continuous process so they have a pretty good estimate of how much counterfeit currency is in actual circulation and it's never been reported over .09% since the late 1860's. Trivia note the US Secret Service was established by President Lincoln solely to investigate and stop counterfeiting. 

  • edited May 2016

    Oops, meant 1 in 10,000.  Brain fart. Or is it....? :D

    Of course they would say the number is low, and notes can go round and round without ever getting seen by anyone who gives a monkey's. So the effect a counterfeit note has is bigger than just the value. A pays B for a service, B pays C, C>D....K>L who banks it and is told it's a fake and gets nothing in return. But a lot of 'work' got done that generated taxes before it was found out.

  • edited May 2016

    @KirstieT You could more than make up for the loss by telling people you found a great new way to "lose five pounds, fast!" and charging them for a demonstration.

     (I'm so sorry, that was a bad pun.)

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator

    @Palacono Maybe except the Secret Service is a Federal agency and if it thought for a second it could get away with claiming the amount of counterfeit currency in circulation had more than doubled to .18% it would because its budget and power would go up exponentially overnight. It's never even tried that so odds are the numbers are pretty close to reality. 

  • edited May 2016

    @Aladdin4D You might be right, but I thought this Wikipedia entry makes some sense when it says:

    "However, these numbers are based on annual seizure rates on counterfeiting, and the actual stock of counterfeit money is uncertain because some counterfeit notes successfully circulate for a few transactions." :)

    But what about the "quantitative easing?" that's just a fancy phrase for "printing (genuine?!) money with nothing to back it up but a smile". :D

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator

    @Palacono Shhhh!!!! Nobody actually says "quantitative easing" anymore. Now it's QE2 so people think it's about the QE2

  • @StormyKnight I stand corrected about the Fed Reserve part. My point was about the monetary balance. 

  • SteveKarstensen That is a FABULOUS idea.

    Then I'll show them how THEY can lose 5 pounds fast, and take £5 from them. 

  • @KevinTheFilmmaker Sure, will do! :-)

  • edited May 2016


    Y'all be crazy!  ;^)  I'm definitely going to subscribe to that weight loss program.

    @eTV - I understood your point. It's all good. 

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