Written by Annette Lange

Recently, I had to make a prop ID for one of our short films. The prop was integral to the storyline, so it had to look camera worthy. After freaking out a bit, I figured I’d at least give it a try with my limited abilities.

When the producer looked at the footage, he was convinced it was real, so I guess it’s a small indication of its success. There are probably easier or fancier ways to do it, but this one worked for the camera even though it would obviously not convince anyone in real life because of the texture, shape, information and material.

Note, it is definitely not fancy enough to fool the scanners at liquor stores and clubs if that’s what you’re thinking…

What you need:

  • An image of a sample ID (just google it)
  • An ID photo of your actor
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Paint
  • Printer
  • Paper & Cardboard
  • A laminator
  • Scissors
  • Glue

1. Search for a sample ID online

Make sure the driver License/ID is appropriate to the setting of the film. What’s your character’s nationality and region? Our film was set in Australia, Queensland, so I had to confirm this with the director. Once you have it, save it.

2. Insert the image to Paint

Open Microsoft Paint, select ‘Paste’ followed by ‘Paste from’ in the top left corner. Select the picture and open in paint.

3. Customise information

Now you’ll have to adjust the information to your character’s information. Make sure to ask the director if the character has a specific date of birth, name and surname etc. Obviously it will depend on the importance of the prop. Will close-ups be made of the prop ID? This will determine how detailed you’ll need to make the it.

You can blot out the information by selecting a little box close to the print without writing on it, copy and paste the little box and move it over the writing.

Once you’ve blotted out all the writing, insert the desired information (e.g. Date of Birth & Name) by clicking on the Text button (the little ‘A’ on the toolbar), dragging the text box to the desired place and entering your character’s information.

Once you’re done with that. Save the picture.

4. Replace the picture.

Open Microsoft Word and Insert the picture. Insert the ID photo of your character. You’ll probably have to crop it a bit to make it fit over the existing picture perfectly.

Place the photo over the existing one, right click on ‘Bring to front’ option.

5. Replace second picture and make it transparent.

Copy the picture you already adjusted on the right side. Double-click on the copy and select ‘Remove Background’, save this version by right-clicking on it and selecting ‘Save as Picture’.

Next up, Insert a rectangle shape, right-click on it and select ‘Format Shape’.

Select the option ‘Fill’ followed by ‘Picture or texture fill’ and insert the ID photo of which you removed the background. Then, adjust the transparency of the picture.

Press the control button while clicking on all the pictures. Right-click on ‘Group’.

Make sure you resize the picture so that it’ll actually be the size of an actual ID card (Right-click ‘Size and Position’). Take into consideration that the borders will be included in the sizing, so make it a bit bigger than an actual ID card.

6. Print the picture & laminate.

Once you’ve printed out the picture, make sure to stick it on cardboard, or several layers of paper.

Laminate it and cut out.

And Voila!

There you have it! A prop ID that’ll bring the point across for the storyline.

If it does look a bit too shiny, you can always put it in a wallet to hide obvious give-aways.

Even though I thought at the beginning there was no way I could create a halfway convincing Drivers license/ID prop, I had to find a way. There is always a way in filmmaking, and so many ways to cheat with the camera, so there is no room for excuses.

Many props would not be convincing in real life, but depending on the camera angles and tricks, you can bring the point across to your audience without noticing.

If you are an independent filmmaker, see this as an encouragement. If you think you’re stuck, don’t give up, just try and see where it goes. Also, don’t be scared to ask for help, but you’re probably more innovative and creative than you think.  

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