How Real Explosions Are Made For Movies And TV | Movies Insider

How Real Explosions Are Made For Movies And TV | Movies Insider

[bullets hitting] Ju Shardlow: They don’t
mess about in Yorkshire. Rowley SFX specialize
in explosive effects, and you might know their work from “Peaky Blinders.” More and more movies
rely on visual effects to create impressive explosions. But did you know companies like this one use all kinds of inventive methods to give a reference for CG as well as for actors and
stunt performers to react to? So, we have come up all
the way up to Yorkshire to blow some stuff up and have a look at the
value of practical effects. And I’m going to try and
make my own version of the action-star-facing-away-
from-explosion sequence. Today we’re going to be setting off some bullet hits and explosive effects, all in this yard just outside of Leeds. Showing us around is dad Ian Rowley and his son Rob. When bullets hit a wall or any surface, they can fragment and
shoot up dust and debris. This is created by a
series of hidden dust hits. Ian Rowley: These are
the bags full of dust, with a small maroon in it. Every one has its own
individual radio receiver. So the radio receiver is up there in this particular case. That’s the rig. So that cable goes back up there, like that, and over the wall. So when that’s fired that would, “pchoo,” blow the bits out. It represents a bullet
hitting the stonework. So it’s a very simple hit. Hit and run. Producer: Three, two, one… action! [bullets hitting] Ju: That was a lot louder than I thought it was gonna be. [bullets hitting] The benefit of using a squib here is that the actor can stand close, about a foot away, in a
scene with other live action. It’s safe to be that close to it? Ian: Well, yeah. It’s just a shock wave. It’s energy shock wave. Ju: Yeah. Ian: The only debris that’s in it are bits of cardboard. An explosive device, like a hand grenade, has got a steel casing around it. And the steel fragments, the steel is what causes all the damage. Ju: Yeah. But what about fireballs? Of course, you could do a fire explosion purely in CG, which wouldn’t damage a building. But this method doesn’t
allow for stunt actors to react to a series of explosive charges. Production could use a
scale model of the set and do a smaller explosion on that. But unless your budget
is “Star Wars”-level, you can’t convincingly
situate actors in frame. Rowley SFX uses a propane gas system that actually protects buildings, with the benefit of being
able to film the shot live, with real actors and vehicles. You can see it at work here in the season two opener
of “Peaky Blinders.” [explosion] Rob Rowley: It’s a vessel we can fill with propane, something flammable, or something inert, like nitrogen, to give you either a fireball
or a big blast of air. Fill a hopper with dust, you know, fire that over somebody, or we can build this into a shop window and, you know, a big fireball out of it. They’re really versatile
bits of equipment. And we have various sizes of them. One of these will give a fireball that’s about sort of 9, 10 meters. Ju: So it’s when you don’t need structures effectively being compromised. Rob: Yeah. So, it’s like a giant shotgun. Where we point it is where it goes. Ju: You might also see
this kind of technique for bomb blasts in TV and movies, with a container hidden out of sight. Rob: Found a stage flash
pot, which gives us a bright white point of ignition and some smoke with it. This is called a robot, a
shower of very hot sparks. Again, to guarantee ignition. Ju: And so this would normally be kinda dug under the ground then… Rob: Sometimes they’ve
been buried yeah, so, you know, mortar’s out of the ground or stood around the back of a vehicle, you know, and piped in through the floor. This particular method
makes that a lot softer. So, we’re blowing it into this tank, where it can sort of
disperse and will go up. OK. Going live. And firing in three, two, one… [explosion] [explosion slowed down] [explosion slowed down] Ju: Of course, if you can’t get access to Buckingham Palace to
blow it up on camera, you’re going to use VFX. But on a set or old building, this is a system that’s quickly set up and controlled. A similar technique is using a woofer, which releases the gas slower and comes in varying sizes. These guys might make this look easy, but setting up this kind of equipment takes years of training and skill. The company goes all the way back to 1946. I heard that you nearly blew up the Queen at one stage? Ian: We’re the only FX company ever to get anywhere near her with pyrotechnics. We’ve had this request
from Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s coming over. Ju: She looks really thrilled with that burning post office. Ian: So, we loaded the silo blasters into the post office. It’s the only effect I’ve
ever done with a suit on. [Ju laughs]
I was trembling inside. Ju: To show the the impact of
an explosion on the ground, the team fills containers
such as this bomb tank with rubble or soil. Rob: I put a big lifting
charge in the bottom, maybe some petrol on top or, you know, fill it with soil. Big boom. The shape of this means it goes upwards and not left and right. Ju: War movies and TV
shows will use something like this in a well-timed action sequence, such as stunt performers being thrown into the air by impact. For the biggest blasts,
productions will use gallons of kerosene and powder explosives. This technique allows for the shot to be filmed live with the performers, with the explosions
enhanced afterwards in CG. Take this shot from
“The Dark Knight Rises,” where charges compacted with dirt were fired from the ground of Heinz Field while stuntmen sprinted away. The crumbling field underfoot was added in postproduction. Rob: You have a stuntman run by, he hit a trampette, like
a little trampoline. As he jumps on it and you see him leave, that’s your cue to fire it. And, you know, he’s traveling
on the back of that. Ju: It’s all about timing? Rob: Timing and cues, and that can be quite tricky in a situation where you’ve got a lot of extras, a lot of multiple things happening. Multiple cues. Ju: Timing is everything in this industry. For the biggest explosion
ever created on a set, the destruction of Blofeld’s
Moroccan comms center in “Spectre,” SFX
supervisor Chris Corbould used 2,224 gallons of kerosene and 72 pounds of powder explosives, timed to detonate in the middle of a line of dialogue. This is why SFX teams
will always go through dry rehearsals of a stunt. So when it looks good, it only needs a small amount of CG
alteration afterwards. The way an explosion is shot can change everything. For huge nuclear explosions, filming a wide-angle shot can expose the magnitude of the explosion by capturing the vast space around it. This is normally done in VFX, mimicking an irreparable destruction. Other movies choose to do full coverage and enhance it later in CG, such as this truck explosion
in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The effect, which used 96 detonators and 1,360 liters of fuel, was extremely visceral and realistic, as was an SFX captured
from different angles. Characters and foreground layers were added in afterwards in CG. Occasionally, though, the stature of the main character will be enhanced by using a short focal length on an actor to make the explosion look more dramatic. These are the kind slow-motion mid-shots used all the time in action movies. So, that’s what we’re going
to have a go at today. Piece of cake. Rob: Now, I’m going to be over there. Ju: OK. Rob: I will see when you hit this mark. Ju: OK.
Rob: And I will fire it. Ju: [laughing] OK. Rob: And you’re not gonna stop. Ju: No, I’m just gonna keep going. No one’s doing slo-mo on this, right? Rob: Three, two, one… action! [loud explosion] Ju: Here’s the shot from different angles. Full coverage. And the more stylized action shot… [explosion] which make the explosion
look a lot bigger than it is. This could also be
enhanced in CG and graded. I tried to give the “Zoolander” face, but I think I just looked
really out of breath. Cool. It’s still burning. Rob: That’s just the aftermath, yeah. That will go on for a little while. We would go in and deal with that, reset. Ju: So, did I manage to pull off the shot? The explosion looks much bigger behind me at this angle, but I think you really have to be walking to look as cool as The Rock. Would you almost say,
like, the practical way is always the best way? You gotta have foundation there. Rob: Definitely work
alongside. I mean, there was… you know, the effects
started to become a thing. They always want a
practical element, you know, to give the actors
something to respond to, you know, the way light interacts with it. Maybe they can’t afford
or haven’t got the time to do, you know, 100 hits around a room. Maybe we do 20 physical ones. Ju: While I doubt I’m gonna be getting that stunt-recruitment
phone call anytime soon… Oh, I’m scared. It was fascinating to see the intricate, practical methods used to
recreate movie explosions.

68 Replies to “How Real Explosions Are Made For Movies And TV | Movies Insider”

  1. Whoever is reading this have a blessed day and night To you and your wonderful family. Never give up and don't let people Bring you down. By the way, I am a youtuber, who is trying to reach 2K before March. Thanks & have a great 2020!!!!!

  2. Hi Insider, lately you make videos about entertainments so can you please make videos about these?

    How Miraculous Ladybug and Chat Noir becomes one of France's the most succesful superhero TV show in the world?

    Why do Westerners such as Americans, Germans, Frenches, Hungarians, Italians have problem with subtitled foreign medias while Easterners such as Indonesians, Chineses, Koreans, Malaysians, Taiwaneses enjoy subtitled foreign medias?

  3. O good. I thought actors used real guns and missed on purpose. Excellent marksmanship i thought…but then i found out about camera tricks.

  4. This is awesome! I love this kind of stuff and practical effects. I feel like a balance of CGI and practical is fine, but too much CGI, especially in horror films can ruin it.

  5. “For actors and stunt-performers to react to”
    (shows a clip of a character walking by a massive explosion, totally unphased by it)

  6. Rule of Boom: The guy walking slowly away from the explosion w/the ice chill countenance is the one responsible for said explosion.

    Find that dude on some security cam and that’s your guy.

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