SHATTERING MAN - Special Effect.
Three- highly realistic shatter bodies, 5'11" tall, prescored and rigged for shattering with pyrotechnic squibs.
Resin gel, urathene plastic, superglue, and acrylic paint.
Available with Advance Notice.
This special effects project went far beyond the usual challenges. The concept was for a standing man to come down to the ground slowly, shattering as each part hit the ground, like a building will when its foundation is blown away. The difficulty here was in making something as big as a person fragile enough to come apart this way, yet stand on only two feet until ready, and- not have its lightweight, fragile pieces blown all around by the shattering forces. We ran all sorts of test shatters: resin, sugar glass, urathenes, short drops, hitting mechanisms, wire pulls and pyrotechnics. Pyrotechnics proved to be the best approach.
The lifecasting, assembly, sculpting and easy release molds went smoothly and three castings were created. Fragile as they were, the eggshell thin castings could not be counted on to crack into the very small pieces that were requested. In order to insure our effects bodies would shatter into small enough pieces, after they were painted, each figure was made even more fragile by cutting thousands of thin lines in quarter-sized triangle pattterns. The only thing holding the figures together at this stage was an eighth of an inch of material left uncut between all the triangle corners. In this condition, we discovered that these otherwise rigid figures actually flexed a little. One wrong move could send them prematurely shatter/collapsing into impossible 3D puzzles. I describe them as kinetic bombs when they are in this state, ready to go off at the slightest touch. Special soft foam, form-fitted cradles were built to insure for the careful transport of each body form to set.
Just getting on set provided even more challenges- not easy fitting those big kinetic bombs into tiny 4 person elevators and down mazes of narrow halls overfilled with the usual hollywood rainforest clusters of light stands amply hung with cables running everywhere in big clumps all over the floor. In order to establish the continuity of the actor moving into position and then shattering, one of our figures was first shot in position on the set. This allowed the actor something to match his final position to, through shuttling between the video of our figure and the live feed of the actor. The actor went through his moves, then our figures were brought in and matched to the actor's position in the same way.
On the first figure, 20 'half-squibs'were evenly distributed, taped to the off-camera, outside of the bodies in order to restrain their effect and create more of an implosion. Film was shot at high speed to capture every detail of every step of these split-second performances. For safety, no one was allowed in the room during the actual shattering. The first shatter was even, inward and effective, but unfortunately, that many squibs created too much smoke. For the second take, the squibs were reduced by half. The second take had much less smoke and was judged to be a very good, usable take. The decision was made to do the last take with as few squibs as possible. One half-squib was placed at each ankle and that was it. The third figure was the most fragile of all and a grip arm was positioned touching the figure's back for support. This also prevented the figure from simply falling over once the ankles were blown out, keeping it hemmed in against the counter. When the pyro blew, the figure seemed to hang in the air forever, then finally started to go down with the slightest twist, hitting the counter and shattering mostly at the ground as it impacted,exactly as a building demolition would. If you watch the video, the effect came off beautifully- the head even tipped forward slightly with a part of it stumbling forward. Not a pin drop could be heard throughout the suspense of the last take, until right after, the agency and client jumped up with a very loud, resounding, and affirmative cheer. Whew. We always aim to hit a home run and it is nice when it even sounds like you're at a ballgame, with crowd cheers confirming your home run. It is always reassuring when all your hard word is rewarded, and culminates these kinds of magical moments happening on set. I am my own hardest critic, always looking to see how every job can be approved on, but in this case, I beleive that the effect could not have gone any better. As further validation of success, this spot was awarded four gold Clios that year: to In-Site-Pix, the diector Rocky Morton, the Agency, and us.
In-Site-Pix (insightpix.com) contributed the computer generated effects, which included the face shatter closeup sequence inserted at the very beginning of the shatter and also removal of the grip arm from the footage of our take.
SHATTERING MAN - Credits
SEGA, OBSIDIAN 'Egg' Commercial. Rocky Morton, director.