Adam Savage Tours The Expanse’s Practical Effects Shop!


obviously a show like the expanse has a
ton of special effects in it and these days when we think of special effects we
often think of things like people dressed in green doing things in green
screen with CG stuff around them but you should know within the industry that is
called visual effects that’s the digital half the physical side is called special
effects and here a timber Belle’s shop Acme effects is where all that happens
for the expanse his team here could do a little bit of everything for mold making
– welding – woodworking – machining from the macro to the micro and he’s about to
give me a tour so Tim this is this is your domain and
this is all this practical special effects yes absolutely yet Oh like hand
props gags rigs talk to me about what happens here well this is kind of the
genesis of the practical effects that we do that eventually end up on camera down
on set so you know we’ll break down a script and find out exactly what
physical effects we need to do and then I’ll come down here and you know hang
out with the guys and start designing stuff and and start building we do some
tests videotape tests make sure the directors happy with everything and then
take it all to set and and everything change and everything changes yeah the
batteries die and yeah how much time do you get to prep an episode are you guys
always behind the 8-ball or you kind of sometimes have times at the beginning of
the season the beginning of the season you know we’ve usually got about two
months startup time to really get stuff going but but as the blocks kind of
progress and it’s down to like usually about two weeks from the beginning of
the design to actually shooting it what’s tight tight and yeah how much
when you like try to problem solve problem solve something in advance how
much does the solution come out like onset by the seat of your pants sometimes yeah depending on the
complexity of the gag a lot of times you know they change camera direction or the
director just has an idea on the moment and they have to kind of go with the
flow but most of it is as planned out as we can and and shown
to them ahead of time so they they know exactly what’s gonna happen there’s no
surprises so yeah so mostly it’s it’s it’s finalized here yeah there’s always
that that last minute exactly exactly in in my experience a special effects shop
like this it has to handle a little bit of everything so what kind of processes
are like the regular things you work with here it’s everything from plumbing
to electronics to you know to metalworking
and then pyrotechnics you know then we do rain and snow is kind of gets all the
elements plus it’s you know it’s all the elements that we that we imagine right
all right so it’s everything from A to Z really will you give me a tour around
what you guys are working on yeah this is the this is my shop is acne effects
mmm we’re one of the biggest effects shops I
think in Toronto I like to say that whether or not it’s true but we’re very
proud of the space we have here it’s I walked in and smelled burnt steel and
felt right at home yeah so this clearly your machine shop
I love the machine tools I love the precision this is a funny thing about
your job right like sometimes it’s super high precision and sometimes it’s like
big dumb things very dumb hole right exactly yeah yeah the lathe over here
was one of the first oh man it was one of the first pieces of equipment that we
got when we opened 20 years ago and we got it from machinist that was next door
to us who had sadly passed away um and his wife offered these items to us and
this actually came out of a war a munitions factory in Texas and it’s it
built planes in World War 2 oh yeah I want to see some of the stuff you guys
are working on right now some of the rigs you guys there’s something for the
no that’s actually we took that apart this was a we’re working on these things
we got a bunch of little chairs real chairs as we had to make a kind of a
mechanized and an autonomous robot for the season and so we figured we’d start
with these because they can handle a lot of weight right they got great torque
they’re electric motors so they’re really quiet this was kind of the how we
started tested the theory put a lot of weight on it and then we we built it
into a different machine my very first robot was using the
chassis of an electric wheelchair it’s just a very great starting place Jana I
abused dozens of the behaviors yeah they’re really robust and then we just
got some servo controls to make it go so here we are in the metal shop metal
fabricating shop guys are working on a couple of different projects right now
you’re sealing the ends of the steel how come well we’re reproducing a table in a
room that’s gonna collapse so instead of using the actual you know the set piece
so you’ve got a table that already exists yeah and you’ve got to make a
breakaway one exactly yeah so the top of it will be tempered glass with a steel
base basically will hold it all together with a cable yeah and a quick release
you know quick release goes table of some pyro yeah we’ve got some
pyrotechnics inside the tempered glass that’ll blow the glass and the whole
thing will fall to the ground you use pyro to detonate the glass yeah yeah I
mean I know that like sometimes it’s a little sharp point knockers yeah yeah is
that what they called it yes yeah we kind of got away from those what I like
to do is when we have the glass made yeah I have it made with a half-inch
hole kind of somewhere on the you know on the table right and then into that
half-inch hole we put a little piece of pyrotechnics and back it up with a
little lead because you can hit a piece of tempered glass with a hammer and yes
you know it’s it’s they’re very strong when you hit them laughs early but the
edge of the glass is really weak right and okay so you put pyro in a hole and
it’s sending it to ever exactly yeah so all that energy when detonated goes
against the side of the glass and that’ll pretty much guarantee that the
glass is gonna pop and it all falls down how many how many how many iterations
are you preparing for we generally do two takes of the really big stuff yeah I
know it’s a TV so we don’t have a lot of time right or money so yeah generally
two is what we go for um I’m also kind of grooving on on these guys I
that’s yeah ice yeah they’re really solid just for for welding setups and
stuff I have these little red arrows but I’m kind of tired of them in there too
weak this is gorgeous oh yeah what it does is there’s a magnet
inside the handle here and when you when you turn that it pushes the magnet down
to the table and like that’s cool it’s it’s very solid
hold on I’m taking a picture I’m gonna have to get some of these this is one of
my favorite parts about tours like this is learning about tools I don’t know
about and then going and getting those – yeah are these like some type of pyro
rig well these are the legs oh these are the legs of the table table and that’s
the centerpiece yeah nope they’ll kind of be held up like this with the cross
braces and then the glass on top of that and and held together with just a cable
and then a quick-release yeah that will pop with pyrotechnics the same time the
glass goes so it all crumbles away at once you know I know that like people
probably ask you all the time like what’s it like to make stuff and then
just blow it up but I’m curious about the fact that like somebody designed
this table yeah and they put like all of this idea and engineering into it and
then you’re walking through their exact footsteps for the opposite reason to
break it back down that’s great it’s at the end of the day it feels good when
when when stuff actually falls apart and blows up in the right way in the right
way yeah that’s fabulous it’s very satisfying
what is this beautiful thing so in the show we do a lot of zero-g we float a
lot of people you were on my teeter-totter I think at the end of
season two I was you’re kind of floating in space there yeah so one of the one of
the gags coming up is when people get shot in zero-g and they’re mag booted
they kind of float around like this oh because you can’t fall down you just pay
so someone comes up to get them out of the room they kick their feet out so it
releases the mag boost and they’ve got to go like you know get them up all
horizontal and they’re gonna carry them away so we’re building a rig for the end
of the teeter-totter where the actor can be on that rig and the the other actor
can kick his feet out and he can slowly put them back to flat and then the
teeter totter will pull him out the door and they can float him out the door
that’s super gruesome yeah yeah so there is you know he’s just been
show the actor will be kind of strapped to this thing it’ll be strapped this is
on for this is upside down right now he’s working on the slider yeah but
basically he’ll be able to slowly tilt them up and so the machine takes all the
weight yeah so the actor it’s like it’s nothing it’s it’s totally zero-g and
then will this thing get painted green yes yes sadly this beautiful aluminum
will become green screen so after doing I mean you’ve probably done dozens and
dozens of dozens of different zero-g Briggs yes so now do you watch a movie
like ad astra being like hmm what did they do for that shot yeah yeah I have
to buy the DVDs watch the behind the scenes to see how they do I go yeah we
have a rig like that yeah so it’s exciting to see how how other people do
it right and you know sometimes I can you know learn from that from that rig
that they made maybe incorporate it into one of the ones that so that we use for
the show like I love those iterations of institutional knowledge yes it’s really
clean yeah so here’s what we called the green room for some reason at our old
shop the floor was painted green okay it was the prop building area the name just
kind of stuck so this is prop building area it’s a little cleaner a little
quieter been out in the other machine room you know and it’s all painting and
mold-making and any special props that we build and breakaway stuff right now
we’re working on another thing that we do on this show a lot is when when when
Bobby’s in her power armor right a lot of strength and if she’s climbing around
the outside of ship if she’s she sometimes tears open panels oh right
right so what we’ll use what we have here is the zero temple luminol oh yeah
it’s really flexible but it keeps its shape mm-hmm so we’ll build like a wall
panel out of this stuff yeah and then just have a bit of foam on the inside of
it so it looks like a steel panel you’ve actually got a panel over here I can
show you oh wow that’s a fully dressed piece yeah and it’s got some rigid foam
in the inside yeah so the inside is foam what this was actually it was a one
the characters had her special implants and she activated which makes her really
strong yes she threw a guy into these doors
yeah and he act and they stunt guy yeah we went flying into the doors and they
hit the doors and wow it really buckles in Wow
but it looks like metal yeah it totally does yeah but you can dress it up to be
to be a you know weak enough to someone to smash into it
I was sued you must make dozens of these four we do make a little yes we have
rolls rolls and rolls of that says zero temp stuff it works really well I will
tell you that this is the very self same stuff that when I was 15 my dad and I
made me a suit of armor that’s all pop riveted together and I I took it to
class and passed out of heat exhaustion no doubt armored bites are real saying
yeah I mean no but they happen on Bobby’s armor too
yeah well it’s not bad the suit is made it looks rigid right it’s polyuria it’s
actually a polyuria it’s although it’s quite flexible I am is this some like
some art set oh this is this is something we’re not allowed to reveal no
actually this was the pro to molecule creature um when it was I think it was
the end of season 2 yeah or on in season two it was digging into the floor yeah
try and get it at that sample so what we did is we had our blue screen actor
right he had the blue screen suit on with these and we actually had floor
panels made of this product so he was actually digging into in tearing big
gouges oh wow in the metal but you know it was just really thin aluminum so he
was actually using these scraping away the panel digging it up and then bending
the panel up out of the way so he get down into the house has been really fun
it was fine it was a lot of fun to build and you know again I look great on
camera and once the CG guys came in and put the
proto maliki their creature overtop of it right and it looked it really sold it
oh that’s great this must have been a fun day when you were first started like
he was yeah reading I was reading the script when I
was first breaking it down I was like you know
how are we gonna make this metal appear to tear away yeah and it’s all a CG
creature and then you know you lay in bed at night trying to sleep and you can
the gears are working I’m like we’ll just you know get our zero temple in
them and make some Klaus applause yeah yeah this actually could be quite useful
yeah and dangerous very dangerous these are from the show rain rain rain okay oh
great yeah I was set in the 16th century or whatever I appreciate that you’ve got
ready access to torches just right on the shop yeah yeah we’ve got cases of
them actually the food of storage with cases of these things so you know it’s
it’s either hanging on the wall and the dungeon or whatever but you know having
any sort of fuel in there is a it doesn’t last very long and be you know
it’s it’s your burning of terracing or whatever so these easily come apart and
inside this is a reservoir oh we can fill with propane so did you make your
own propane tanks yeah we had a builder here Sam économique who’s sadly no
longer with us is one of our most brilliant builders and he hand-built all
of these Wow just there they’re not only incredible pross but they’re works of
art yeah and I can also see he’s got safety valves in here and everything so
it’s yeah certifiable one Wow yes oh yes fill up with propane and then you can
see there’s the little little ya know Athenian torch and this is that’s
amazing yeah it’s the same thing you buy at the hardware store except it looks
like and it’ll burn all day long and not leaves it’s about 40 minutes right yeah
I mean not a little they can dial the size up there I love that and he hand
hammered all this all this work here and all the the brass work and and
everything are you so are you excited about season five oh yeah I know you’ve
just started about a month to go yeah how’s it how’s it going
it’s going really well we’ve got a lot of really big physical gags coming up
yeah visual effects on this show brilliant but they love physical effects
they love harm right yeah yeah they love a lot of in-camera stuff
they can build upon all right you know they do lots of rig removal for me which
is great in the old days there was no rig removal and he had to do it all you
know it was all hidden but they take what I’ve done and make it just so much
better yeah yeah so we’re really excited about a lot of stuff that’s coming up in
the next season Tim thank you so much for a tour of your beautiful shop thank
you very much appreciated

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