Because we love what we do, we put our heart and soul into every special effects job we do. In other words, we love our job and we love a job well done. In this section of our website you can see some of the special effects solutions we’ve invented. If you’d like to find out more about any of the projects or if you need something similar, please get in touch. We’d love to talk to you about how our ingenuity can help you.
The requirement: To create an interactive ‘rainwalk’ experience where clients on an exhibition stand enter an enclosed walkway where it is raining. As they progress through the walkway, the rain above them shuts off so they don’t get wet. All other areas in the walkway will be raining so they are surrounded by cascading water but are safe and dry. The client’s brief was to represent safe passage in an otherwise daunting situation.
The constraints: Due to the prestigious nature of the client, a 100% success rate had to be achieved very early on in the project. With only 8 weeks to reconfigure existing equipment and technology to this entirely new application, testing and prototyping had a very quick progression. Extensive testing was completed on a rig that recreated the exhibition space exactly as it would be built during the installation.
The solution: We developed a new sensor system that would ‘see’ the client wherever they were in the Rainwalk. The configuration of the equipment needed software to be rewritten to accommodate the sensor technology. A new modular flooring system was designed so the unit would be completely freestanding, holding 4,500 litres of water inside a specially designed trough within an exhibition area. This new floor design also helped to reduce the surface splash; this was a key design requirement for the client.
The special effects involved: Aquagraphics existing and new technology, mechanical low splash design prototyping and sensor technology.
The requirement: To create a number of special effects for the Paralympic closing ceremony including flame torches and a giant flaming sun king.
The constraints: Health and safety were paramount because so many people were involved. There were also considerable time constraints: we had just four hours to set up the effects at the same time as final rehearsals were taking place. Finally, very strict budgets needed to be adhered to because we were using public funds.
The solution: We developed a safety system for the flame torches to ensure that they went out immediately if they were dropped. We also put in place a clear construction procedure to allow us to construct the sun king in the time allotted to us.
The special effects involved: Flame special effects, pyrotechnic special effects.
The requirement: To send the Olympic torch down the Thames at 70mph on a speed boat that had a guaranteed water wing.
The constraints: Normal flames do not stay alight at 70mph. The Olympic torches were designed to burn for four minutes not two hours. The water wings could not damage other craft or wildlife. Total secrecy was essential to maintain the element of surprise.
The solution: We used a specially developed Olympic torch with a new burner and special cowling that solved the problem of the flame. We used the forward motion of the boat to suck up water and sprayed it out to create the water wings. At high speeds and in open water, more water was used while at low speeds in narrow waterways, less water was used, protecting the surroundings. We tested our solutions in open sea and in a canal near Southampton to ensure secrecy was maintained.
The special effects involved: Pyrotechnic and flame special effects, water special effects.
The requirement: MTFX were asked to develop a shattering ice special effect for the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Opening Ceremony. The organisers' vision was to have a 40-metre ice-breaking ship ‘sail’ through the arena, breaking through ice along its path. On a precise cue they required a section of ice on the hull of the ship to fall away in separate pieces, revealing the name of the ship. They also required a realistic looking frost special effect along the entire length of the hull as well as icicles on various parts of the deck.
The constraints: The organisers asked for all of the special effects to look highly realistic in case there were very close-up camera shots so a great deal of testing of different types of materials and techniques was required to create a solution that was incredibly detailed. The ship was also extremely large but due to time constraints and the amount of other people doing work on the ship at the same time it would require a fast installation on site in Sochi whilst still maintaining the high level of detail that the production team required.
The solution: MTFX developed and tested all of the frost and ice special effects on our UK test site before travelling to Russia for the installation and opening ceremony. For the shattering ice special effect we enhanced existing air cannons to blast individual pieces of ‘ice’ away from the hull in a sequence that looked random but was actually carefully arranged. The ice used was made from jagged sheets of frosted perspex. For the frost and icicles special effects different types of wax were used – a wax sprayer for the frost special effect on the hull and the icicles special effect hand-made from wax.
The special effects involved: Air cannons, Artificial ice from perspex, Artificial frost and icicles from wax.
MTFX works with the Casualty production team regularly. Here are a couple of examples of some our recent work.
The requirement: To blow up Casualty.
The constraints: The Casualty set was not suitable for filming scenes of this nature and the actors and crew needed to be protected from the dangers of the effects.
The solution: Build a replica set. We then used fire special effects, air explosions, dust and debris explosions and pyrotechnic solutions on the replica set. These were then digitally imposed onto footage of the real set using CGI. This allowed the scenes to appear very real, but protected the actors and crew from danger.
The special effects involved: Fire and pyrotechnic special effects.
The requirement: To create the effect of warehouse racking collapsing when a fork lift truck drove into it.
The constraints: Health and safety were paramount to protect the cast and crew.
The solution: We used hydraulics to simultaneously push and pull the racking over. The effect was spectacular but the racking was under full control at all times – and repeatable so numerous takes were possible.
The special effects involved: Hydraulic special effects.
The requirement: MTFX were asked by the production team on BBC’s ‘Casualty’ to create a visually realistic scaffolding structure that would collapse on cue as it was hit by a car which had crashed through a building site. The storyline involved a family in a car being driven by the father/husband. He becomes distracted and has to swerve to narrowly avoid a collision with a van. The car veers off the road and crashes through the barrier to a construction site, through a portakabin and then strikes some of the supporting scaffolding poles. An area of the structure would then collapse on top of the front end of the car, sending bricks, concrete blocks, building materials and debris crashing down. The family would become trapped in the car due to the debris making for a difficult rescue operation.
The constraints: The shoot was to take place on a real road in Newport so time was limited as it required complete closure of the road and evacuation of the nearby houses. The effect called for very realistic looking bricks, rubble and building materials, and safety for the stunt driver was paramount. The surrounding buildings (real houses) also had to be protected from the impact of the car and falling debris.
The solution: MTFX worked closely with the Casualty production team to design the structure and plan the effect. A custom-built scaffolding structure was constructed which could be collapsed on cue in a completely controlled manner. Bomb releases were used to collapse the structure at the exact moment that the car crashed through the portakabin and into two artificial scaffolding poles. Realistic looking artificial building blocks, bricks, rubble and other items commonly found on a construction site were placed on the scaffolding platforms to rain down onto the car on impact.
The special effects involved: Scaffolding, bomb releases, artificial building materials.
The requirement: To explode the average amount of methane produced by an average family in five days.
The constraints: Methane burns but it does not explode, so we needed to find the appropriate ratio of methane and oxygen that would create an explosive explosion that was also safe.
The solution: Having found the correct ratio of methane and oxygen, we filled balloons with the mixture. We placed each one inside a cardboard box and detonated on cue.
The special effects involved: Methane, oxygen and pyrotechnic special effects.
The requirement: To create a series of coloured explosions.
The constraints: When filmed at 2000 frames a second, traditional pyrotechnic special effects create a lot of flash and bang in a very short space of time. The producers wanted the explosions to take place over a minute.
The solution: We experimented using different densities of coloured powder in the pyrotechnic effects. We then filmed the sequence at full speed before slowing it down for the final sequence.
The special effects involved: Pyrotechnic special effects.