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Dante's Peak

Cluster's Motel

After months of testing and building, Cluster's Motel was our first shot. The model was built to match the full size motel that was used by the first unit for live action photography.

We shot on a temporary stage at Van Nuys Airport that used two exterior walls of an existing building, and a third wall of stacked, forty foot sea containers. The fourth wall we called "the world's largest air filter". It was scaffolding, covered with air filter material. This allowed air to escape from the stage when we fired the air mortars, yet it kept the dust inside. If the fourth wall had been solid, air would not have been able to escape from the stage, and the cloud would not have moved properly across the set.

Loading the pyrotechnics was a monumental task. Every window in the model was a custom made piece of tempered glass, with a pyro hit to break it, and had a small mortar filled with broken glass behind it. Each section of roof had a length of detonating cord every four inches. The walls were backed with det cord and had debris launchers behind them. The telephone poles had pneumatic rams to knock them over. The car in the foreground was launched by a small air mortar. All of these things were wired into the electronic control systems that we built for the show.

Once the cameras rolled, and we pushed the "go" button, all of the events fired in less than three fourths of one second.

What a mess we made! After the shot, there was so much dust in the air that the visibility was very limited. When the dust had settled enough to be able to see, the "dust bunnies" went on to the set. These were pyro crew members using protective clothing and respirators, who checked to make sure that all of the pyro had fired. After that, the stage was sealed until the air was clear.

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The model makers finish some final set dressing before handing off the set to the effects team.

A view from the rear. Notice "the world's largest air filter" in the background.

Song Choe wires pyro elements in the motel model.

Charles "Chuck, Chip, Coolio" Cooley puts det cord in the office section of the motel model.

The air mortars used to create the "pyroclastic cloud" effect.

Tom "The Ash Master" Seymour poses among the air mortars.

Unidentified "dust bunnies" at work.

"Ready to go hot!"

The aftermath.

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© Copyright 1997 R. Hutchins
Unless otherwise noted, all photos are © Copyright 1997 R. Hutchins. All rights reserved. - Revised December 1997