Hutch's Gallery

Dante's Peak

Preparation / Testing

There were many obstacles to overcome before we could even start building for the shots. This meant lots of testing.

First, there was the pyroclastic cloud itself. As a pyroclastic cloud moves, it has a very distinct "cauliflower" shape. We experimented with many materials, and settled on a grey, volcanic clay that has uses in construction. This was loaded into large air mortars and blasted across the set. We did test shots with various amounts of a darkening agent, until we found the mixture that gave just the right color.

Note: If it sounds like I'm hedging a bit, well...  I am. You will find this to be the case throughout these pages. Due to a non-disclosure agreement, I can't be very specific about a lot of the materials and processes that we came up with on this film. Sorry.

Next came destroying the buildings. Within the industry there are some well known tricks for blowing up buildings in miniature, but in this case it 's a shock wave, not an explosion, that destroys the town. We had to come up with techniques to shatter the facades and throw debris without creating flash, flame or smoke. It also couldn't break up the "cauliflower" look of the cloud.

Another challenge was timing. The buildings had to shatter right before the cloud got to them. If they went too early, the cloud wouldn't be in the shot. If they went too late, they would be obscured by the cloud. To this end, we built a series of electronic timer systems that could control individual events to 1/100th of a second. For each shot, we rolled film on a test fire of the cloud blowing across a mock up of the set. By studying the film, actually counting frames, we established the timing.

>>  Click on any thumbnail image for a larger view  <<

The "pyroclastic cloud" technique. This is the first test in which the air mortar is elevated and angled down.

An early test with generic buildings.

At this stage we were using air mortars to throw debris, but they disrupted the "cauliflower" look of the cloud.

A more detailed test.

By this point we had established the techniques that we would use in the actual shots.


"Pyro Bob" Chastain and Greg "Nick" Nicholson work on the electronic pyro firing systems.

Tom Kinyon sets up the electronics for their first "real world" test.

The timer boxes.
Armed and Ready!!

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