Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

Toronto Diary Day Eighteen

09.07.16
by Ty Franck

Wow, lots to talk about today.

So, first day of shooting after the long weekend, and we didn’t give ourselves an easy schedule for the day. Our episode 13 director had to deal with a ton of action, squibs, blood packs, stunt work, and furniture tossing today. And, because Daniel and I wrote the episode, all of it was peppered with dialog and back and forths between the characters.

We did not create an easy day for either the director or the actors.

But everyone came through, shiny and chrome. Lots of amazing work with Frankie Adams, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Nick Tarabay today. We also had some great guest star work, and some stellar dodging and exploding done by our crack stunt team. I feel like I can safely say the final episode of season 2 of The Expanse will thoroughly wreck everyone’s shit, and leave you panting for season 3.

Sadly, this is one of those situations where going into the details of what we worked on would be spoilers. But I will talk about the three kinds of bullet hits we do. That’s fun, right?

First, we have squibs. This is the old standard. A small explosive charge placed on a wall or actor that blows up when a radio signal hits it, and is generally used to simulate a bullet strike. On an actor, the squib is often placed behind a blood pack, so that when it goes off you get that icky red spray. On a wall, it will blow a hole and throw debris. Plus side, a squib is a little explosion, so it creates a very realistic impact site. Minus side, it’s a little explosion and is kind of dangerous. So we don’t place squibs where they might throw debris at an actor’s face.

Next, we have what the special effects people call Zirc rounds. These are paintball sized plastic balls filled with zirconium, that explode with a bright flash of sparks when they’re fired into a solid surface. They’re generally fired from a modified paintball gun. These are useful when you need to show bullet impacts, but don’t want to blow holes in your set. They look cool, make a nice flash of light, and they make a nifty bang. Downside is that they are a hard plastic paintball filled with sparky stuff, so you don’t want them fired toward human eyeballs or squishy bits.

Lastly, we have the much maligned visual effect hit. This is where the VFX department creates a CGI ‘squib’ and the accompanying blood spatter or debris. Used in moderation, in situations where the actor would be endangered by practical squibs, these work fine. Typically, you dress in the wound or wall damage practically, then the VFX department ‘paints over’ this damage until the shot happens, then they reveal it. So the visual effect only hides actual practical damage for a moment. It cuts down on CGI, and the impact sites look very realistic because they actually ARE real. VFX can also add in a squib like flash of light and puff of smoke. CGI isn’t always the best choice, but when you’re working in proximity to actors, it’s often the safest one.

So that’s squibs.

Anyway, after the long shooting day, Daniel and I went out to dinner with a few Expanse people, and generally cool guy and friend of the show Adam Savage. I got to ask Adam my number one Mythbusters question, to which he gave a lengthy and fascinating answer. We also talked about the travails of making a long running TV show, and what the coolest robots are.

I’ve had a few chances to chat with Adam in the past, mostly at comic cons. But this was my first chance to just chill with him over and meal and chat. He’s a genuinely nice guy with a lot of great stories. It’s incredibly flattering that he’s such a fan of the show. Makes me feel like we’re doing something right.

I finished off the evening by drinking wine with Naren Shankar and plotting the third season of the show, and laying out the pilot he wants to collaborate with us on.

And then it was now, and I don’t know what happens next.

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4 Responses »

  1. Now I’m hyped! I think I need a trailer or for January to come already.

  2. I enjoy reading the articles and hope everything goes well for season two and the early works of season three.

  3. Hmmm… That sounds suspiciously like season 2 might end with a certain spaceship being commandeered by a Martian marine.

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