Well, I’m Tokyo-bound but, before I go and lest I miss a day of blogging, I leave you with this Q&A courtesy of one half of Stargate’s detonative duo, Scott Stofer. If you need someone shot, blown up, or set on fire (uh, in the fantasy world of television), then Wray Douglas and Scott Stofer are your guys. Wray was originally pegged to do this Q&A but it turns out that while explosions and gunfire elicit not the merest flinch from the guy, clowns, Celine Dion, and answering questions online are another matter entirely. Fortunately for us, Scott has stepped up to take the bullet on this one. And, once you’re done, follow the link for a video of Scott taking other bullets of sorts: http://josephmallozzi.com/2008/04/20/april-20-2008-my-squibbiest-post-ever/
Riley writes: “Wray, what has been your favourite explosion on SGA, and why?”
Scott: Option #1 – I think our favorite explosion on Atlantis would have to be the blowing out of all the windows at the top of the gate room stairs. It appeared so violent with the stunt double being right in the thick of a cloud of fast moving glass before being yanked by a cable all the way to the gateroom floor, clearing that huge staircase. Option #2 – I think our favorite explosion would be in a season five episode called Vegas written and directed by the brilliant Robert Cooper who had us blow up a 30ft AIRSTREAM trailer full of wraith technology. The stuff inside justified an “overt the top” explosion and the location we were filming in allowed us to load the shit out of the trailer without worrying about breaking windows, setting off car alarms or killing innocent bystanders. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, a setting sun, etc. Robert didn’t have adequate time to choose favorable camera positions, so even though it was filmed with four cameras none of them are a really great angle. I was pressing one of the buttons to detonate the three stage event and the shaking special effects guy standing beside me with his drugstore digital stills camera got the best footage in my opinion. I’m hoping for a miracle from editing for the final cut.
AnnaLeo writes: “1) How have the special effects changed over the years from when you first started on the show? 2) Are there ever any real dangers that come with the special effects and how did you deal with them?3) Has there ever been a great idea for a special effect that you weren’t able to realize, due to budget, time constaints, etc.?”
Scott: 1) Hi Anna, I started working with the Stargate series on season three of SG-1. In those early years there were a lot more outdoor attacks from enemy fighters flying over the actors so we did large fireball strafing runs on a regular basis. When we moved into the Atlantis series there was a new enemy and they just were not into destroying stuff. They were more like cattle ranchers than egotistical system lords, so our large scale destruction level definitely dropped. We ended up doing more big sparks on the interior of ships and more rolling fireballs down hallways. Which, by the way, is physically less demanding so we have all gained about 12 pounds each.
2) Yes Anna there are constant dangers. There are dangers in testing them, building them, and executing them, usually in tight quarters with 100 people breathing down your neck asking ” Am I safe here”? We take every possible precaution and often wake at 3:00 am thinking about what could go wrong the next day and how to prevent it. But we love our jobs and are lucky enough to work on a show where they give a shit about safety and respect our opinion when we tell them what our issues are.
3) Every so often a big idea will come up that the writers think would be cool to do in an episode and we toss around some ideas and costs with them and the other departments involved. If too large or outrageous it often becomes a computer generated visual effect or it just gets rewritten.
EugenefromAus writes: “For Wray Douglas:
1] In the episode Memento Mori (and the behind-the-scenes for it), how did you make the paintball balls to do the sparks? What I mean is essentially, how did you create the balls in the first place, and what was in them?
2] How much experience does it take to develop a mostly-safe gas/flame cannon? (And also, how safe would they be?)
3] How did you get started in this business(of Special effects)?
4] What has been your favourite episode to do for the mayhem?
5] I asked this to Kenny, but he didn’t know, so i’ll ask you, What is the fire-resistant gel made of? (The gel in question I think was talked about in an Ark of Truth Special Feature. Are there actually any commercial ones that would do any good, or can you only obtain them (and ingredients) via the industry?
6] Which Special Effect in the whole of 15 seasons of Stargate would you say was the riskiest for everyone?(Even though there are standards, which is the most risky?)
7] What are you planning to do now as SGA is over? Did you already find another show to work for?”
Scott: 1) The “paint balls” in question are actually .68 cal hard plastic balls shot from off the shelf paint-ball guns. There are suppliers of these capsules here in Vancouver or we order them from suppliers in Hollywood. The sparking ones contain powdered zirconium and a fine gravel known as bird gravel as it is sold by pet shops for birds. The gravel acts as an abrasive to ignite the zirconium on impact. Other plastic balls we shoot contain marbles or ball bearings for breaking stuff, Vaseline or grease for the” bullet hitting glass without breaking it” look, or dust for ricochets off the wall or ground. These hard plastic balls are not suitable for shooting at people as they don’t break as easily as a traditional paint-ball and will cause harm.
2) To build and operate a propane cannon with any degree of safety requires a few things. You need experience with pressurized gasses. You need experience with controlling fire in many different situations and environments. You need experience with pressure vessels, electronically controlled valves, firing systems. fabrication, and setting safe distances for the stuff you don’t want to burn with direct flame or radiant heat. My advice is don’t build one unless you’re doing it with a person who has been around them a lot. I’ve seen good ones (ours are great ) and bad ones over the 25 yrs. I’ve been doing effects and trust me, they can be very dangerous if not built or used properly.
7) Now that SGA is over three of us are working on a movie ironically called “Farewell Atlantis” which has nothing to do with SG. Three of us are on a movie called “Frankie and Alice” and one of us is working on “Cats and Dogs 2 “or 3 I can’t keep track. We often split up in the off season, not always on purpose, but we all have bills to pay and need to work until “Stargate Universe ” starts. Hopefully they give us our jobs back.
Jason writes: “What explosion or special effect was the most disappointing in terms of the outcome or just didn’t work the way you guys planned?”
Scott: I think the most disappointing special effect for our department was a propane cannon fire ball we did through a door and into a room for one of Andy Mikita’s episodes. It was an effect we had successfully performed on the show before but that day it was just underwhelming and short-lived, so it ended up being enhanced or maybe even replaced by a visual effect.
We, as the ” special effects department”, work closely with the “visual effects department” and have a great relationship with them, but hate it when our stuff isn’t good enough and has to be fixed. Sometimes the shooting schedule that day just doesn’t give us the luxury of second chances.
31 thoughts on “November 22, 2008: Special Effects Master Scott Stofer Answers Your Questions”
ROFL was that Bill Nye The Science Guy in Brain Storm?? And what was with the Carl Binder Memorial Theatre??
one of my top 10 SGA episodes, i like the Keller-McKay relationship angle but I hope it doesn’t get too mushy mushy
Thanks to Scott Stofer pinch hitting for Wray Douglas. Sounds like another one of those coolest jobs in TV again. And when Joe says “if you need someone shot, blown up, or set on fire”, being a Jason Momoa fan, a certain person comes to mind right now…
Since Joe is off flying about, I have a question for Marty G and one for Martin Gero.
Marty G: The first time I watched Road to a Dream on the season 2 DVD, I was laughing sooo hard thru the whole thing I could barely hear it. I thought you must be where Atlantis gets it’s humor. But since then I realize all the writers are a bunch of comedians. Who do you think is the funniest writer in the group? And, did the actors get paid for their cameo appreances in your featurette?
Mr. Martin Gero: Your depiction of Jason Momoa’s character in The Lost Tribe caused some fans to refer to Ronon as “willy-nilly”, “stupid”, “a big goon”, “total idiot”, “half-cocked”, “looked dumb”, “cartoonishly oafish”, “reckless cowboy”, “Keller’s throw away boy toy” and “an ignorant nuisance to her”. What the hell were you thinking when you wrote his part? What was the object of the game here with Ronon? Can you explain?
Thanks for you time Marty. Have fun Joe. Get better Jason.
Joseph, you said that we would be seeing more of Teyla in the back half of this season. Yet we see one again that Teyla has been redused to a recurring character in place of KELLLER. She has been under-used and become wallpaper. Can you PLEASE tell us why this has happened?
The Teyla fans are pissed. I suggest you answer the question truthfully.
I’ve been following your blog since around mid season 4, and always enjoy reading it. I never had the urge to comment on anything, but for once I can’t help myself.
I have to say, I -love- the way Stephen Hawking was implented from Brain Storm, I really enjoyed that moment.
And, ofcourse, thank you for amazing work on both SG-1 and SGA. Both of which I have followed intently for as long as I can remember. I hope SGU will be as great as it’s predecessors.
Keep up the amazing work! (For.. y’know, 4 more episodes)
“Brainstorm” only served to solidify my decision to not waste any money on future Stargate products; the episode was ok, the McKeller done beautifully, so how come my decision to boycott future product? Simply, so you’re willing to firmly canonize and almost resolve McKeller in less than a year while stringing along Sam/Jack shippers for the last 12 years!
P.S. Sam should have at least been mentioned in the episode…
Ah man, I should have thought to ask if any of the special effects folks ever head for Burning Man, or at least the Vancouver regional burns. Because the stuff they do is the stuff “we” do. Except we do it for pure enjoyment. That’s a collective we, I personally haven’t made it past fire safety, although Hubby has blown up antique railroad torpedoes. He learned quickly that using a sledgehammer was not the way to go with those.
Waiting with bated breath for the Tokyo blogs.
Good thoughts for Jason, how awful!
Watched Brain Storm and uhm now there’s 45 minutes of my life I want back. First of all, the CGI department needs to get smacked for the cheapass tornado effects on this one. Secondly, I love McKay so normally I’d applaud a McKay episode, and I’m okay with McKeller, but Keller solo? Not so much. Part of the problem is how her character was introduced – from the very start when Carson was killed she was set up heavily as his replacement, “here’s the new doctor and y’all must come to love her” style, and part of the problem is what seems to be her natural annoyance factor, much like Wesley Crusher’s.
At any rate, that was an episode the Stargate franchise could and should’ve done without. Then again after last week’s excellent episode, this week’s ep was bound to disappoint and perhaps it’s some cosmic balance thing that it was so bad.
Brainstorm was the worst SGA episode ever. McKay cannot carry an episode and the whole thing was one big yawnfest. It didn’t even remotely resemble an SGA episode. Only a few to go and Gero delivers such drivel.
What happened about no ship in SGA and main characters not getting together. The writers have screwed over Sam/Jack fans for years and then John/Teyla fans and then out of the blue Keller just arrives on the show and she’s in a full blown relationship with McKay. What an utterly sad way to end what once was a great franchise.
Thanks Scott for answering a few questions (**sad face ‘cos they weren’t mine**). Please give Wray a hug from us (or a pat on the back). We mean no harm. The Special Effects on shows are awesome because you have a great team. Looking forward to the Vegas explosion.
Are you there yet Joe? Did your dogs know something was up? My cat always does. Then when I come home she ignores me for a while. Of course she scares the people that come over to feed her. There’s not many people that will.
Thank you, and Scott Stofer, for a delightful blog entry. I like Scott’s sense of humor! Very informative on the special effects.
Have a safe, wonderful and tasty Tokyo trip Joe.
Well BS…..hmm……Yes that about sums it up really….The worse ep i’ve ever seen on stargate ever….I thought I was really gonna throw up at the McKeller scenes…It was so cringeworthy :S
I have to wonder why suddenly it’s ok for two main characters to have a romance all of a sudden after years of hints of romance with Jack/Sam and John/Teyla…Heck even John/Weir and Rodney/John…..I thought someone said once there would be no romance between two main characters, so why has this changed all of a sudden?
Also yet again no Teyla in this episode…Why didn’t anyone tell us she was reduced to a recurring character…I take it no one likes Teyla or likes writing for Teyla except Carl and Alan seeing as they’re the only one’s that actually give her something to do?
I didn’t think it would happen but SGA has hit an all time low and i’m beginning to understand now why it was cancelled and if this is the best all of you can come up with i’m glad it was cancelled….I don’t even recognise it as stargate anymore 🙁
It’s a sad end for a once great franchise! 🙁
This is a little late but just wanted to say that i dont care what anyone else said i LOVED Brainstorm, and Yay to the writers for actually going there and making a canon couple, BTW the episode had some extreamly funny moments, good job guys and Martin G has my undying love
Wow. Scott has no problem sharing his secrets on how to make dangerous things, does he? Haha. Well, I hope Eugene doesn’t start making those explosive paintballs.
Excellent Q&A, and very thorough. Thank you Scott!!
I see the haters are out for Brain Storm. Meh. Haven’t watched it, and probably won’t get to it for at least 3 weeks, due to finals coming up. And then: Stargate Atlantis marathon, baby!
However, I did take a peek at the Bill Nye stuff, and I was struck by just how surreal it all was, in a great way. I mean, The Science Guy[tm] has always been this cool geek dude that showed me how cool science was, and now he was “crossing over” to the Stargate franchise!
The thing is, even though Stargate is supposed to be set in the here and now, I’ve had no problem removing it from reality and enjoying it as a SciFi show with characters that I can relate to because they remind me of normal people. But I get that they are fictional. It’s the same kind of thing I can do with any other show set in present times, like…Heroes, Doctor Who, etc. etc.
But now…well, I still know that they are fictional, but as George Costanza said, the worlds are colliding!
This is how it works now, in my mind: several years ago, Bill Nye The Science Guy[tm] was making an educational program just south of the border in Seattle; he is very much real, and his show was based on facts. I enjoyed his real world antics. Then, he did some things in the intermittent years, including a few more TV shows that I loved, and they were all documentaries where he is talking to us, the audience. And recently, he got invited to a function at the Carl Binder Memorial Theatre, where he meets up with Dr. Rodney McKay, his date Dr. Jennifer Keller, and his collegue Neil deGrasse Tyson, and they almost destroy the world.
So, suddenly, the real world that I have known Bill Nye in is stitched together with the unreal world of Stargate, and together they were brought to the real world for that single moment when McKay introduced Bill to Jennifer. Suddenly, I felt as if I could meet McKay and Keller as soon as I go to this Carl Binder Memorial Theatre. Like, they’d be right there, talking with Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson, because those latter 2 were real people.
I knew Bill was coming to guest on the show, but it really was more surreal than I ever thought possible.
See, THIS is how you make the show be in the here and now. Name dropping movies and name brands is good for a laugh; but if you really want to shock people like me who overthinks things, and make us think that the events of Stargate is indeed happening, then you get real people to guest star as themselves.
Next up…David Suzuki!
Thanks, Scott! Personally, I’m afraid of things that explode (balloons, propane tanks, tires, tempers…), but I enjoyed your comments very much…especially the spoiler for Vegas. 😉
Okie dokie – about McKeller…
Some folks are saying that the relationship feels rushed, or forced. I disagree. Mr. Das and I met on Sept. 11, 1988…in church. He was visiting, and my girlfriend and I wanted to be welcoming, so we invited him and his buddy to join us for the day. They came to a family picnic, then we played minature golf…and he tried to kiss me. A week later he came back down to take me to dinner – and now he wanted to hold my hand…a week after we met. I mean, this wasn’t some dude I picked up in a bar…this was different, but he immediately took a liking to me, and I didn’t discourage him.
He was ready to get married in a matter of weeks…but his family was opposed, and my common sense encouraged me to wait, so we waited, and got married 18 months from the day we met, and we’ve been together for 18 years.
Now – by my calculations…Rodney and Jennifer have known each other about 18 moinths, right? Sure, Rodney didn’t make the moves on her right away…but, still…I see nothing rushed about their relationship. Heck, going by most tv shows, the two of them would have been in bed the first time she set foot in Atlantis. But instead, they got to know each other as friends, as teammates – as two people who have had to depend on one another for survival. I think they’ve both shown their true mettle to one another…many times over.
And as far as mismatches go – well, I’m a supposedly semi-normal middle-aged woman…who does volunteer work and looks after neighbors and holds the door for people every chance I get. I have no tattoos, or body piercings, or purple hair. And yet, I’d run off with one of those Wraithy fellas in a heartbeat (provided, of course, they were real, I wasn’t married, and they promised not to eat me. 😀 ).
So, I’m okay with the pairing, even though I don’t like romance as the focus of a storyline.
As far as the specifics of the episode – I’ll leave that for others to pick apart, or praise. All I know is that at one point I said to Mr. Das, ‘reminds me of us when we were first starting out, doesn’t it?’ There were plenty of times I’d have to say, ‘Hon, don’t brag about yourself, let others – let ME – do it for you.’ Sometimes a guy like Rodney needs to be gently reminded that, while he thinks boasting makes him look great, to others it just makes him look small. I think Keller will be very good at helping Rodney with this, if he’s humble enough to hear what she’s saying, and if she’s wise enough to pat him on the back before he tries to do it for himself.
Not really sure what a ‘mointh’ is… 😛
Thanks to Scott for the great Q&A!
It was interesting to read how things have changed over the years. Due to the constant danger it sounds like a stressful job, so extra thanks for all those years of awesome TV!
Have a safe flight!
Sorry for being rude and posting an unrelated comment under this article, but is there any way to reach you by e-mail?
Trust me, I tried to find a contact, but with no success…
I just wanted to ask for permission to link the interview with Lexa Doig + the Lani & Lexa image (http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/august-28-2008-lexa-doig-answers-your-questions-and-we-complete-a-tour-of-stage-6/) and maybe quote from it a little bit on our fan site.
Cool! I feel like blowing stuff up now! Like the carpet in Allie’s room!
Thanks to Mr. Stofer for answering questions. Hope the flight was a pleasant one and that you are enjoying your marthon tour of eateries.
Thanks to everyone for all the well-wishing!
Sheryl and Anyone Else Who Cares to Know:
I live in Evansville, Indiana> Feel free to contact me if you wish. My real name is Kelly Hurt and I can be reached by mail at the address on this page.
I go by Anne Teldy at both TV.com and GateWorld. Let me know if you PM me at GateWorld as I don’t go there unless someone wants to get my email address or other private information. (I’m at TV.com frequently.)
I’m having a ball reading about your jam sessions writing and planning SGU. I’m so jealous of you guys having a job where the problems are so open-ended.
I remember being so proud of myself at my corporate gig when the discussion of how to induce certain residual stresses in turbine disks came up and I didn’t blurt out “Just stick it in a pit and spin it overspeed until it yields.” I thought biting my lip was a stride toward fitting in with this particular crowd by not being too out there.
Then, someone mentioned that our competitors did exactly what I’d censored myself from saying. How am I supposed to walk the line when I don’t know where the line is?
Just watched “Brainstorm,” finally! I’m neither for or against McKay/Keller, for the record. I’ve always wanted Rodney to find someone who appreciated him, but it had to be someone who could stand up to his personality. I thought Keller hit just the right note in this episode. She was definitely “on his side” and not under any illusions about who he is, but she still reminded him to dial it down periodically. She didn’t seem to be trying to make him into someone else, just trying to chill him out a little. Rodney seemed to have just the right amount of clueless/awkward and still be believable. He’s still Rodney, but he’s come a long way, particularly with people he trusts. Kudos to Hewlett and Gero both on that.
Yééé!! J’espere que votre voyage c’est passer!
Bon courage pour supporter le décalage horaire^^!
Avant vous aviez -9heure sur moi et maintenant a Tokyo c’est + 8 heures, sa change pour une fois vous serais en avance sur moi =)
alors Bonne vacance!!! Gros gros bisou!!! Je vous adore!!
Bon Voyage Mr M.
I’m looking forward to your Tokyo blogs.
I understand Martin G. was open to questions about the episode ‘Brain Storm’? It’s hard to pick one or two from the boatload of questions I have, but here I go:
1a) Why keeps Jennifer telling Rodney that he needs to be humble, when she could also remind him of how hundreds of people on Atlantis know how brilliant Rodney is. Rodney doesn’t get recognition on Earth, but he gets plenty of recognition in the Pegasus Galaxy. Wouldn’t it be better for Rodney to change his focus than his attitude? Hell, I’m sure that he’d love to hear from her that *she* knows he’s brilliant. The way it is now she keeps telling him what he needs to change, how he needs to change and what he’s doing wrong.
1b) Is Jennifer ever going to say anything nice to Rodney anywhere in the future? Rodney is supposed to be the tactless one but he’s told her she’s beautiful and smart, and she’s told him all the ways he’s clumsy, rude and ungrateful. Basically, she says she loves him, but she’s not showing it (wanting to have sex with someone does not equal loving someone, not even for a woman…).
On a sidenote: my favorite moment in the episode was when Rodney told everyone to get out, because that’s my Rodney *cheers*
Hi Joe, hope you’ve arrived safely!
Question for Marty G: How do you feel about writing the most polarizing episodes of SGA? ‘Sunday’ and ‘Brainstorm’ come to mind immediately but I’m sure there were others. Do you set out to divide people or is it just one of those things?
Thanks, Jade 🙂
that was a scene I did love too!
A belated ‘thanks heaps!’ to Scott for daring to tread where Wray did not. I have to agree – that scene where the control room windows blow out is pretty awesome. And I am very excited now about Vegas! Woo!
Dasndanger said: And yet, I’d run off with one of those Wraithy fellas in a heartbeat (provided, of course, they were real, I wasn’t married, and they promised not to eat me.
Oh, Das. You disappoint me. Eating people is what the Wraith do. Surely you wouldn’t ask them to go against their nature?
@ riley – 😆 Certainly I wouldn’t expect them to go against their nature! A smart Wraith, however, would know the benefit of keeping his human worshipper alive as a sort of ‘personal assistant’ – ya know…the one who goes out and does the food shopping for him, and such.
So…um…changing the subject…uh…where do you live, btw? Ya know…in case
weI just happen to be in the neighborhood…
how have special effects changed over the years /?/