The real ge­nius

Scor­pion’s crime-fight­ing ge­niuses can make tech do any­thing on the show – but they still don’t have a patch on Hol­ly­wood’s spe­cial ef­fects gu­rus.

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Be­hind the scenes on ac­tion se­ries Scor­pion (2014- cur­rent, sea­sons 1-3 can be streamed or down­loaded from in­ter­net stream­ing ser­vice Show­max), Wal­ter O’Brien (Elyes Ga­bel) and his team don’t have an un­lim­ited bud­get. They have to fake it to make it with all that fancy tech, fast-mov­ing, globe-trot­ting ac­tion that we see on screen. See that jaw­drop­ping scene in sea­son 1 episode 1 in which Paige (Katharine McPhee) must stand up in Wal­ter’s Fer­rari to plug a com­puter ca­ble into a low-fly­ing jet while both are trav­el­ling at high speed? Katharine re­veals, “Yup! I got to grab a rope from ba­si­cally the bot­tom of a plane – the fake bot­tom of a plane on a green­screen that wasn’t mov­ing. The car never moved.” Don’t trust your eyes, fans – you have no idea how deep this rab­bit hole goes…


Speak­ing of holes, se­ries creator Nick San­tora re­veals, “By far, my favourite episode was [sea­son 1] episode 12 with the lit­tle boy down in the sink­hole [in a sea cave, with the tide ris­ing]. When that lit­tle boy was down in that hole, that’s all on the sound stage. That is fab­ri­cated, that is sty­ro­foam, that is paint, that is wa­ter that’s com­ing in and out of a hole. That looked real. And that is [thanks to] Carey Meyer, our pro­duc­tion de­signer.” Whether a scene is set in space, Area 51, a nu­clear mis­sile silo in Ice­land or snowy Antarc­tica, Scor­pion has shot on zero lo­ca­tions out­side of Cal­i­for­nia, with in­te­ri­ors mostly shot on sound stages. And from a hole in the ground to a rocket in space, Scor­pion fakes it all.


In sea­son 3 episode 3, there’s a scene in which Wal­ter is go­ing into zero grav­ity aboard a rocket that was built on his own re­search. Elyes re­veals, “While I was in­side the space­craft [a phys­i­cal prop], when we had the zero grav­ity as­pect of it, I was in a har­ness. When I was al­lowed to move a bit more in re­la­tion to the back­ground, I was on a har­ness, but a har­ness with ca­bles at­tached, so that you had dif­fer­ent truss points. When I first start ris­ing out of the seat­belt, I sort of rise, and then I jump down, so I kind of en­cour­age my body weight and ve­loc­ity to jump down. So I was on ca­bles on the har­ness. But when I was free-fall­ing from the sky, com­ing from zero grav­ity into grav­ity. That’s when I was com­pletely har­nessed and they were mov­ing me. So I had no mo­bil­ity.” He adds that the ef­fects team later erased the ca­bles in the shot us­ing a lay­er­ing process called ro­to­scop­ing.


One of the most nail-bit­ing se­quences, in sea­son 2 episode 12, fea­tures a fail­ing dam. The dam wall is real, but the tur­bine shot is ac­tu­ally a mix of CGI and a sound­stage set. “We had one se­quence where we’re clear­ing out a tur­bine that has been caus­ing this flood­ing and crack­ing of this dam,” says show co- creator Nicholas Woot­ton. “It’s an in­te­rior shot with a lot of wa­ter where Happy (Ja­dyn Wong) gets sucked into it and into an out­flow pipe and is go­ing to­ward the tur­bine. But there’s a ma­jor drought in the western United States and we just couldn’t use that wa­ter.” So the pro­duc­tion team used a mix of CGI wa­ter and re­cy­cled rain wa­ter for the rain shots.


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The dam wall was real but all the wa­ter and other sets in this episode were faked in a stu­dio.

The plane was added dig­i­tally.

The in­te­rior of the space ship was a real set.

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