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.
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…
THE HOLE STORY
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.
ZERO ZERO GRAVITY
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.
WATER ON TAP
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.
WHAT IS SHOWMAX?
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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.