How’d They Do That?

How’d They Do That? is a monthly column in which Meg Shields unpacks moments of movie magic and celebrates the technical wizards who pulled them off.

If you’re new to reading this column, we suggest starting with these entries:

Explore the entire How’d They Do That? archive below

Ed Harris The Abyss Breathable Fluid

How They Shot the Breathable Fluid Scenes in ‘The Abyss’

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If you think it’s CGI … don’t hold your breath. Or, wait, maybe do.

Point Break Skydiving

How They Shot the No Parachute Skydiving Scene in ‘Point Break’

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“Johnny, you’re about to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. How do you feel about that?” 

Empire Strikes Back Hoth Go Motion

How the Special Effect of “Go Motion” Works

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The things we do for motion blur.

Edge Of Tomorrow Emily Blunt

How They Built the Battle Exosuits for ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

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Live, die…repeatedly strap yourself into a metal articulated exoskeleton that weighs 85 lbs.

A Space Odyssey Stargate

How They Shot the Stargate Sequence in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

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My god, it’s full of stars! And innovative slit-scan photography!

Police Story Jackie Chan Mall Pole Stunt

How They Shot the Explosive Pole Jump Stunt in ‘Police Story’

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A stunt so nice they showed it thrice. Here’s the story behind Jackie Chan’s legendary leap.

Scanners Exploding Head

How They Shot the Head Explosion Scene in ‘Scanners’

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“If ever you want to blow up a head, I advise using kosher salt. But don’t do this at home.” – special effects artist Gary Zeller.

Fantasia Ave Maria Sequence

How Animators Created the Elaborate “Ave Maria” Sequence for ‘Fantasia’

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You know what doesn’t help an already challenging multiplane camera set up? An earthquake.

Days Of Heaven Locust Swarm

How They Shot the Locust Scene in ‘Days of Heaven’

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Everything in ‘Days of Heaven’ was accomplished in-camera. And yes that includes the locusts.