Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about why real explosions in real life don’t look like they do in the movies.
When you imagine an explosion, what do you picture? Enormous fireballs? Columns of dark smoke? A cucumber-cool hero in a leather jacket (hell yeah) strolling calmly towards the camera?
For those of us fortunate enough to not have to deal with real-life explosive devices, film and television largely inform our expectations of what dramatic detonations ought to look like. And it turns out that off-screen explosives, which are designed to actually do damage, don’t look all that great on camera.
Meanwhile, what we’re used to seeing on-screen is as much of a special effect as a lubed-up monster prosthetic. This may seem obvious. But, as demonstrated in the video essay below, it’s impressive to see the difference in action nonetheless.
The technicians behind cinematic kabooms have tricks up their sleeves to make explosions look like we expect them to. This includes everything from adding more fuel to produce a bigger effect to zooming-in from a distance to fill the frame. Ultimately, like most practical special effects, cinematic explosions are a combination of art and science.
Oh, right, and the most important trick of all: not flinching.
Watch “Why Real Explosions Don’t Look Like Movie Explosions“:
Who made this?
Tom Scott is a London-based YouTuber who — broadly — makes videos on how stuff works. His info-taining videos unpack scientific phenomena and smooth out everyday enigmatic wrinkles, from how neurosurgeons navigate inside the brain during surgery to what garlic bread tastes like after it’s been sent to space. You can follow Scott on Twitter here. And you can get lost (and learn something) on his YouTube channel here.
More Videos Like This
- Want more of Scott? Here’s a video on why you can always tell that a green screen effect is bad.
- Here’s why dark scenes in television and on YouTube and streaming platforms all look pixelated and blocky.
- Why inconsistent framerates, cuts, and continuity. make music videos look weird.
- If you’ve ever wondered how YouTube’s copyright rules work and why it hurts creators, Tom Scott has a forty-minute video on why the whole dang system sucks. P.S. we’ve recommended this video from Kyle Kallgren before, but it’s relevant: how Content ID systems affect what video essays look like.