Fall 2023 Best of Web – Avery Fails

thermite exploding

Fall 2023 Best of Web – Avery Fails

Image Courtesy of DNEG © Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Christopher Nolan is respected director and known for his dislike of CGI in his films, but in trying to push the envelope on realism, his films use creative methods to achieve visual effects no modern computer could generate. In his recent movie Oppenheimer (2023), he needed to recreate the feeling of both the quantum world and also the enormous presence of an atomic bomb without the actual nuclear explosion. In one particular scene, Nolan wanted to recreate interstellar explosions to emphasize one of the underlying scientific subplots so Andrew Jackson, visual effects supervisor for the film, used molten thermite through a pot, hitting another metal below it, to get bright explosions.

I like this photo it particular because it came out of the necessity to be creative to recreate “impossible” visuals. The use of thermite, a cheap explosive material, and taking advantage of its chemical reactivity with other metals created, almost uniform, and striking visuals. The timing of the thermite melting through a hole on the bottom of a garden pot was also forward thinking and a good way to control the rate of explosion with such reactive materials. The effects in the movie also had very little editing, if at all, and this one is a raw image shot with an IMAX camera, showing impressive detail in each spark.


Failes, Ian. “Spinning Beads, Cloud Tanks and Crucibles of Molten Thermite.” Befores & Afters, Before & After, 17 Aug. 2023, beforesandafters.com/2023/08/17/spinning-beads-cloud-tanks-and-crucibles-of-molten-thermite/.

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