FX LEGEND: "THE ONLY AIR SQUIB I WOULD SELL"

He won the Technical Achievement Academy Award in 1988 for the development of the DSC Spark Devices for motion picture special effects. The year after he was nominated for an Oscar for best visual effects in the movie Die Hard. Now Thaine Morris has retired from the sets, and runs a store that sells special effects equipment.

       I find myself spending more time talking people out of using pyrotechnics than talking them into using them. I always say, “don’t push the tech any higher than you have to”. The funny thing is my company is one of the biggest distributors of explosive squibs in the US, Thaine Morris says.

So, even though your main product is an explosive squib you talk people out of using it?
      You have to understand that back when I was working, there was no good alternative to pyrotechnics. And it was a hassle. Imagine the director wants to reshoot a shooting scene, which happens a lot, and you have to rig it with pyrotechnics. First you would have to find a new shirt since the one you have used has been torn. Then you might have to find new explosives, which can be really expensive and time consuming. And then maybe the director is satisfied. With the air powered squib, you just rig the scene over and over. Maybe you need to clean the clothing, but that’s it, he says.

       The thing about the Air Squib is that it is made by an experienced FX specialist who developed it while working on set. It is by far the best one out on the market, says Morris.

Morris is impressed by how good the end result is, even though the air squib is a much simpler and cheaper way to get a bullet hit then by using pyrotechnics. 

      I have an example of when I really would have needed the air squib, long before Olov had started working on it. One day on a movie set, the director changes his mind about a shooting scene and wants a child to be in it. Now in the US, you need a legal permit to use pyrotechnics around children. And they don’t hand out those permits straight away. So that scene had to be shot another day. Just imagine having an air squib there to save the day. It is the same with animals, you need a permit for them as well.

But the air squib can’t be all good, a lot of people still use pyrotechnics for bullet hit scenes.
      Well, what the air squib does not do is tear the clothing. But most times that just makes it convenient. Of course, a lot of new FX specialists are really keen on using explosives because it seems cool. After having worked with special effects my entire life I realise the most important part is having equipment that is safe and easy to use. There is a reason you need those permits when using pyrotechnics. Sometimes everything goes well, but honestly, both actors and others on set have been injured more than once when using explosive squibs. And the injuries can be pretty bad. No one can get hurt by the air squib.

      I really wish the Air Squib had been invented while I was still working on set. It has everything you need. Rig shots in theater shows night after night. Bring it to every set, because you never know when the director might change his or her mind. It is a life saver for all FX specialists.

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