How real explosions are made for movies and TV

  • Rowley SFX specialise in explosive effects, and have worked on the BBC’s “Peaky Blinders” as well as Netflix’s “The Stranger.”
  • We visited them at their workshop just outside of Leeds in the north of England.
  • More and more movies rely on visual effects to create impressive explosions, but companies like this one use all kinds of inventive methods to give a reference for VFX, as well as for actors and stunt performers to react to.

  • We tested dust squibs, and explosive effects at their workshop, as well their Ladco blaster to simulate fire.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rowley SFX has created practical explosion effects for the first two seasons of “Peaky Blinders” and the BBC’s “World on Fire.” It produced weather effects and practical effects for Netflix’s “The Stranger,” the upcoming StudioCanal adaptation of “The Secret Garden,” and “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.”

The company was founded in 1946 by Alf Rowley and is now run by members of the same family, including Ian Rowley and his son Rob. It started as an action props manufacturer for beloved UK children’s TV shows.

More and more movies rely on visual effects to create impressive explosions, but companies like this one use all kinds of inventive methods to give a reference for VFX, as well as for actors and stunt performers to react to.

We sampled dust hits, which mimic machine-gun bullets hitting a wall. We also sampled Rowley SFX’s Ladco blaster, which is filled with nitrogen or propane to give an explosive effect or generate a fireball. Ladco blasters come in different sizes, but the one we sampled gave a fireball of 9 to 10 meters. The final test was an explosive mortar effect using soil and fuel to simulate a shell hitting a field.

Produced by Ju Shardlow

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