'Solo: A Star Wars Story' Visual Effects Were Inspired by Popular YouTube Series

The Star Wars saga has regularly set the standard for what complicated visual effects can accomplish in films, often creating brand-new techniques that subsequent films replicate in order to build the desired effect. In the case of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the film's visual effects team looked to the YouTube channel The Slow Mo Guys to create an organic and unconventional approach to delivering an explosion.

"Part of the problem with explosions and things like that is, if you're shooting a miniature explosion, the scale of the gravity gives itself away," Julian Foddy, ILM VFX Supervisor explained of the scene in which coaxium explodes following the train heist. "We were trying to do an explosion that's the size of a mountain and [Visual Effects Supervisor] Rob [Bredow] had the idea of, 'Well, if we can't go big, how about we go absolutely tiny?' And he was a big fan of The Slow Mo Guys on YouTube. We've seen these guys who like smashing things up, shooting it with ultra-slow-motion cameras. And they did a thing where they were doing underwater explosions, like firing off tiny little firecrackers in a fish tank and shooting it at something like 120,000 frames a second. So we decided to have a go at doing something like that and ultimately that's what we did."

After a series of trial and error explosions, the effects team ultimately found a visual that they felt adequately reflected their vision.

"We set up a large fish tank and we took a 3D print of the mountain that we were gonna blow up," Foddy confessed. "We shot it at 120,000 frames a second and we shot multiple versions of setting off firecracker charges, various different colors of firecrackers, various different densities. We shot about 64 different versions of this explosion using the 3D print of the mountain. The explosion, the bubble, wrapped itself around the contours of the mountain perfectly."

The scale of the Star Wars saga is difficult to replicate in real life, which would result in most audiences assuming the bigger effects were created through the use of computers. However, this specific effect was developed unconventionally, delivering audiences a visual that likely was developed contrary to their assumptions.

"It's quite funny, really, because when you look at the shot, most people would think that the mountain range is real and the explosion is CG, but it's actually completely the other way around," the artist noted. "The explosion elements are absolutely real and the mountains are all CG."


The effects seemingly paid off, with Solo being nominated for the Best Visual Effects award at the Oscars.

What did you think of the effect in the film? Let us know in the comments below or hit up @TheWolfman on Twitter to talk all things Star Wars and horror!