‘Yellowstone’ TV Special Effects Supervisor Explains How the Show Uses Modern Technology to Work with ‘One of a Kind’ Pieces

by Leanne Stahulak

On a show as cinematic as “Yellowstone,” a lot of factors have to fall into place in order for a shot to come out as good as it does.

One of those factors is special effects. “Yellowstone” put together a behind-the-scenes featurette to talk about the intricacies of the department with Special Effects Supervisor Garry Elmendorf.

Elmendorf has been in the special effects business for 45 years, mainly working on feature films. His father and grandfather before him also worked in the industry, so Elmendorf definitely knows his way around a “TV magic” workshop.

In the featurette, Elmendorf gave viewers a tour of the “Yellowstone” fabrication shop, where the special effects crew does ‘all the pre-rigging, the design and the fabrication for the effects that are going on.” The shop is split into several sections, including a welding area, metal shop, and storage space for various Hollywood-specific tools and equipment.

Elmendorf also gave some examples of the work he and the special effects crew do on the show to make things feel real. “We fabricate anything they need. If it looks like it’s physically there, we do it,” Elmendorf said at the beginning of the video.

‘Yellowstone’ Special Effects Supervisor Talks ‘Creating the Illusion’

One of Elmendorf’s examples was a scene where Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) had to flip over a gorgeous antique desk. Flipping the real thing was out of the question, Elmendorf said. The original desk weighs 450 pounds, so they created a lightweight version of it made of softer material.

“The hardware is antique. So in order to match it, we have to sand and paint it. We even took the books that are on the other side and stripped the covers off and put foam core in the middle of it. And that lost 20 more pounds,” Elmendorf explained. “So it’s all these things that we have to do to create the illusion.”

This won’t be the last time Elmendorf and the “Yellowstone” special effects crew have to get creative with their props.

“Set deck likes to get these beautiful, one-of-a-kind things that we can’t touch,” Elmendorf said. “So we have to turn it into something that we can deal with.”

One way they deal with these one-of-a-kind pieces is by substituting them out using modern tech. Elmendorf said that 3-D printers have changed the game, especially where glass is involved.

He showed an example of a stained glass window that Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) punched out in one scene. The original window was made of breakaway glass, a “thermal setting plastic” that can only be cut with straight lines. Punching won’t quite do the job. So, the special effects crew makes the form and shape of the window and ships it to another company to 3D print it.

“By utilizing other modern technology, we can give them a better look and better parts,” Elmendorf concluded.