“Yellowstone”’s special effects team had a daunting task before them.
They had to generate an explosion for the bomb scene in Beth’s office without using pyrotechnics. So they turned to an air mortar, a device that uses a tank full of compressed air to produce some of the special effects you’ve seen on the show.
Special effects “Yellowstone”-style
Special Effects Supervisor Garry Elmendorf explains the process in a new YouTube clip released by Paramount.
Elmendorf is a third-generation special effects guy. Most of his experience is with feature films. He has worked on movies such as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Logan.”
“When we don’t want to use pyrotechnics, we can generate almost the same effect with air,” Elmendorf says. “This is what we used for the explosion for Beth’s office.”
Air mortars have been in use since the 1940s. The compressed air is in the tank. A special effects crew member presses a button, and it opens instantaneously.
Making the scene come alive
In the video clip, Elmendorf shows viewers around “Yellowstone”’s fabrication shop, complete with a metal shop and welding area.
“We fabricate anything they need; if it looks like it’s physically there, we do it,” he says. “We bring a complete manufacturing setup. We can do most anything right here.”
Oftentimes the special effects crew has to work on tight deadlines. Elmendorf says they get short notice on some projects, finding out they have a day to do something when they’d planned to take a week.
But they owe it to their coworkers to come through. According to Elmendorf, the cast and crew of “Yellowstone” are “one of the nicest groups of people” – everybody really pulls together. And then there are the fans.
“Everybody that watches the show is really into the characters,” Elmendorf says. “We add our little piece to making it feel accurate and dangerous… A lot of our work is making the scene come alive.”
Above all, the cast and crew are out there having a good time. “It’s never boring – we don’t do the same thing twice,” Elmendorf says. “It’s been really fun.”