Real Chemical Plant Explosion

Take a look at the first few seconds of the video of this horrible disaster in Illinois, USA...

If this were a VFX shot, we would sit around and talk about how fake it looks. There is no light interaction from the explosion., There is no shockwave moving the trees nearby. The the color grade of the explosion is completely blown out. The smoke totally looks fake. With the exception of one person, no one else around even seems to be phased by it. Yet, this is a real explosion. Thoughts?


  • tddavis
    tddavis Posts: 5,096 Moderator

    @FilmSensei If a tree falls in the woods... For all the reasons you listed can we even trust the news media not to fake an explosion for misdirection sake? I know I sure don't. Maybe they just got a bad VFX artist😁

  • GrayMotion
    GrayMotion Posts: 1,598 Enthusiast
    edited June 15

    @tddavis Well at least they got the reflections of the fire ball correctly reflected off the water on the roof.

    It’s crazy how reality isn’t even close to what you see on the big screen isn’t it. Now I imagine if the sound of the explosion was captured the reality would become even more “real”👍

  • alaska_vfx_filmer
    alaska_vfx_filmer Posts: 516 Enthusiast
    edited June 15

    Although I wouldn't put it past them I think "Fake " look is due to what we're used to seeing in controlled explosions with proper exposure settings, also I think its due to the fuel being consumed here, We don't often see "lubricant" explosions.

    The Look transfers to the only other angle I could find

  • philipwesson
    philipwesson Posts: 416 Staff

    It is pretty interesting that we as both audience members and users of VFX software have been trained to expect a certain look when it comes to phenomena that occur in the real world (explosions, shock waves, etc). I remember seeing all the different angles of the explosion in Beiruit a few months ago and thinking that it looked strange, and I couldn't figure out why. I had expected to see things that I've seen in either physics tests or VFX that weren't captured then.

  • Triem23
    Triem23 Posts: 20,070 Ambassador

    TV and movies program us to perceive things in a way counter to reality.

    Almost every practical explosion in shows are controlled propane detonations. Those that aren't are still low powered, and, of course, controlled. Believe it or not some small scale explosions (like miniature sets) use coffee creamer!

    Any gun owner is well aware that TV and movies use a lot of shotgun blasts as pistol sounds, any martial artist (or person who has been in a fight) knows a person getting punched doesn't sound like WHOOSH-THWACK! Going back to guns, no, being shot with a 9mm won't throw a 200 pound man 10 feet in the air. Light is a thousand times faster than sound. Explosion in the distance doesn't synch with the rumble, nope!

    Space scenes to be "realistic?" One directional light for the sun. Maybe a bounce light if near a planet, but albedo for Earth is about 28%. For something in orbit, lower, so don't crank that bounce light over 20. But we're used to seeing space scenes lit with studio lights from 15 feet away... What we're used to seeing as "space realism" isn't. NASA/JPL photos take grayscale images shot in various wavelengths. That data can be manipulated to show interesting things, but those typically released for the public are assigning colors to different wavelengths and are manipulated to look pretty. The "Pillars of Creation" don't look like the famous photo.

    The chemical plant explosion is another case in point. Blown out highlights? Camera is exposed for the firefighters. No shockwave? That explosion went vertical through the hole in the ceiling, not out sideways at ground level. The shockwave is there, it's just not aimed at the trees. No light interaction? It's the middle of the day. Sun brighter than fire. No reaction? Tough to tell on a small screen, but, with firefighters on site, this was an ongoing event with onlookers already pushed back to safe distance. Not really a total surprise, but I'm sure those watching all went, "aw, DAMN!" at that fireball. Fake smoke? Hollywood smoke is oil or butane based. Whatever was burning at the plant was different.

    But, again, we're just programmed wrong by a diet of unrealistic entertainment.

  • Andy001z
    Andy001z Posts: 3,152 Ambassador

    I think what we are seeing in the Chemicals in the air ingniting which causes the flame to rapidly grow, and is most likely why there is little force to explosion, becuase it has none. Its a bit like lighting anything that will burn rapidly.

    Well thats my take.

  • alaska_vfx_filmer
    alaska_vfx_filmer Posts: 516 Enthusiast

    Herein lies a danger, both for creators and viewers, however much we will say "it's just art and entertainment" it will distort our (both as viewer and creator) perception of reality, and the more immersive the experience, the more influence over the viewers, and thus more responsibility for the creator.

    Frankly I don't trust most of em :-\

    This is getting a bit serious for a casual discussion, so I'd better stop now :-)

  • Dimipapa
    Dimipapa Posts: 386 Enthusiast

    I would agree that the smoke looks fake. I dunno maybe its the sun or the resolution not being that great. It would probably look more real closer up. This reminds me a little of my foray into internet marketing (do not recommend unless you enjoy lighting your money on fire) When it came to creating ad banners or buttons or what not you'd try to do what was expected. You'd split test to see which ones performed better. But then if you made one that broke all the rules, have no trust symbol, barely seeming to be on topic, looking like a 5 year old made it on MS Paint, those would absolutely kill it. I wonder if our reactions to this actual fire might be the reverse of this phenomenon.

  • Stargazer54
    Stargazer54 Posts: 3,435 Ambassador
    edited June 21

    Well, just for comparison here is a clip of the Pepcon explosion in Henderson, Nevada from 1988. It just so happened a TV crew was on top of a nearby mountain working on their transmitter and had a camera rolling. I was part of a team of animators who worked on the lawsuit that followed and built the major buildings, processing areas and storage containers. At that time, Pepcon was a contractor for the government making rocket fuel for the space shuttle. Things go big badda boom.

    Probably is the most impressive part of this video is the shock wave that rolled across the desert. It knocked out windows in Vegas 16 miles away.

  • FilmSensei
    FilmSensei Posts: 3,108 Expert

    @Stargazer54 I remember this video... mostly because of that incredible shockwave.

  • tddavis
    tddavis Posts: 5,096 Moderator

    You can see how hot it is by the pyroclastic smoke clouds coming off of it after that fourth blast. I read somewhere that you only get that kind turbulence with super intense (volcano like) heat.