EntertainmentMovie News

How Oppenheimer’s Atom Bomb Explosion Was Created Without CGI Finally Revealed-TGN


  • Oppenheimer VFX supervisor Andrew Jackson confirms that the film’s atomic blast scene was filmed without CGI, but stresses that VFX – mostly digital compositing – were a crucial part of the process.
  • Christopher Nolan wanted an artistic interpretation of the Trinity blast instead of a direct recreation, and this was accomplished by the layering of 400 individual elements, most of which were filmed practically.
  • Nolan’s aversion to CGI and his love for practical effects gives his films a tactile feeling and, in the case of Oppenheimer, adds a sense of threat and danger that computer graphics cannot replicate.

Oppenheimer VFX supervisor Andrew Jackson breaks down just how the film’s showstopping atomic blast was filmed without CGI, making clear that this doesn’t mean visual effects weren’t used. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the historical drama chronicles the life and career of “father of the atomic bomb” J. Robert Oppenheimer. One particularly gripping sequence in the movie recreates 1945’s Trinity Test, the first detonation of a nuclear bomb, which made headlines prior to the film’s release for its lack of CGI.

Now, in a recent interview with THR, Jackson delves into just how Oppenheimer’s nuclear blast was accomplished. While there was indeed no CGI used, visual effects played a crucial role, with digital compositing and the layering of practically filmed elements bringing the explosion to life. Instead of a one-for-one recreation, cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema explains that Nolan wanted “a sort of loose artistic interpretation of the ideas rather than an accurate representation of the physics,” a vision that ultimately resulted the use of multiple cameras and lenses, and 400 individual elements being layered together. Check out Jackson’s comments below:

“(Nolan) didn’t want use any CG simulations of a nuclear explosion. He wanted to be in that sort of language of the era of the film … using practical filmed elements to tell that story.

“They used four 44 gallon drums of fuel and then some high explosives under that, which sets the fuel alight and launches it into the air. We had some with really close-up detail of the burning explosion. We had a lot of material that we could layer up and build into something that had the appearance of something much bigger.”

Oppenheimer’s Lack Of CGI Explained

Nolan has, throughout his long and varied filmography, displayed a clear aversion to CGI. The filmmaker is well known for his love of capturing action practically, with in-camera shots always more desirable than something that is created later using a computer. Any number of Nolan’s films speak to his love of more old-school-style filmmaking, with one of Dunkirk‘s beach scenes, for example, actually using wooden silhouettes to create the appearance of soldiers far in the distance instead of CGI.

What this means, essentially, is that many of Nolan’s films have a tactile feeling that other big blockbusters just don’t have. Although CGI has come a very long way, there is still something special about the look and feel of practical effects. Nolan’s love for old-school filmmaking methods is perhaps most suited to a movie like Oppenheimer, which is arguably his most serious and most mature film in large part due to its subject matter.

Ultimately, a CGI blast may have more closely resembled the actual Trinity explosion, but Nolan previously expressed that CGI just can’t impart the same feeling of threat or danger onto audiences that practical effects can. Considering the movie is very much grounded in Oppenheimer’s perspective regarding the terrifying and world-altering destructive power of nuclear weapons, the feeling of the blast is ultimately more important than making it look technically correct.

Source: THR

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *