Special Effects

Mel Gibson wanted to show the 'Braveheart' battle sequences to an audience as if they 
were at the centre of the action.
For scenes of the savage battles of Stirling and Falkirk 1.700 of the Irish Army's reserve 
forces acted as the infantry, archery and cavalry divisions of the Scottish and 
English armies of the late 13th and early 14th centuries. 
The expanses required for the battle scenes were found in Ireland.
With both the major battle sequences of Stirling and Falkirk, time was taken to choreograph 
each move during rehearsals to make certain no one was injured.
"We wanted to make it very real", says stunt coordinator Simon Crane.
"They were bloody times, so what we were shooting was very brutal. We had 30 or so English 
stuntmen and they trained the extras for two weeks before filming".
The two major battles seen in the film consist of hand-to-hand combat, 40 foot flames and 
the use of real as well as mechanical horses, to depict the desperate fight of the Scottish 
people to rid their country of the English tyrant King Edward I ('Braveheart' Study Guide).
'Braveheart' - Combat Effects.

"I wanted the film to look realistic and gritty", Mel Gibson.

The archery was a powerful weapon for the English army of King Edward I.
A tightly carpet of arrows flew to the Scots. How did they manage that?
Well, it is surely not possible for archers standing side by side in a long series, like you 
see on the photo. 
They must stand behind each other,arranged in a square, for a real hail of arrows
Special Effects Supervisor Nick Allder built a battery of compressed air arrow shooters.
10.000 arrows with rubber tips were created for the film which were shot by the arrow 
launchers on this trailer. The 'Braveheart' launcher consisted of four compressed air tanks 
with multiple barrels firing into the air as many as 360 arrows at a time in quick succession.
Such devices are often used when a lot of arrows should fly as homogeneous as possible 
at once through the air.
A stunning arrow shooter battery was built in 1962 for the film "The 300 Spartans".
"The 300 Spartans" - Special Effects Supervisor Fred Etcheverry inspects one of the battery 
of 20 compressed air arrow shooters he devised for the final battle scene. 
Each of the bazooka-type shooters can fire a charge of 100 arrows, making it possible 
to have as many as 2000 (!) arrows in the air at one time, since the entire battery can 
be discharged with the press of a single switch.
This terrific 'shield camera' allows special shots of the arrows flying towards the Scots.
In the heat of battle, the camera man hiding behind it, but can continue filming.
'Braveheart' was an exciting challenge for the Make-Up crew.
Lots of small and large wounds, and gallons of fake blood.
Peter Frampton (Chief Make-Up Artist), Jennifer Hegarty (Crowds Make-Up Supervisor) and 
their Crews did an exceptional job.
Director/Actor Mel Gibson is checking his make-up and gives it the final touch.
Make-Up by Lois Burwell.
The great battles require numerous special effects and a clever editing. 
Blood, prosthetics, dummies, ... and much more!
The blood comes from the spray bottle - Make-Up artist Amanda Knight.
The Battle of Stirling was filmed during two weeks with a company that reached 3000.
The battle was choreographed by Gibson and stunt coordinators Mic Rodgers and Simon Crane. 
150 horses were used for the English in their charge (Horse Master Tony Smart).
Shields, lances, weapons, bows and arrows were provided by armourers (Simon Atherton).
Costume designers (Charles Knode) recreated chain mail for the English and metres of plaid 
for the Scots. Thousands of wigs and beards were also provided.
You need more than a spray bottle full of blood, if a body is to be pierced by a sword.
Special 'Braveheart' 'combat robots'. Halved dummies with big holes in the body (left).
Blood bags are stuffed into the holes and the dummy is dressed.
Directly over a hole a sword blade is attached, which is held in position by a spring 
(right dummy). 
Once triggered, the blade whizzes through the hole and the blood bags (mechanical effect)...
gushing blood. 
William Wallace (Mel Gibson) hit by an arrow and the spray bottles of the make-up crew.
"I don't mind working with fire but you've got to respect it", said Les Bowie 
('The Story of Special Effects in the Cinema' - John Brosnan).
Les Bowie was a pioneer in movie magic, the Grandseigneur of the British special effects boys.
At one point in the action flaming arrows ignite oil that had been spread on the ground by 
the Scots. This meant placing steel tubing under the surface of the grass into which propane 
gas was pumped. If there had been the slightest problem with any of the horses or soldiers, 
the flames could have been extinguished at the turn of a switch.
Fire effects, like explosives, also demand skilled handling.
Many British soldiers are trapped by the flames and burn.
The flames are of a different color, obviously this is not a propane gas fire.
Probably a special pyro gel or a paste is used here.
The stuntmen are well protected. Thick clothes, the neck is covered, thick gloves...
The face of the stuntman shines right of the pyro/fire gel.
His face is (slightly) protected by a special fire protection stunt gel.
This water based gel is applied as the first layer.
It remains to be dangerous and is a job for experienced, strong nerves stuntmen.
Wind is an unpleasant companion for those scenes.
Sometimes, a face mask is used for such a scene.
The stunt crew prepares the scene meticulously.
The British Soldiers (Stuntmen) are smeared with fire gel.
You can see the propane gas lines for the fire effects and the 'ignition' of the soldiers.
All wear fireproof suits.
Whoa, that looks fierce. And this is not a Car crash at the Indy 500!
You are at the shooting of 'Braveheart'.
The English cavalry. They want to attack the Scots at full gallop. But the Scots have long wooden spears. 
These scenes look pretty rough. But neither the horses nor the performers were injured.
How did they do that? 
The cavalry sequence is a composition of different elements. 
Scenes with mechanical horses, dummy horses and real horses.
Special Effects Supervisor Nick Allder designed two lifelike nitrogen powered mechanical 
horses, which were driven along a track.
When fired, a horse would accelerate from zero to 30 miles an hour on 20 feet of track.
Reaching the Scots, a piston automatically kicked in between the legs. 
The stuntman flies out of the saddle ... no seat belt, no airbag!
The battle scenes were all shot with pockets of people fighting in different areas, 
with the horses having their own area. The ground had been dug up and filled with sand 
for the horse falls. By using a long lens, it pulled the groups of people and 
animals together for the scenes. 
Then by adding some cutting and splicing of the film in post production, the scenes 
appeared very violent with horses in the middle of all the fighting.
Different lifelike 'stunt horses' were built by Dominic Wheadon (model maker).
A great photo of one of the mechanical horses (35mm slide) which allows us a glimpse 
into the technology behind the effect.
Such a horse was an expensive 'extra', each mechanical horse cost roughly $100,000

Special Effects Supervisor Nick Allder has contacted me with some very interesting 
information about his mechanical horses.
Nick: " ... I came up with the system of dummy horses on tracks and driven by air cylinders. 
I built two systems. The horses were made in the UK and were jointed simular to a crash dummy. 
The main air piston through a system of pulleys drove the main carrier with the horse 
attached down the track. It had to stop almost dead so I modified small air cylinder as 
a kind of shock absorber and stopped the carriage in about 4 inches. 
At that moment it hit switch that fired the second cylinder that fired the back of the horse up  and over.
It also carried its own air tank. The system was powered by 4 large Nitrogen bottles."
Nick, what happened to the nitrogen Superhorses...?
Nick:"They were destroyed after the film as they were too dangerous. 
If someone used them without knowing they could hurt someone badly." 

In scenes with real horses, a horse trainer was always there.
Horse Master on 'Braveheart' was Tony Smart.

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