How’d They Do That?

How’d They Do That? is a monthly column in which Meg Shields unpacks moments of movie magic and celebrates the technical wizards who pulled them off.

If you’re new to reading this column, we suggest starting with these entries:

Explore the entire How’d They Do That? archive below

Scanners Exploding Head

How They Shot the Head Explosion Scene in ‘Scanners’


“If ever you want to blow up a head, I advise using kosher salt. But don’t do this at home.” – special effects artist Gary Zeller.

Fantasia Ave Maria Sequence

How Animators Created the Elaborate “Ave Maria” Sequence for ‘Fantasia’


You know what doesn’t help an already challenging multiplane camera set up? An earthquake.

Days Of Heaven Locust Swarm

How They Shot the Locust Scene in ‘Days of Heaven’


Everything in ‘Days of Heaven’ was accomplished in-camera. And yes that includes the locusts.

Jaws Dolly Zoom

How Does the Dolly Zoom Work?


Here’s how cinematographers accomplish the disorienting trick also known as “the ‘Vertigo’ effect.”

Jurassic Park T Rex Roar

How They Designed The T-Rex Roar in ‘Jurassic Park’


One of the rare sound effects as iconic as its accompanying visual effect.

Sorcerer Bridge Scene

No Way Back: How They Shot the Bridge Scene in ‘Sorcerer’


A perilous bridge traversal so nice they did it twice.

Russian Ark long take

How They Shot ‘Russian Ark’ in One Take With No Hidden Cuts


“In hindsight, it couldn’t have worked. But it did.” – producer Jens Meurer

Pinhead Poster Box

How They Did the “Birth of Frank” Sequence in ‘Hellraiser’


Pull yourself together!

Videodrome Television Effect

How They Did the “Breathing Television” Effect in ‘Videodrome’


Long live the New Flesh and pucker up! Here’s a breakdown of what went into the “breathing television effect” in ‘Videodrome.’