Under the Radar

'Deepwater Horizon' & the Magic of Practical Effects


Deepwater Horizon tells the story of the men and women who tried to prevent the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and had to cap the well after the explosion. If you want a story about international energy policy or government hearings that aim to establish responsibility, this isn't that movie. Director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg are interested paying tribute to the workers on the front lines. The movie is out now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand.

Special Effects Supervisor Burt Dalton talked to us about creating the film's fire and explosions. Practical effects are physical sets and feature real fire and explosions (or car wrecks or whatever). Early movie makers enhanced those effects in post-production but the rise of computers and CGI has radically changed special effects. The Deepwater Horizon crew created as much as possible with practical effects, building a giant, near-scale facsimile of the rig and creating real fire and mud explosions on set. Things were enhanced later with CGI but there was an emphasis on making the images as real as possible.

In the video below, Burt explains all of this in detail and talks about the skill set needed in the practical effects business, skills that should sound remarkably familiar to many men and women who've served in the military.


We had a change to speak with Berg, Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell and Gina Rodriguez when the movie was released in theaters last fall. Check out those videos here. Berg and Wahlberg are on an outstanding run together that started with Lone Survivor, the 2013 movie about Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, and continues with Patriots Day, their movie about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that opens in theaters this Friday.

There's also a fascinating Deepwater Horizon VR app, now available on iOS and Android. If you've got a VR headset or Google Cardboard box designed to work with your phone, it's a fascinating addition to Burt's interview. You get a 360° VR commentary on the film with two additional clips available to unlock if you purchase a copy of the film.

The 4K and Blu-ray discs include "Beyond the Horizon” an hour-long five-part series about the experience, and a featurette about Peter Berg called "Captain of the Rig." The 4K, Blu-ray and DVD all include “The Fury of the Rig” featurette, the “Deepwater Surveillance” featurette and “Work Like an American” tributes. 



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