Saanich wind tunnel shines on silver screen

Local company provides special effects for Tomorrowland

Peter Zaoralek

Peter Zaoralek

George Clooney may keep his perfectly coiffed hair away from 220 km/h air currents, but the actor who played his younger self in Tomorrowland had to throw caution to the wind.

Bodyflight, a portable wind tunnel company based in Saanich, was enlisted for some key freefalling scenes in the sci-fi adventure film, based on the futuristic themed part of Disneyland. The film stars Clooney as a disillusioned inventor who – persuaded by a teenage science enthusiast – embarks on a journey to unearth Tomorrowland, an ahead-of-its-time cityscape that exists in their collective memory.

The scenes were filmed on a studio lot in Vancouver, where the 11-year-old actor Thomas Robinson learned to fly in a wind tunnel before graduating to open-air flying. Each minute of the experience simulates a skydive freefall in both length and sensation, but without actually falling.

“We were approached the year before by the stunt co-ordination team about using the mobile system for filming a key scene,” said Peter Zaoralek, owner of Bodyflight. “They were looking for a way to create lifelike sequences around a freefall scene and the Bodyflight System offered a versatile, cost-effective solution.”

For Tomorrowland, Bodyflight used its X1 machine, a fully portable skydive simulator which produces wind speed up to 230 km/h. The system allowed for use of a clear wall-to-wall air flight chamber and an open-air flight system with custom net rigging and air-cushion systems.

With guidance from main stunt flyer and trainer John Suiter, professional flyers worked with Robinson and other cast members to teach them how to use the wind tunnel.

“Initially Thomas worked with John Suiter in the wall-to-wall flight chamber,” said Zaoralek. “He was a natural flyer and became skilled enough that he could do his own stunts for the sequence.”

The final sequence was shot within a maze of blue screens, cranes and machines in an open-air environment, surrounded by specialized trapeze nets and safety systems.

Following the release of the film in May – which grossed $208.6 million at the box office – Zaoralek is hoping to attract the attention of other productions looking to film realistic freefall, flying or wind-related scenes.

“The film industry is very busy in Victoria and Vancouver currently and we hope this means more interest in the technology,” he said. “With a portable machine and ability to fabricate whatever may be required, we can bring the technology to any location, which is a huge benefit.”

 

jacob.zinn@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read