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Smart Parts


Smart Parts Goes To Hollywood
May 2002
by Dawn Mills -

Hollywood's movie and television industry has often used paintball as a vehicle to portray action, adventure and fun, but even though paintball sized shells are often used for special effects, they usually aren't fired out of what we think of as paintguns. 

Paintball guns have been seen as props in such movies as Johnny Pneumonic with F1 Illustrators, Extreme Days with men on skis playing paintball with blow-back semis (never mind their complete disregard for goggles!), Jackie Chan's First Strike with modified Autocockers and the Techwar Science Fiction series also using a modified Autococker design. 

Within the industry of paintball there is a pseudo-secret supplier of special effects shells to Hollywood.  They provide the plastic projectile shells used for creating special effects.  Like paintballs, the shells are round and 68 caliber, but instead of being made of gelatin, they are made of plastic through a patented injection molding process that makes them shatter on impact.  After the pyrotechnicians in Hollywood receive the plastic shell, they fill them with any number of special substances to create the effect that they desire for the production.  They use a baby powder type substance to create an illusion of dust or bullet debris, or a 'zirc', which is a zirconium mixture that creates sparks when it's struck against something hard, like a ricochet of a bullet on pavement or on a vehicle.  According to Tom Kaye, President of Technicor, makers of the Perfect Circle plastic shells, they are the leading supplier for special effects delivery in Hollywood.

In the past, Hollywood has shied away from using paintball guns as a delivery method for these plastic shelled balls since the pyrotechnics inside are shock sensitive.  They have instead made their own single shot breech or muzzle loaded guns - basically a barrel and a valve - for delivery.   These custom built effects guns typically consist of a number of barrels mounted on a framework, aimed at their targets.  Low pressure compressed air is delivered through high flow solenoid valves.  The advantages of this set up for the effects crew are several.  First there is the shock issue, with no bolt or loading action the zircs won't get set off inside the effect gun.  The effect guns, being pre-aimed and mounted will hit what they are meant to hit, and since the whole rig takes a while to set up, the effects crew makes more money.

Smart Parts has been a leader in the changes that have marched across the paintball industry, rallying for a delivery of a low pressure blast of gas and a gentle bolt strike on the ball for use on fragile shelled paint, claiming that this leads to less welting of players, and better marking with fewer bounces in tournaments.  The low exhaust pressure, and light bolt pressure of the Shocker and Impulse paintguns have caught the interest of special effects production company in Hollywood.  According to Smart Parts' President Billy Gardner, Smart Parts is being considered for the use of their low pressure guns as the delivery method for effects balls in the upcoming production of Terminator III.  The movie's special effects will be handled by Special Effects Unlimited who have worked on big name, high caliber films like Harry Potter, Pearl Harbor, Sixth Sense, Deep Blue Sea, Contact, and Black Hawk Down.

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