Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Tuner’s Life 2

 Looking through some old files for stories this is another unique project I was involved with here in Vancouver.

Nothing to do with the sound of this piano but it was a movie stunt I helped set up.

 July 2006 Movie Scene:

 A pianist at the piano, playing in a balcony lounge setting. Two men who are in the lounge begin fighting; they eventually crash into the piano and the pianist; all of them crash through the balcony railing and go 90 ft down to the floor on top of 30 people.

Scene end.

Now doing a stunt like this is fraught with problems to overcome, not the least of which is who has the grand piano that requires disposal, and more importantly, who would like to be in the group on the main floor underneath the balcony?

There were several ideas floated to me regarding this: make a cardboard copy, this would be far too light resulting in too much sail, not falling the correct rate of speed and appearance.

Next up was a plywood copy; by the time you bent all of that wood to make the shape, still you have no parts inside to burst out all over the place.

So in the end the film accountant and producer decided to use a real grand piano…..but still they wanted to drop this one on top of 30 people.

There was only one way to accomplish this stunt. Drop the piano over the balcony but have a giant bungee cord attached so it did not destroy the theatre flooring upon impact.

 Also nobody would die either….this was good.

 The plan was to edit out the bungee cord in the production room; then edit in the crowd below…..(actually if I recall correctly I believe they took the crowd scene out….)

 With this part solved, they could now throw the instrument off the balcony and film the destruction.

Now they wanted a small black grand. I didn’t have one and there were none available second hand. So off they went to a retailer and spent 10k on a brand new Hoffman and Khune 5ft. grand.

Because of the way these instruments are built, if thrown off the balcony of that height, there would be a good chance the piano would not disintegrate because of all the bolts and screws and glue holding them together. (Think for a moment; how do I know this….. :)

After the purchase of this instrument brand new, I had to attend the special effects center here in North Vancouver to consult with the special effects foreman Denys Guillemette and set up the geometry correctly so that the instrument would come apart upon impact.

 I had to let all of the pressure off of the strings, unwind them all, undo all of the plate bolts that hold the casted metal plate in place, undo all of the action/keyboard screws .

Once this is done a particular way, the instrument will come apart upon impact with the accurate effects of having the case burst, the metal parts fracturing, the wire coming out and so on.

The film was White Noise Two; originally called White Noise The Light. This movie bears no relation to the first movie in any way; the plots are completely different. White Noise Two is about NDE (near death experience) and how some people when they come back to life can see white  light around certain people and hear the EVP. (Electronic Voice Phenomenon)

So if you are a Nathan Fillion/Katie Sackhoff fan give it a watch; pretty intense flick so if you are a sensitive or nervous person best not to watch.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, some disturbing images, thematic material and language.

Here is the trailer from YouTube. At your own risk… 2:01 you get a glimpse of the piano going over the railing….. two shots actually…… it was a fun gig.


  1. That was wicked! Wow! And here I thought you tuned pianos...when in fact there's a whole other world attached to what you do.

    Thanks for digging in your old files for this piece.

    Great post,

  2. Hey Jenny,
    Thanks for the comments and yes that was a fun one to be involved in.As I find the fun stories I will post them here.