How To Make Your Own Mad Scientist’s Lab – Part One

The ending scenes in our short film Blobageddon were supposed to take place inside an antimatter storage facility.  Or at least that’s how it was speced out on the paper napkin on which we wrote the outline for the film.  Given that we didn’t have access to a real antimatter  storage facility, we were going to need to come up with one.  Since we were going for cheese factor here, a mad scientist’s lab seemed like it would fit the bill.

Conveniently, John’s basement had a nice counter we figured we could dress up and make look lab-like.  He also had a number of beakers and test tubes and sundry items from Halloween parties, my wife Susan made us a “Big Red Button” and our friend Bob just happened to have an oscilloscope lying around.  Everyone should have a friend with an oscilloscope.

First, we setup the oscilloscope and attached a hidden microphone to it so we could have some fun with zombie groans later in the scene.

Mad Scientist's Lab Oscilloscope

Don’t leave home without your oscilloscope

Next, we filled the glassware with colored liquids and John’s girlfriend Marianne created an important-looking flowchart.

Mad Scientist's Lab Glassware

Go ahead – drink something – I dare you

Finally, we duct-taped the button to the wall.

The Big Red Button

You know you want to push it

We were now loaded for bear.

After numerous attempts to get the pan right (steadicam, panning the camera on a tripod and mounting the camera on a dolly), we finally settled on a shot done by mounting the camera on a dolly, rolling the dolly on the ground and then zooming into a close-up of the button.

While the pan and zoom look good, the shot itself is too slow and has annoying sounds of the dolly on the rolling on the ground.  Plus, let’s be real, it just isn’t all that interesting.

However, we have home computers.  We can do anything.  First, to speed up the pan, we separated the clip into two segments, the pan and the zoom and then sped the pan up by 20%.  Next we silenced the audio track from the clip, added a bubbling sound effect from Garage Band, and tacked on some music from a horror theme that Shmoolie wrote for us.

I think you’ll agree that the second clip is much more interesting than the first.  The music and bubbles create an atmosphere that make the sequence both silly and slightly creepy at the same time.

In the next part, I’ll cover how we simulated an anti-matter reaction replete with klaxons, flashing red lights and a simulated explosion.

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