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Sparking Sword Special Effect

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  • Sparking Sword Special Effect

    Does anybody know, or know where I can find, a more detailed explanation of the sparking sword special effect used in Highlander? There's a very basic explanation in this featurette (at 15:04), but I'm interested in replicating the effect, and naturally I want to do it as safely as possible or not at all. Any help is appreciated, thanks!

  • #2
    It probably doesn't get clearer than that.

    1) Connect a cable to each of the blades,
    2) Run cables through clothing.
    3) Connect cables to a car battery
    4) Connect swords for sparks.
    May flights of Demons guide you to your final rest...


    • #3

      Yeah, but how exactly and where exactly do you connect the cables to the swords? In one shot it looks like they're being connected just above the tsuba (guard), but in the actual action shots, those leads seem to be gone. Also, it says the cables are hooked up to a welding box, not a car battery. Also, I'm curious what the power/voltage level is; how dangerous it is; et cetera.


      • #4
        They would have to be connected to the blades for the Sparks to be made.

        In the show they probably just moved the leads around to avoid them being seen at whatever angle they were shooting from. As for hooking it up to a welding box or a car battery, the car battery would be the easiest to acquire, but any battery with proper positive and negative connections to connect the leads to would work. The effect is literally just coming from the completion of the circuit by touching the charged blades to each other. In fact, if you have jumping cables, you can attach them to your car battery and then just tap the other sides together to create a similar spark. It's literally that simple.

        One final note about safety, the charged blades will be safe to touch, just never touch both at the same time. Doing this will cause the circuit will be completed through your body, causing a shock like a defibrillator, and that could be extremely dangerous depending on the voltage of the battery in use and whether or not you have any medical conditions that such a shock could exacerbate.

        Ultimately, I'd suggest wearing rubber gloves while filming for safety.


        • #5
          Thanks for the clarification. I suppose any battery would work, although I wonder if a car battery has more or less voltage than the welding box they used. Also, I still don't know what exact hardware they used to connect the cables to the swords. In one shot it looks like a chunky lead bolted just above the guard, but then in the action shots you can't see it there at all, from any angle, making me think they then connected it somewhere else (possibly to the pommel; if it's metal and connected to the tang, it could carry the charge). It's hard to tell though, on a grainy VHS turned pixelated youtube video.


          • #6
            It's possible that they designed spark specific prop swords to use in the fights where such sparks were desired, perhaps with an opening on the hilt under their hands where they could connect the leads to the tang. It's also possible that they just removed any visual leads in post (like many special effect houses do with the wires used in wire work choreography). Really, this is such a specific question that you'd probably need to ask someone who actually worked on the show. Perhaps if you go to a convention where AP is at again (nice pic, btw), you could ask him for specifics, but until then, angled photography to hide the leads will likely be your best option.


            • #7
              For sure, I just thought someone here might have more knowledge on the subject. It's such a cool, ingenious effect, I'm surprised more people haven't utilized it (to my knowledge) for other projects... And yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if they somehow hid the cables in the middle of the hilt, since the aluminum swords they used were already custom made; might as well go the one extra step. I'll definitely ask Adrian if he does another Sword Experience around here. Until then, maybe I can reach out to Rory Cutler, the special effects coordinator; it looks like he's very prolific.