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Rube Goldberg Boomsday Machine

Collaborative Projects
Rube Goldberg Boomsday Machine

I think this was the best project I built with Adam Sadowsky @ Syyn labs. (He did the OK GO video) Adam got this project and put together the team he wanted to build it. I was one of a handful of people who worked on this build. This was commissioned by Blizzard for an upcoming card pack release for the game Hearthstone. The idea behind this was to show what happens behind the scenes when you play a card. While the layout of the Rube Goldberg machine was set before I showed up – how I was to get the ball from one point to another was completely up to me. Awesome! Adam always had total confidence in what I do and was excited to “show off” my abilities. When he was asked “how is Matt going to get the ball from here to there?” he would reply, “Just wait, you’ll see, Matt can do it, no problem.”

And, of course, I did… I flew out to Los Angeles with my TIG welder and hand tools I needed, I showed up ready to work. We worked for 10 days straight building and testing all of the components. The 11th day was filming.

We were able to get a good shot of the machine on the second take… and took several more that day… but alas were never able to get all three rockets to fire. Thankfully the one rocket that did fire correctly hit the target to activate that section of the Rube Goldberg machine.

So let me try to describe what happens in the machine:

The player of the game plays the card (which was added in post, for filming the laptop was blank) and starts the music. The 2″ steel ball (which I have in my shop!) is nudged into play by the vibration of the speaker. There was a small groove ground into the track to give it a place to sit. Around the wall the ball rolls. There was the small section of zig-zag track to slow the ball down and give the camera man a chance to move around the wall for the next shot. The ball rolled down to activate the drill. The steel wool is lit and then spun in circles to make it throw sparks for a cool effect. I then built the long back and forth track to give the drill time to spin the steel wool until it was used up. I was located directly behind that wall with the “kill” switch to the drill.

Once the ball dropped into the basket to release the ice block, I turned the drill off. The ice block slid down the ramp and hit a switch. The switch activated the gas which made the bunsen burners shoot up with flames. The ice block also released the next large 2″ ball. This ball was made from Tungsten! Suuuper heavy. I created the down ramp where this heavy ball pulled on a long rod and made the arm spin around. The arm spun around and got lit by the bunsen burners. This burning baton lit a wick. The wick was in place to hold the large, 5″ tennis ball in place.

Once the wick burned away the tennis ball was released, on fire, and then rolled down the tracks I made in a circle and got lifted by my chain lift. The plate that drops in the center of the tall triangle (with the blue gems on it), while the tennis ball gets lifted, is there to add some extra lift to the ball. A cable was attached that went up to a pulley and was attached to the pickup the ball is riding on. The motor struggled with the ball because it was filled with sand! The sand in the ball was to make it heavy enough to traverse the three trampolines, and it needed the weight to bounce correctly.

The tennis ball drops into the long catapult arm that lifts it into more track I built. This track drops the ball into the aquarium. A person behind scenes turned on the gas for the flames. The flames, and the heat they produce, lift up on the large metal paddle above the aquarium. This releases the bowling ball. The wick in the bowling ball was lit behind the scenes with an igniter and a trigger. The bowling ball rolls down to the left, activating the drop down graphics and activating the cannons. – This ends my part in this build. Everything after was done by the other people who worked on the build. Not that all of the first half was only me…I did the tracks specifically, and helped build the rest.

My work is done here – and this is what happens after:

The bowling ball activates the flame thrower (a torch for roofing) which melts the ice. The water that comes from the ice fills a container and when full releases the car riding on the cable. This car has an electro-magnet that holds onto the large star. Once it reaches the end, the cable is wrapped in tape to break the electrical connection and release the star. The star activates a series of levers that ignite the rockets (also activated off camera) The rockets hit the target, and throw the large switch which turns on the Tesla coil. (Arcs are done in post, the Tesla coil was real, but the electricity was not). The music was scored specifically for this project after it was filmed.

So, the thing that shocked me about this was “strike”. Strike happened 15 minutes after shooting was finished. What is strike? It was when the entire machine was torn down, everything was thrown in a big pile in the middle of the floor for the dumpster. We got to take home what we liked… and the rest was garbage. Wow. It was brutal!

All of the “props” were from a huge warehouse in Los Angeles that rents props. Those were returned.

This was an exciting project and I am proud to be a part of it.

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