Macro Videographer Recreates Nuclear Explosion From Oppenheimer Movie

In Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster movie Oppenheimer, the director famously refused special effects for the filming of a nuclear explosion instead opting to do it in-camera. Inspired by this, a video artist made a macro version of the Trinity nuclear test.

Thomas Blanchard employed various lenses, including a Canon 100mm macro lens to film alcohol inks, gold powder, magic candles, and an electric screwdriver with paper clips and a laboratory shaker to make Trinity, his ode to Nolan’s cinema craft.

“I was very much inspired by the Oppenheimer trailer when it came out,” the French filmmaker tells PetaPixel. “I was fascinated to see that the effects were done without CGI. This is the basis of my work, film as many real things as possible that seem surreal.”

Blanchard is a macro video artist by trade and he regularly works with inks and pigments that he thought would be perfect for this project.

“I stopped myself from seeing the film Oppenheimer until my work was complete so as not to be more inspired than what I had seen in the trailer,” he explains.

Behind the scenes of Trinity.
Behind the scenes of Trinity.

Blanchard spent three months on the project searching for ideas and equipment, as well as testing, filming, editing, and the final export of the film. But he says the most difficult part was ultimately removed from the final edit.

“I had filmed sand in macro shaking to high-frequency sounds, on a guitar speaker. We call it cymatic. The videos were great but unfortunately they pixelated once on the internet. It was very frustrating. I think there was too much detail in the images.”

Blanchard used a RED Helium 8K as well as an Ember FreeFly 5k with an Irix 150mm lens, a Canon 100mm macro, and a Célère 85mm cinema lens. While the project was filmed in 8K and 5K, he edited Trinity in 4K.

“We filmed 90 percent of the sequences in my kitchen,” adds Blanchard. “Only the fire was filmed in the studio with the high-speed camera Ember FreeFly.”

Trinity was the code name for the first nuclear test carried out by the United States as part of the Manhattan Project which it did on July 16, 1945. The moment was arguably the magnum opus for physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer whose life and work take center stage in Nolan’s 2023 movie.

More of Blanchard’s work can be found on his website and Instagram.

Image credits: Thomas Blanchard