Spinning, Flopping, Bucking & Sucking

Yes, the title of this post sounds exciting and dirty, but it is in fact a very accurate description of some special effect chairs that were built over at Scenario Custom Scenery a few years ago for a set of commercials for Badcock Furniture. I personally worked on the first chair shown in this video…. check it out and I’ll explain a bit more afterward:

Okay, in the first part of that video you saw a chair’s upholstery being sucked up into a vacuum cleaner, right? Well here’s how it worked….

The engineering for this setup involved finding an existing chair and stripping the upholstery from its frame. The next step required us to fabricate an upholstered “breakaway skin” that wrapped around the chair’s frame, however, we couldn’t use velcro to secure the skin in place because we needed to be able to YANK the skin down through a hole in the floor as the set for both of these chair commercials were built on an elevated stage so that the chair wranglers could be poised underneath to yank the upholstered skin through a small hole cut in the deck of the stage (for the first commercial) and to spin & flip the “bucking” chair (in the second commercial).

To make the “breakaway skin” fit the chair properly required endless adjustments to the way the flaps were sewn, adjustments to where bits of padding were added, consideration given to the resistance of the fabric on the texture of the padding… just a jillion little never ending adjustments. Even though I felt like the only person working on this gizmo there were actually a number of guys who had a hand in it and I just realized after watching this video that Michael Benedict (now with the Atlanta Opera) had worked on this gag as well!!

On the day of the shoot there were three of us below the deck for the vacuum commercial.
There was a hole cut into the floor directly in front of the chair and a vacuum cleaner was pushed up to the hole. A balloon was fitted inside the vacuum’s fabric bag and an air hose snaked out of the vacuum’s beater bar area down into the hole and up to an air compressor. A thick rope of cords and strings went from underneath the chair down that same hole.

Now, remember when I said that we couldn’t use velcro?
Well we couldn’t. However, we could (and did) use T-pins to hold certain bits of the skin in place.

Everything else depended on timing.

When the cameras rolled and the director called “action” it was my job to pull strings connected to the pins, releasing the skin from its hold on the wooden frame. The man operating the air tank (Paul Huggins, co-owner of Scenario Custom Scenery) would begin inflating the vacuum cleaner’s bag while the “Yank Guy” (Jesse) frenetically pulled the cords connected to the bulk of the breakaway upholstered skin.

We must’ve done the gag a dozen times or more and the final product looked great on camera.

Have you seen the commercial?

3 Comments on “Spinning, Flopping, Bucking & Sucking”

  1. Drew,Thanks for taking the time out to post this really cool yet virtually unseen moment in Scenario history. This was quite a challenging build. Kudo’s go out to Mike Benedict for the engineering he did under the chair. The man behind the curtain became the man under the Lazy boy. I would also like to thank you for mentioning the fact that it was created at Scenario Custom Scenery and not claiming that this was something you created on your own. You are and always have been honorable man.
    Sincerely, Ken Taber

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