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A Leap From the Edge of Space

A Leap From the Edge of Space

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Published by zuchaga

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Published by: zuchaga on Dec 19, 2011
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12/19/2011

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Steve TrugliaA leap from the edge of space
 ABOUT THE SPEAKERSteve TrugliaStuntman and record-setter Steve Truglia is planning perhaps the ultimate high dive: a parachute jump fromthe edge of space, 120,000 feet (36.5 kilometers) up. ABOUT THIS TALK  At his day job, Steve Truglia flips cars, walks through fire and falls out of buildings -- pushing technology tomake stunts bigger, safer, more awesome. He talks us through his next stunt: the highest jump ever attempted,from the very edge of space.
'm extremely excited to be given the opportunity to come and speak to you todayabout what I consider to be the biggest stunt on Earth. Or perhaps not quite onEarth. A parachute jump from the very edge of space. More about that a bit later on.What I'd like to do first is take you through a very brief helicopter ride of stunts andthe stunts industry in the movies and in television, and show you how technologyhas started to interface with the physical skills of the stunt performer in a way thatmakes the stunts bigger and actually makes them safer than they've ever beenbefore.I've been a professional stunt man for 13 years. I'm a stunt coordinator. And as wellas perform stunts I often design them. During that time, health and safety hasbecome everything about my job. It's critical now that when a car crash happens itisn't just the stunt person we make safe, it's the crew. We can't be killing cameramen. We can't be killing stunt men. We can't be killing anybody or hurting anybodyon set, or any passerby. So, safety is everything. But it wasn't always that way.In the old days of the silent movies -- Harold Lloyd here, hanging famously from theclock hands -- a lot of these guys did their own stunts. They were quite remarkable.They had no safety, no real technology. What safety they had was very scant. This isthe first stunt woman, Rosie Venger, an amazing woman. You can see from the slide,very very strong. She really paved the way at a time when nobody was doing stunts,let alone women.My favorite and a real hero of mine is Yakima Canutt. Yakima Canutt really formedthe stunt fight. He worked with John Wayne and most of those old punch-ups yousee in the Westerns. Yakima was either there or he stunt coordinated. This is ascreen capture from "Stagecoach," where Yakima Canutt is doing one of the mostdangerous stunts I've ever seen. There is no safety, no back support, no pads, nocrash mats, no sand pits in the ground. That's one of the most dangerous horsestunts, certainly.Talking of dangerous stunts and bringing things slightly up to date, some of the
 
most dangerous stunts we do as stunt people are fire stunts. We couldn't do themwithout technology. These are particularly dangerous because there is no mask onmy face. They were done for a photo shoot. One for the Sun newspaper, one for FHMmagazine. Highly dangerous, but also you'll notice it doesn't look as though I'mwearing anything underneath the suit. The fire suits of old, the bulky suits, thethick woolen suits, have been replaced with modern materials like Nomex or, morerecently, Carbonex -- fantastic materials that enable us as stunt professionals toburn for longer, look more spectacular, and in pure safety. Here's a bit more. There'sa guy with a flame thrower there, giving me what for.One of the things that a stuntman often does, and you'll see it every time in the bigmovies, is be blown through the air. Well, we used to use trampettes. In the old days,that's all they had. And that's a ramp. Spring off the thing and fly through the air,and hopefully you make it look good.Now we've got technology. This thing is called an air ram. It's a frightening piece of equipment for the novice stunt performer, because it will break your legs very, veryquickly if you land on it wrong. Having said that, it works with compressed nitrogen. And that's in the up position. When you step on it, either by remote control or withthe pressure of your foot, it will fire you, depending on the gas pressure, anythingfrom five feet to 30 feet. I could, quite literally, fire myself into the gallery. Which I'msure you wouldn't want. Not today.Car stunts are another area where technology and engineering advances have madelife easier for us, and safer. We can do bigger car stunts than ever before now. Beingrun over is never easy. That's an old-fashioned, hard, gritty, physical stunt. But wehave padding, and fantastic shock-absorbing things like Sorbothane -- the materialsthat help us, when we're hit like this, not to hurt ourselves too much.The picture in the bottom right-hand corner there is of some crash test dummy workthat I was doing. Showing how stunts work in different areas, really. And testingbreakaway signpost pillars. A company makes a Lattix pillar, which is a network, alattice-type pillar that collapses when it's hit. The car on the left drove into the steelpillar. And you can't see it from there, but the engine was in the driver's lap. Theydid it by remote control. I drove the other one at 60 miles an hour, exactly the samespeed, and clearly walked away from it.Rolling a car over is another area where we use technology. We used to have to driveup a ramp, and we still do sometimes. But now we have a compressed nitrogencannon. You can just see, underneath the car, there is a black rod on the floor by thewheel of the other car. That's the piston that was fired out of the floor. We can fliplorries, coaches, buses, anything over with a nitrogen cannon with enough power.(Laughs)It's a great job, really. (Laughter) It's such fun! You should hear some of the phoneconversations that I have with people on my Bluetooth in the shop. "Well, we can flipthe bus over, we can have it burst into flames, and how about someone, you know,big explosion." And people are looking like this ... (Laughs) I sort of forget how
 
bizarre some of those conversations are.The next thing that I'd like to show you is something that Dunlop asked me to doearlier this year with our Channel Five's "Fifth Gear Show." A loop-the-loop, biggestin the world. Only one person had ever done it before. Now, the stuntman solution tothis in the old days would be, "Let's hit this as fast as possible. 60 miles an hour.Let's just go for it. Foot flat to the floor." Well, you'd die if you did that.We went to Cambridge University, the other university, and spoke to a Doctor of Mechanical Engineering there, a physicist who taught us that it had to be 37 milesan hour. Even then, I caught seven G and lost a bit of consciousness on the way in.That's a long way to fall, if you get it wrong. That was just about right. So again,science helps us, and with the engineering too -- the modifications to the car and thewheel.High falls, they're old fashioned stunts. What's interesting about high falls is thatalthough we use airbags, and some airbags are quite advanced, they're designed soyou don't slip off the side like you used to, if you land a bit wrong. So, they're a muchsafer proposition. Just basically though, it is a basic piece of equipment. It's abouncy castle with slats in the side to allow the air to escape. That's all it is, abouncy castle. That's the only reason we do it. See, it's all fun, this job. What'sinteresting is we still use cardboard boxes. They used to use cardboard boxes yearsago and we still use them. And that's interesting because they are almostretrospective. They're great for catching you, up to certain heights. And on the other side of the fence, that physical art, the physical performance of thestuntman, has interfaced with the very highest technology in I.T. and in software.Not the cardboard box, but the green screen. This is a shot of "Terminator," themovie. Two stunt guys doing what I consider to be a rather benign stunt. It's 30 feet.It's water. It's very simple. With the green screen we can put any background in theworld on it, moving or still, and I can assure you, nowadays you can't see the joint.This is a parachutist with another parachutist doing exactly the same thing.Completely in the safety of a studio, and yet with the green screen we can have somemoving image that a skydiver took, and put in the sky moving and the cloudswhizzing by.Decelerator rigs and wires, we use them a lot. We fly people on wires, like this. Thisguy is not skydiving. He's being flown like a kite, or moved around like a kite. And this is a Guinness World Record attempt. They asked me to open their 50thanniversary show in 2004. And again, technology meant that I could do the fastestabseil over 100 meters, and stop within a couple of feet of the ground withoutmelting the rope with the friction, because of the alloys I used in the descenderdevice. And that's Centre Point in London. We brought Oxford Street andTottenham Court Road to a standstill.Helicopter stunts are always fun, hanging out of them, whatever. And aerial stunts.No aerial stunt would be the same without skydiving. Which brings us quite nicely

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