The world is a stage
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When transparent pipes are used as the setting for a superhero movie

© ostlicht filmproduktion / AMOUR FOU

A substance that can heal human tissue and turn you invisible is no fantasy in the new superhero movie for children by director Markus Dietrich. PLEXIGLAS® is a part of the setting for the movie.

Lots of bubbles and steam coming from huge cylinders is just what you would expect from a laboratory in a superhero movie. Set designers built a seemingly real laboratory when shooting the children’s movie “Invisible Sue”. To ensure the cylinders of the large reactor were able to withstand the pressure of hundreds of liters of liquid, extruded PLEXIGLAS® pipes were used.

A worthy backdrop for a superhero movie

She is only twelve years old and already a superhero, and what’s more, the first to appear in a German film. In the film “Invisible Sue”, Sue gains her superpowers after an accident in her mother’s laboratory. The substance she comes into contact with is bright blue and looks dangerous, so it is for the best that it bubbles away inside sturdy cylinders in a large reactor. “We wanted to show as much of the liquid as possible,” says Lisa Kumpf, the production design assistant responsible for building the laboratory. “We knew from the beginning that we wanted to use large transparent pipes that would allow an uninhibited view of their contents.”

A laboratory made from PLEXIGLAS®

The large reactor with its two-meter high pipes of PLEXIGLAS® XT is the centerpiece of the laboratory, in which parts of the film take place. Each of the PLEXIGLAS® XT pipes holds 400 liters of the bubbling blue liquid, and even more pressure is placed on the material by pressurized air.

© ostlicht filmproduktion / AMOUR FOU

A laboratory made from PLEXIGLAS®

The pipes are not the only things made from PLEXIGLAS®, as the material was also used for other elements of the film set...

© ostlicht filmproduktion / AMOUR FOU

A laboratory made from PLEXIGLAS®

…such as large-scale light tables, backlit shelves in laboratory cabinets and illuminated panels which can be written on.

© ostlicht filmproduktion / AMOUR FOU

Under enormous pressure

Each of the six pipes needed to withstand the pressure of 400 liters of liquid throughout the duration of filming, a total of eight weeks. In addition to the pressure of the liquid, the set designers also fed pressurized air into the cylinders so the liquid would appear to be bubbling. This placed additional strain on the pipes. “It was clear to me that PLEXIGLAS® was the only material we could use for our plans,” explains Kumpf. “After all, which other material is strong enough to withstand these pressures in the size we need while still meeting our optical requirements?

The choice was made to use six PLEXIGLAS® XT pipes, each with a radius of 50 centimeters, a height of two meters and a wall thickness of five millimeters. Kumpf created the lids of the cylinders with PLEXIGLAS® herself and used ACRIFIX® to attach them to the pipes. These were then used to build the reactor. “Thanks to computer animation, the reactor appears a few meters taller in the film,” explains Kumpf.

Transparent and glowing laboratory equipment

The laboratory is equipped with other objects that are also made from PLEXIGLAS®. “A superhero movie needs to have a very special laboratory,” says Kumpf. “We also built movable partitions from transparent PLEXIGLAS® which use edge lighting, to make the chemical formulae written on the panels appear to glow.” The set designers also built two huge illuminated tables and backlit shelves of laboratory cabinets from PLEXIGLAS®. A laboratory that does justice to a superhero movie.

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