Here’s a look at how the magic behind the screen gets made.
NBC has really hit a gold mine with Dick Wolf’s Chicago shows, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago P.D. They’re audience favorites all around. With a new Chicago take on T.V. classics, there’s no way you can go wrong with these shows. Recently, NBC hosted a set visit giving us an inside look as to how the amazing team behind these amazing shows make the shows as realistic as possible, from using guns that are almost as real as can be to real equipment that is sponsored, to silicone organs. Here’s how they do it.
In Chicago Med, one thing you’re bound to see is someone being stretchered into the hospital with a glaring and bloodily real injury. The fact of the matter in all of these shows is that very little CGI and special effects are used. A majority of what you see are practical effects because, if nothing else, it makes the show a lot cheaper to produce. As a result, each of the stretchers have a cut out where the victim could slip their perfectly ok legs or arms or whole body into that will hide themselves while sporting an injured silicone replica. In addition to that, all of the organs on set are made of silicon. During most of the surgeries, a small silicon organ would be used with touches of fake blood. However, when that’s not enough, they’ll replicate up to half of the body of the real character with anatomically correct bodies with organs where they’re supposed to be. As a result, when you see the doctors digging through looking for the liver, for example, they’re actually looking for the liver. If you, like me, wonder how silicone could look so realistic, that’s beyond me. It may not feel like what I imagine a real organ feels like, but it sure as hell looks like one. In addition to that, most of the medical equipment on set is actually real medical equipment that is fully functioning. That’s a nice touch for realism.
In Chicago P.D., you’ve got what is essentially your typical police procedural, so we got to see behind the curtain as to how they get that show and genre as realistic as possible. For example, all of the bullet casings on the show are real. Whenever real pieces could be used, they are used. For that, the producers and the creators of the show have done a great job. The handcuffs on the show are real as well with varying gradients of how hard they are to open. The teeth of the handcuffs are filed down so that they can be altered to be somewhat loose or tight enough to require keys. Another interesting fact is that all glass shards and some blood pools that aren’t interacted with are made of silicone. In addition to that, pipes, bats, and other melee type weapons are real when they are only there for show and made of rubber when they are used in an action scene. Gun fire scenes are often as real as can be with special non-lethal rounds that burst into smoke on impact, except when the environment isn’t safe like an insecure warehouse. That’s why when actors are shot and recoil, it’s very realistic as they aren’t actually acting but reacting.
Chicago Fire was surprising in a number of ways. Much of the special effects in this show was similar to that of those used in Chicago P.D. For example, the same concept of when to use rubber tools and weapons versus real ones is applied here. In addition to that, the fires are real fires done on a stage with a controlled burn. The one interesting thing to learn was that much of the gear was very pricey. The air tank and face mask is worth about 20 thousand dollars alone, and that’s an essential part of any firefighter’s gear. The way they combat these prices is through product placements, where the brands provide the equipment for free for marketing purposes. This is often the case with consumer products but it was interesting to see that this was the case with something as niche as firefighting gear and the jaws of life. Another interesting fact is that dummies are often used in fire rescue scenes and the dummies aren’t exactly light, so the actors really have to work to get it all done.