Band Of Brothers’ Bastogne Forest Wasn’t Actually A Forest At All

The show’s art department constructed the Bastogne set using two hundred and fifty special-made trees courtesy of the special effects unit. According to the “Band of Brothers” making-of featurette, a nifty technique was used for the moments when a mortar round would blow a tree in half onscreen. 

Special effects supervisor Joss Williams reunited with Spielberg on the project, moving up from his previous special effects assistant gig on two of the filmmaker’s “Indiana Jones” over a decade prior. In the featurette, Williams describes the process of blowing up trees, noting how the Germans would fight their battles, and adjusting the look accordingly:

“We created our own trees, which are a mixture of fiberglass, hemp, and latex, to give a shattered tree look, and foam trees with a cardboard tubs core, that keeps the weight down. The Germans, for that section of the war, had timers on their mortar rounds so they would explode in the treetops. So the soldiers not only got the shrapnel from the mortar rounds, but they’ve got shrapnel from the trees getting hit.”

The result allows viewers to hear the mortar round, hear the impact, and watch a tree crack in half and topple in frame. To both actors and the audience, it looks and sounds as though the tree took a hard blow. A further four weeks of work was required to dress the set with faux snow, which snow effects supervisor (a dream job, really) David Crownshaw describes as a sort of cellulose-polymer-plastic-paper blend, about a third of a million pounds’ worth — the largest amount sprinkled or blown onto a set, he claims. By taking care of the details, from the biggest tanks down to the smallest snowflake, “Band of Brothers” earns a salute for one of the most period-accurate miniseries to hit the small screen.

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