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Syyn Labs' Rube Goldberg machine for HearthStone in Newsweek


The 1900s cartoonist Rube Goldberg was best known for his illustrations of over-the-top machines, complex contraptions designed to do simple things, requiring dozens of steps involving levers, gears, balls and sometimes animals. Following Goldberg’s example, aspiring mad scientists have been creating increasingly elaborate and ridiculous devices ever since.

Hearthstone’s The Boomsday Project expansion is all about the chaos, destruction and creativity stemming from the desire for scientific exploration. To bring this idea to life, Blizzard brought on the best in the Rube Goldberg business: the production team at Slash Dynamic and the “League of Extraordinary Nerds” over at Synn Labs, whose mission is “to design and construct visually dynamic spectacles.” President Adam Sadowsky was a child actor-turned-director who helped create the device for OK GO’s music video for “This Too Shall Pass,” which took more than 60 tries to perfect. He’s since built machines for Red Bull, ESPN and more. He even created a 17-step machine for Google to drop an olive in a martini glass.

“I’m fascinated by engineering,” Sadowsky told Newsweek. “I love odd, interesting uses of technology. There’s something about the Newtonian physics, really basic stuff, that’s approachable but allows me to express creativity.”

Sadowsky dreamed up a host of crazy ideas to honor Hearthstone ’s Dr. Boom, but had to figure out how to bring them to life. Testing was the most dangerous part of the planning process. The Boomsday Project explores the hazards of science unchecked, so the team at Synn had to go a little crazy. Originally, the team planned to drop a vial of sulfuric acid into a vat of sugar, which would create a carbon snake and push a lever. There were two reasons it couldn’t work: the whole process takes four minutes and filling a poorly ventilated studio with poisonous gas wasn’t really practical.  

Another idea: ignite a ball of steel wool catch and use it to spray sparks. Turns out, that’s a lot easier in theory than in practice. Originally, Synn tried to spin the object horizontally, but quickly concluded that spraying flaming metal flakes across a room full of expensive camera equipment was too risky. They eventually decided to use a handheld steadicam to shoot a 14-step machine that would reveal itself to be a Hearthstone game board.  

Once the testing phase was complete, Synn created concept art and sent it over to Blizzard for approval. Ten days later, Slash Dynamic locked down Studio 60 in Downtown L.A., assembled a full team and started building.

Continue reading in Newsweek