THE terrifying wave that caused massive death and destruction on Boxing Day 2004 was recreated for a blockbuster movie – by a Scottish company.
The Impossible, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, tells the story of the Indian Ocean tsunami which killed an estimated 280,000 people and left a million homeless.
The terrifying moment the surging seas smashed into a beachside holiday complex in Thailand was recreated by a firm based in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Designs, who specialise in testing the seaworthiness of oil platforms and creating wave machines for leisure pools, recreated the disaster scene at a film studio in Alicante, Spain.
The Spanish producers of the movie wanted the impact of the wave too look utterly realistic rather than relying on the sophisticated computer-generated special effects modern audiences have come to expect.
The film, which is released in the UK on January 1, tells the real-life story of a family who travelled to Thailand for a dream Christmas holiday only to be caught up in the horror of the tsunami.
The Spanish family – depicted as Australians in the movie – survive the initial wave but are separated and face a desperate struggle to survive the aftermath of the disaster.
Edinburgh Designs, which employs just 10 people, spent months working on the movie’s key scene.
Douglas Rogers, a director of Edinburgh Designs, said: “Most of our customers are looking for accurate, perfect waves.
“For the Impossible project, director Juan Antonio Beyona was looking for the opposite effect.
“His vision was a mean, ugly and chaotic wave – something that looked more evil than one dreamed up by the effects guys.”
He added: “We had to go right back to first principles and unlearn everything we knew about making precise waves to create something really messy.”
A huge pool was built at the Cuidad de la Luz film studio near Alicante. A scale model of the resort was created in Germany and shipped to Spain.
Edinburgh Designs worked for months on creating the “perfect” wave, sending the producers footage of their experiments until the effect was perfect.
But Mr Rogers said the day of the shoot was nerve-racking because they would get only one chance to get the shot right.
He said: “The final day of the shoot was incredibly tense. There would only be one take then the model would be destroyed.
“We felt a burden of responsibility as technical failure would be an embarrassment to us and financial disaster for the producers.
“After hours of last-minute attention to detail we were ready to go, A torrent of a thousand tons of water with the power of eight F1 racing cars smashed through the model.
“The water towered like a wall above the model then smashed through the bungalows. One torrent rose like a menacing fist ready to hammer the buildings.
“The crowd burst into applause – it had all worked to perfection.”
The film, which was released in Spain in October, has received generally positive reviews.
One reviewer wrote: “McGregor, cut and streaked with excessive blood he seems too distraught to wash away, keeps the tension razor-sharp as he pursues his family in a vast, shattered landscape.”
But survivors of the tsunami and relatives of those killed were critical of the decision to screen a trailer for the movie, without warning, before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Viewers described the screening as an “ambush” and said they were “horrified”.