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In "End Times" (Season 4 Episode 12) of Breaking Bad, there is a scene of Walt sitting near the pool. He places his gun on a table and spins it. The gun ends up pointing at him. He spins it again, and it points at him again. The third spin ends up with the gun pointing at a potted Lily of the Valley plant (awesome Chekhov Gun scene!).

Here's the clip:

Now the spinning and the stopping of the gun are all done in one shot (the first two spins are both in one shot). So how did they manage to get the gun to point at the desired locations like that?

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1  
the two answers below cover some likely ways to trick film this, but, to be honest.. I think it's just a couple of retakes. It doesn't perfectly point to either him or the plant, and I doubt it would take more than 5-10 retakes to get it "close enough" – Tom Apr 29 '13 at 21:12
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Why is that clip flipped left to right?? – Flimzy May 25 '13 at 21:47
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@Flimzy - To avoid automated copyright detection – System Down May 26 '13 at 16:30
up vote 8 down vote accepted

There's a bunch of ways to do this.

Most likely:

  • They took 130 takes to get it right

Less likely:

  • There's an invisible turn table under the gun
  • They used an electromagnet to stop the gun
  • The gun is on a clear plastic stick and someone out of sight is turning it
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4  
I don't think 130 shots would be necessary. After a dozen attempts, learning to feel the weight of the gun, the actor could easily spin the gun with the exact same force twice in a row--or close enough to achieve the desired effect. Notice that the second spin doesn't leave the gun pointing directly at Walt anyway, but slightly behind him. – Flimzy May 25 '13 at 21:49
2  
Well 130 was just a number I picked out of the air. There are some scenes where it really does take a lot of takes to get something 'just right'. although I can't find any references right now. – A Pale Shadow May 28 '13 at 10:03
    
If you look carefully, you can see that the gun is mounted to the table. The cylindrical mount can be seen both when the gun is stationary (it's more easily visible from Walt's side when the gun is pointing away from him), and much more easily when it's spinning. You can even see a piece of the mount spinning along with the gun underneath the table surface, through the glass. After a half-dozen or so times of rewinding and rewatching, it's actually an embarassingly transparent trick. – David Frye Apr 14 '15 at 7:44

Any answer given is likely to be speculation, but if it were me I would just do one long take until I had all the material I needed.

There's a cutaway to Walt's face in the middle of the sequence, splitting it into two shots. This provides a convenient edit point so all the editor needs is one shot of the gun pointing at the plant, and one shot of the gun pointing at Walt twice in a row. Then take the two bits of film and edit them together so it looks like they happen in sequence.

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Look at the gun. Look at how:

  • It is spinning while staying at the exact same place of the table. Even in the third spin, when Walter doesn't even look at it, it does not skip, it does not slide sideways even a bit.
  • It is spinning around a point somewhere behind the drum. A point at which the gun shouldn't even be touching the table, let alone it being the center of mass, allowing for such a in-place spin.

A gun lying on the table, and being turned, would not behave like that.

Which means the gun is not lying on the table, but is mounted in some way -- making it rather easy to make it end up pointing in any desired direction.

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@DavidFrye: Thanks for pointing into the direction of the gun being mounted. I could not really make out the mount at first, but the spin looked so immediately unnatural that I made it into a separate answer. I hope you don't mind. – DevSolar Mar 31 at 8:38

There is something spinning under the gun, it looks like it is in the table, when i saw that 2 mins ago (:D) i came here, at the scene where the camera was moving, they had edited that 'thing' out. But i knew it was for making the gun stop.

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I don't know for certain but given computer technology in the 2010s and the cost of computing power vs the crew cost of filming many times, it seems likely that the gun was rendered. The fact that a rectangle can be drawn around the gun spinning, completely separating it from the rest of the frame makes it even more likely that it was isolated and done by computer. If the CG element doesn't actually interact with the rest of the scene it's going to be easier and cheaper.

Now if--on the other hand--Walt were shooting the scene, he could easily hide a small electromagnet (perhaps removed from a toaster with an electric release?) that he triggers remotely from a button in his hand (modified garage door opener?) as the gun slows down. He'd need two for the two stopping positions, and he'd have to push the button at just the right moment.

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