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In the first episode of season 5 of Breaking Bad, a large electromagnet is rigged up in a truck, and placed next to a building. The camera shows the contents of the building flying across the room and clinging to the wall nearest the electromagnet. Light fixtures are seen swaying toward the magnet, and shelves are seen toppling, etc.

How was this scene filmed? Did they really rig a large electromagnet on the set?

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An article in the New York Times gives quite a few details from creator Vince Gilligan. In short:

  • No, they didn't move a big electromagnet around. The real one weighed 3.5 tons, so they made a foam model.

  • The jumping objects were attached to cables pulled by crew members. The cables were then digitally erased.

It's also doubtful that such a scheme would really work, since magnetic fields drop off very quickly with distance. Unfortunately, various physicists writing on the web give estimates of the required current that vary from tens to millions of amps, so it's hard to be sure.

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Indeed. At minimum, such a scheme would require a larger magnet than shown in the show; and a lot more than 21 (or was it 42?) 12V batteries! Thanks for the answer. –  Flimzy May 25 '13 at 19:19

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