# How did they film the gun spinning scene?

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!).

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?

• 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, 2013 at 21:12
• Why is that clip flipped left to right?? May 25, 2013 at 21:47
• @Flimzy - To avoid automated copyright detection May 26, 2013 at 16:30

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
• 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. May 25, 2013 at 21:49
• 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. May 28, 2013 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. Apr 14, 2015 at 7:44
• According to C4lculated's answer, which quotes Vince Gilligan (among others), it's actually the last one of these options. Jul 29, 2022 at 19:47

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 an in-place spin.

A gun lying on the table, and being spun, 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.

Affixing a mount to a revolver is easiest done not at the drum, but at a point behind it (where you could e.g. drill a hole into the gun and affix a rod to that hole) -- explaining why the gun spins so unnaturally.

• @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. Mar 31, 2016 at 8:38
• Also note that at the end of the third spin, the gun rotates backwards a bit – which shouldn‘t happen for a gun lying on a table, but is expected for a gun on a (slightly flexible) mount when there is a braking force on the mount. Jan 5, 2019 at 21:46

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.

Vince Gilligan explains how it was done in the episode's commentary. You can watch it here (it starts at 05:13):

To summarise, the gun was mounted on a clear plastic dowel, which ran vertically under the table to the ground and was connected to a fishing line. The special effects crew could use the fishing line to control the spin and ensure it stopped at the right place.

VINCE GILLIGAN (director): Our wonderful on-set special-effects guys put a clear plastic dowel straight down —

BRIAN CRANSTON (Walter White): From the gun.

VG: From the gun to the ground, and then had a pulley with a bit of fish line. And they could control — Brian would spin the thing, but they could control exactly when it would stop.

KELLEY DIXON (editor): And didn't it look perfect?

VG: They did a great job. The only trouble was that everybody would keep tripping over the thing on the set there, cause it was just a bit of fish line, you could barely see it.

BC: And then you would just paint it out when you're done, right? Would you see the monofilament and the dowel?

VG: The dowel, mainly. The monofilament was never really in the shot. ... Painting out that dowel turned out the be the biggest hassle.

BC: No kidding?

VG: Bill Powloski, our visual effects supervisor, and Diane Mercer just had a hell of a time doing it, but they did a great job.

KD: You know what, even before it was painted out, we fooled a lot of people. A lot people didn't even know, it was really hard to see.

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.

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.