Analysing Spider-Man’s swing

Illustration by RAID71
Date:20 August 2012 Author: Erin McCarthy Tags:,

Spider-Man would be nothing without his swing. To create the character’s signature web slinging in The Amazing Spider-Man, released in South Africa in July, stunt co-ordinator Andy Armstrong studied slowmotion footage of gymnasts, then built one-of-a-kind rigs to allow actor Andrew Garfield and the film’s stuntmen to emulate their motion.

The team used the aluminium-truss system in many locations: one track, built under a bridge in New York City, was 54 m long; another rig hung off an old fire truck to make it look as though Spider-Man was swinging through traffic. The system enabled director Marc Webb to get more realistic web slinging than ever before – a fact that delights Armstrong.

“A lot of kids have grown up with video games and computer-generated characters,” he says. “There’s still something much more exciting about seeing a real human do something that we’d all love to do if we had the ability.”

How it works
* To begin swinging, an actor jumps off a crane wearing a harness that’s wired to a pulley, in turn attached to an electronic winch.

* As he reaches the bottom – travelling at 64 km/h and pulling 3 g’s – and begins to arc upward, an operator moves the pulley forward 15 metres. “It’s like cracking a whip, where it goes along, stops, goes along, stops,” says stunt co-ordinator Andy Armstrong. “We did that two or three times.” The wires were erased in post-production.

Video: The physics of The Amazing Spider-Man’s swings

Video: The Amazing Spider-Man trailer