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Recreating an earthquake

Recreating an earthquake — F/X master Tony Doublin creates realistic carnage for the upcoming NBC movie ”The Big One”

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Tony Doublin is standing in a parking lot in Burbank Calif., getting ready to destroy a great national monument, the huge Hollywood sign overlooking Los Angeles. Not the real sign, of course, but a 12-foot replica built for The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake, a new two-part NBC movie (Nov. 11 and 12, 9-11 p.m.) detailing the carnage wrought by a fictional seismism measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale. Doublin has spent weeks working on the prop — sculpting balls of steel wool into bushes, planting tiny trees in plaster, painting little graffiti messages on the letters. Now it is time to let the ”quake” wreak its havoc. As the cameras roll, two assistants crouch behind the structure and start the shaking. Suddenly a landslide of tiny rocks cascades down, dust and dirt blowing every which way. When it’s over, the famed landmark has been reduced to rubble. ”Everything we build is designed to be destroyed,” the 39-year-old F/X master says philosophically. ”Until it gets blown away, the job isn’t done.”