Eadie recently joined Onshape co-founder Jon Hirschtick’s podcast Masters of Engineering to discuss his career, work on the set of Star Trek Beyond, and the robot ball he built for Tom Hanks.
Military to Movies
Ben Eadie discovered his passion for engineering and design after joining the Canadian Department of National Defence in 1994. When he would find a piece of equipment that didn’t work in the way that it should, he would redesign it to fit his needs.
Masters of Engineering guest star Ben Eadie.
After the military, Eadie started making tutorials about 3D CAD and some work for the Canadian government. However, he quickly felt burnt out doing the same things over and over again, so he started an engineering consultancy and began working in local makerspaces for fun.
In 2015, Eadie was working at the same makerspace as the staff from the studio behind The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio. When the Special Effects Supervisor needed a “crazy designer,” they called Eadie up and proposed a new project that they were going to be working on.
This project ended up being Eadie’s first movie: Star Trek Beyond.
Eadie worked as a bridge between the artists and the engineers to ensure that props both functioned and looked great on screen. He specifically worked on the starship Enterprise and helped create the scene where the ship is getting attacked in space and starts moving in different directions.
After Star Trek, Eadie worked on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Death Note, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, The Predator, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
It’s All About Speed
While making props and effects, Eadie was invited to use Onshape while it was still in beta testing.
“I would make a modification to the 3D model while standing looking at the rotating set, go back to my office and literally just go and print off the drawings that I just got and send them back,” he said. “And people were like, ‘How did you get that done so fast? We were figuring this is going to be a two-day delay, but like an hour later, you have drawings.’”
Onshape’s ability to operate on mobile, on set, and on the road were the exact functions that Eadie was looking for to combat the speed of the movie industry. Additionally, his background from the military made the transition into the fast-paced environment of movies simple.
“I looked at the way things were laid out and I was like, ‘This is just the military with no bullets,’” he said. “And it was so easy for me to navigate. I just kind of fit in and I get it.”
When Tom Hanks Calls
Ben Eadie on the set of Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Through Eadie’s work with Ghostbusters: Afterlife, he had become friends with Adam Savage of Mythbusters. One day, Savage called him saying that he had someone looking for a robot ball, and asked Eadie if he could make one.
Then he said, “OK, so I’m going to give Tom Hanks your number.”
Shocked, Eadie took up the job, got on the phone with two-time Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks, and listened to his idea for how he wanted to bring Wilson, his volleyball co-star in Cast Away, to a Cleveland Guardians game where he was going to throw the first pitch.
Hanks wanted Wilson to look like a normal ball just like in the movie, and then start rolling away from him when he sets him down and eventually run around the ballpark.
Although this project sounded like a challenge, Eadie is known for getting the job done when it seems impossible.
“This is the one thing I’m known for,” he said. “When everybody else says it can’t be done, they end up calling me because I won’t say no.”
Eadie formed a team of engineers to help him make the ball. He gives the team a lot of credit in this project and couldn’t have accomplished what he did without them.
After a lot of work, the team was able to create a rotating axle that was attached to the outside of Wilson and bring Hanks’ vision to life. Check out Eadie's YouTube channel to get the full story.
Learn from Ben Eadie
This Masters of Engineering episode features dozens of other stories from Eadie’s career in special effects and can be found on YouTube, Spotify, and any other podcast-streaming services. New episodes hosted by Jon Hirschtick come out every month!
Eadie also makes Onshape tutorials and other design tutorials on his YouTube. Subscribe to his channel here, and learn more about all of the incredible inventions that he’s made.