Tolin FX is an award winning Special Effects and Specialized Design & Fabrication studio. In serving the film, television, and theatre industries for more than a decade, Tolin FX has earned a reputation for outstanding professionalism, detail-oriented precision, and a passion for creation. From conceptualization to execution, Tolin FX provides superior solutions to your complex creative challenges.
Tolin FX is owned and operated by Steve Tolin. Some of Tolin's most notable film credits include work on Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, Jack Reacher, Warrior, and Adventureland. Tolin recently produced a feature film It Came from Yesterday, for which he and his team created the creature effects and Production Design.
On stage Tolin's work has been seen internationally. Some of his most marked theatre credits include the world premiere of Stephen King and John Mellencamp's Ghost Brothers of Darkland County at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA and Sweeney Todd at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Tolin FX has become the go-to effects studio for more than fifteen productions of Martin McDonaugh's The Lt of Inishmore, winning a Joseph Jefferson Award for work on Northlight Theatre's Chicago production in 2009.
Steve is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, a member of IATSE Local 489, and a certified PADI scuba diver. Based in the Steel City of Pittsburgh, PA, Tolin FX utilizes numerous local and national artists and craftsmen to meet the special demands of entertainment businesses and artistic enterprises in the Southwestern Pennsylvania area, across the United States, and world-wide.
"Special-effects wizard Steve Tolin brings on the blood in 'The Lieutenant of Inishmore'"
By: Lawson Taittel
"Newcomers to battle returning contestants on season 5 of Syfy's 'Face Off'"
By: Bronwyn Barnes
"A Backstage Look at the Special Effects in Ghost Brothers of Darkland County"
Atlanta Theatre Fans
By: Author Unknown
"The success of this production would not be possible, however, without special effects designer Steve Tolin"
Chicago Theatre Beat
By: Scotty Zacher
"'Inishmore' puts a little 'ow' in 'meow'"
San Fransisco Gate
By: Chad Jones
In 2008, Steve Tolin and Jeff Waltrowski formed Clear Conscience Pictures to embark on the co-production of the science fiction action-adventure-creature-comedy It Came from Yesterday. This marked our first attempt at Tolin FX to use a hybrid of practical and computer effects to create the creature effects and action sequences. And... the whole film was shot on a GREENSCREEN!
This of course also meant that we needed to create background environments for every shot in the movie. Tolin FX was also responsible for the production design of all the locations that were built from scratch. We used Maya to model and animate all of these digital elements. Jeff composited these elements and sometimes dozens of additional element to composite into a truly unique look that Clear Conscience calls- DANGERMATION.
All of the period costuming and makeup and hair also fell under the creative umbrella of Tolin FX, and was keyed by Midian Crosby. We also built and acquired all of the special props. The most important undertaking for the film was, of course, all of the practical effects to be captured in camera during the shoot.
At the top of the list of the most exciting practical special effects for the film was the Bugman. Hundreds of Bugmen appeared in ICFY, and all of them were performed soley by Chucky Hendershot. Wearing the urethane and latex creature suit that he had a huge hand in building, Chucky spent many long hours bringing the Bugman to life. There were also hundreds of small flying bug creatures in the film. These creatures were treated as hybrid characters. All of the tight and medium shots were of a hand and marionetted puppet operated by a green Steve Tolin and at times a small army of leg puppeteers to make the small bug come to life. The wider shots were models built and animated in Maya.
The film was picked up by Panorama Entertainment and will be available on DVD and VOD soon.Click here to learn more about the science fiction phenomenon.
Mr. Robert Englund
We spent a dreary wet and cold early winter of 2012 working on, Kantemir, a psycological thriller starring Robert Englund. Shot at Pittsburgh's beautiful Hartwood Acres mansion, the entire set took on the aire of the eery surroundings and made for a very creepy shoot. Allison Boyle was with me for most of the shoot and Chucky Hendershot made it out for a couple days too. We were lucky enough to get to do some cool effects make-ups on Mr. Englund and a really awesome character make-up on Pittsburgh's own Bingo OMally, along with lots of blood and gore effects. Working for and with a team of some of my favorite artists, "Kantemir" will be a stand out project for us.
King, Mellencamp, Burnett and the cast of Ghost Brothers
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County
We were super excited to get the call to do the onstage blood work for the world premiere of, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County- a Stephen King amd John Mellencamp musical at the prestigous Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA. We totally updated the design and process of our live performance bullet hit rigs, dramaitically reducing them in size and increasing the precision. Along with several other blood effects for the show, we created to open skin forehead bullet hits and could make the blood vanish from the walls on command. Working with me in the shop in Pittsburgh were Dave Hartman, Allison Boyle, and (in his first theatrical venture) Mr. Zyphus Tolin. Zyphus then went with me to Atlanta for rehearsals and tech. The folks that we met and the lifelong relationships that came from that amazing adventure is one of the coolest gigs we've had the pleasure of working on so far.
Actor Rod Gilfrey dispenses his victim in, Sweeney Todd.
Hot on the heels of "Ghotst Brothers of Darkland County", came two firsts for Tolin FX- our first production of "Sweeney Todd" and our first opera. Yet, working with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis felt very much like familiar territory because of our work in 2008 with sister theatre The St. Louis Rep on a production of, "The Lt. of Inishmore" and because the rigs that we constructed for the show were based on the technology that we had been spending so much time developing for "GBofDC". However, the pneumatic systems that were used to shoot actors on stage previously were now being used spray a fan of blood from necks of the unfortunate victims in, "Sweeney Todd". Along with these blood delivery effects were the body props that were needed in Mrs. Lovett's bakery. Working with Tolin FX on creating the FX for the show were Dave Hartman, Zyphus Tolin, and Allison Boyle. Allison also joined me in St. Louis to assist in the tech rehearsals for the show. Our time in St. Louis working with the Opera Theatre was a totally unique working experience and we look forward to being invited back for another adventure in "The Gateway City"!
Rodrigo Sanchez as Mad Padraic
The Lt. of Inishmore
In 2007 we worked with Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre on the dark comedy The Lt. of Inishmore. It calls for some very difficult live action special effects, including four actors and a cat to be shot on stage in front of a live audience. We spent months researching and developing the technique to create the illusion of people being shot on stage. The result of this exhaustive effort is a system that an actor can wear and activate on their own as part of his performace. The effect is very convincing and the audiences were delighted by the shock it delivered. Because of the success of our work on PICT's production of The Lt. of Inishmore we were then invited to build the effects by 15 different other productions all over the country and even as far as Lima, Peru. In Chicago in 2009 we won a Jeff Award for our work on Northlight Theatre's production. We have since continued to develop the techniques and technology we implemented for The Lt. of Inishmore to create seamless and super reliable live action stage blood effects for a number of theatre projects. From our Inishmore work and the subsequent shows that it led to, we are considered one of the foremost experts on live action blood effects for the stage.
Chris "Flimsy" Howes climbs her creation.
I was lucky enough to get to work on Batman: The Dark Knight Rises when it was in Pittsburgh shooting in 2011. The most awesome part of the show was working with the binational special effects crew, led by British special effects wizard Chris Corbould and LA based effects master Scott Fisher. Working on the show as virgin IATSE Local 489 member, I began my work on Batman special effects crew like most of the Pittsburgh locals- as a utility laborer. But that didn't last for long. Soon, the American effects guys were welcoming me as part of the team and the Brits were ready to let me show what I could do. That led to me working primarily with Chris "Flimsy" Howes as a part of her crew working on The Bat- Batman's flying vehicle. I ended up spending the majority of my experience on that show working with her on the Bat and it was awesome. It was an amazing experience to be a part of such an incredible filmmaking environment.
Cruise kicking some stuntman ass in, "Jack Reacher".
Following closely in the wake of Batman, I was recommended by Scott Fisher to Kevin Hannigan's special effects crew when they arrived in town to film Jack Reacher . My role on that picture was that of the sculptor/molder/caster of the team. There were many effects props that I made for the show, but the crowning acheivment was to creat the breakaway bathroom pieces for 10 full bathroom sets for Tom Cruise to fight in and smash up with a couple of bad guys. All told we made over 10000 breakaway stearic acid tiles and a dozen toilet tank covers and another dozen bathtub pieces, along with building many other bathroom pieces to destroy in the course of the scene. Working directly under Warner Handlein, one of the coolest effects guys I've ever met, I am really happy to have gotten to be part of such a great bunch of artists and to be pushed and encouraged to create some awesome pieces for this show.
George Takei operates the consol.
We spent a very long and intense summer having a blast working on Nickolodean's Supah Ninja's. We worked with nearly every department by the time it was all said and done, making everything from 3d transfer scars for George Takei for the make-up department to silicone slime pants for the costume department to mininature set pieces for the construction department and special set pieces for the art department. But the majority of our work was for Tom Garrigan and Anton Tremblay building special props. We got to build all kinds of awesome props for these guys from tons of rubber swords and other weapons to monkey masks to control panels. We also designed some of the coolest props we built for the show including an elaborate computer consol to a telekenetic helmet to a rocket powered skateboard. Working with me the most on this show were Dave Hartman and Allison Boyle. Needless to say, this experience was awesome! We really refined many of our prop fabrication techniques and developed a lot of new ones too. We made a lot of new friends and colleagues and had a blast working with all of our old pals.
Valkyrie the stoic hero robot from, "Project, Valkyrie".
Project Valkyrie will always hold a very special place in my heart. It marks, not only the first film for which I coordintated all of the effects (of which there were a ton), but also my maiden creative voyage with Mr. Jeff Waltrowski. He and I of course went on to produce It Came from Yesterday, and this film really set the stage for that collaboration. It also came at a time that I was not sure what direction my career would take. I had recently graduated from art school and had not made any definite plans about how I wanted to shape my career. Greg Piotrowski and I were approached to create the effects two weeks before shooting began and began by completing the first script breakdown either of us had ever done. This was followed by a huge number of other firsts for us and ended with the biggest first of my life up to that point- my first business. Project Valkyrie was the first project ever taken on by a brand new Tolin FX and sealed my fate. From that point forward I have been running my own shop and making a career as a freelance artist.
Tolin with one of his early school creations.
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh
Once I made the decision to take the leap to become a special effects artist, I made the move from my hometown to Pittsburgh to attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I was immediately thrust from a situation where I was one of a handful of artists that I knew to being surrounded by other artists and a world overrun with creative energy. I love where I am from and am proud of my roots, but it was clear to me immediately that I was home. While attending school I met some of the best friends I've ever had and met my lifelong mentor Doug Henderson. There were certainly other professors that had a huge impact on me (Dave Pence, Bill Midas, Cy Assad and Chinda), but I formed a bond with Doug that was truly life changing. Not only did my relationship with him lead to much of my early work opportunities, but has also served in large part as a litumus to help me to decide what kind of artist I want to be. AIP also introduced me to Pittsburgh which began a love affair with this city that will always be a part of me.
Tolin kids as a carefree young lads.
I think that most of the stories I have heard from other effects artists involves some sort of interest in monsters from an early age that led to them pursuing the life of their role models. This is not my story. I grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and spent my early days in the rivers and forests. Raised by a biologist and having a deep love for all natural things myself, it was very clear to me early on that I was destined to be a biologist myself. For most of my youth this was the curve of my future. However, much of my interest in animals and natural things was in drawing and painting them, and this is how I spent most of my free time. I never really associated my interest in art as a possible career path until I attended the WV Governor's School for the Arts. This intensive art training was a real turning point in my life and I came away from that time a changed person, finally aware of part of myself that I had never really acknowledged before. Now the only question was, what kind of artist should I become? I have always loved movies and while I did not know much about how they were made, I knew that I loved monster movies. So with that little tiny bit of information and inspiration I made a leap. I lept into a field I knew nothing about with no plan B. Lucky for me, I landed directly into the soft arms of my true calling. If everyone could be so lucky.
Tolin and Diego from, "Medium Popcorn" brought to you by Imagos Films.
Tolin freshens Alanna Romanski's blood in, "Kantemir".
Tolin brothers help Chucky suit up as the Bugman in, "It Came from Yesterday".
Tolin, Waltrowski, and crew on the set of, "It Came from Yesterday".
BJ Jones, Tolin, and the cast of, "Lt. of Inishmore" at Northlight Theatre
Tolin, Waltrowski, and Crosby on the set of, "Motivational Growth".
Chucky and Midian Crosby sculpting animal masks for, "The Kill Point".
Tolin and Waltrowski study the monitor on, "It Came from Yesterday".
Tolin and Rachael Ryan watch the set of, "It Came from Yesterday".
Tolin helps actor Philip Docolo get suited up as Doug Henderson's The Redcap.
Tolin as a youngster playing with monsters.