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Series / How It's Made

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Hailing from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, How It's Made (Comment c'est fait in French) is a Science Show (well, a Technology Show, but we don't have that trope yet) that shows how various products are made, using video shot in actual factories and workshops; a narrator describes what's happening on screen. The show is produced in a way that allows easy redubbing for export — factory employees do not speak on camera, and no reading skills are required. The show has been running since 2001, and so far has featured hundreds of different products, from sporting goods to food to vehicles.

The show is produced by MAJ Productions in association with the Science Channel (which airs it in the US) and Discovery Channel Canada. The US version is narrated by Brooks Moore; he was replaced for one season before returning.

So far, the series has avoided making a show about itself, however they have done a promo for the show, showing how the show is made.

How It's Made is an amazing show about things being made. And today on TV Tropes, we learned what makes up said show. Thankfully, the ingredients that make it up are not top secret.

  • And Some Other Stuff: A harmless, non-explosive variety. The show sometimes notes that they cannot reveal certain ingredients of some food or chemical products, due to them being trade secrets. The best (and most amusing) example of this trope is perhaps the segment on marshmallow cookies; eventually the narrator just has to crack a joke about how much of the process they aren't allowed to explain because the company won't let them.
    • Also, since each segment is only five minutes long (ten for the two-part specials), they can only really show the highlights of the manufacturing process. If the product is an intricate machine, they'll inevitably skip over a step, since doing otherwise would go over their time limit.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Each season has used an animated intro: from 2007 on, a CGI intro was employed.
  • Brand X: Downplayed in this case. In the narration, all products are referred to by generic names (presumably as a result of Canadian laws against product placements), but at the same time no effort is made to hide logos and brand names on the featured products. One example is at the very beginning of the "Video Games" segment, where the boxes for video games are shown, all published by Ubisoft (Alex Ferguson's Player Manager 2001, Batman: Vengeance, Myst III: Exile, and Disney's Tarzan: Untamed). Another is the Clark Bars, which are called "chocolate peanut butter bars" in one segment.
    • Especially hilarious in an episode showing the construction of the Segway; how do you talk about a product known only by its brand name without using its brand name? Evidently, by saying "transporter" and hoping people don't get confused.
    • Some segments do blur out logos or URL's, but it's quite uncommon. On the other hand, the end credits have a "Thanks to:" credit that lists the companies involved.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Literally during a Science Channel promotion for new episodes of the show, where the entire process of the making of said promotion up to the playing of the episode on Thursday evening at 9pm Eastern back at network operations is described by Brooks Moore in the style of an episode segment.
    • The end to the "Mirror" segment shows a giant mirror being moved... and in the process, showing off the camera crew.
    • In some cases where the product being made supports custom logos (like the one where golf balls were made) or specialized etching (where a plasma cutter or water jet literally grinds through steel) the customization will say "How It's Made".
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Though not an animal, in the "Gas tanks" section, the narrator calls propane gas tanks "barbecue tanks" instead of propane gas tanks, likely just for convenient recognition as they're primarily associated with propane barbecue grills.
  • The Cameo: In the "Video Games" segment, the scenes are entire blink-and-you-miss-it moments, but you have to keep an eye on the video game development team of Ubisoft Montreal (namely, producer Yannis Mallat, lead camera designer Philippe Morin, creative director Patrice Desilets, animator Alex Drouin, AI programmer Richard Dumas, lead programmer Claude Langlais, art director Raphael Lacoste, lead level designer David Chateauneuf, and the rest) who inspired the development of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
    • Here's another blink-and-you-miss-it moment in the voice actors scene. Notice the dark brown short-haired voice actor in the background speaking through a microphone? That voice actor is Yuri Lowenthal, who was the voice of the Prince at the time the segment was filmed.
  • Clip Show: The "Automated machines" segments, which are video montages of the various machinery seen in each season. The 'Remix' shows as well, which take pre-existing footage and put it together with a theme, like 'sports' (Footballs, hockey pucks and baseball gloves) or 'summer' (Barbecue grills, propane tanks, etc)
  • Content Warnings: On the Animatronics segment, the narrator cautions, "Please be advised that this segment contains images that may not be suitable for younger viewers."
  • Cool Car: Occasionally segments show how car parts for race cars (or whole cars) are made. Dream Cars is basically Cool Cars: The Series.
  • Dinosaurs Are Dragons: Or would that be "Dragons Are Dinosaurs"? In the "Mascots" segment, the guy is making and wearing a dragon mascot costume, yet the narrator calls it a "dinosaur mascot costume", even though it clearly looks like a winged dragon.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first season was narrated by Canadian former swimmer Mark Tewksbury, who was also an onscreen host. Future seasons use narration exclusively.
    • Earlier seasons also used animated segments visualizing the history of the items featured.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "How It's Made" is about how things are made, though occasionally a segment is about "How It's Applied/Acquired/Designed/Done/Performed/Packaged/Repaired/etc.", such as the ones about special effects makeup and mining aluminum. Their segment on mail outright says "You know how it's made, we'll show you how it's sorted."
  • Food Porn: In episodes about making certain foods, such as this one about sushi.
  • Forging Scene: In segments about custom-made tools and weapons.
  • Gun Porn: During shows where rifles and handgun creation processes are shown.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: In the episode showing the manufacture of steel coffins: "This requires 900 tons of pulling force — the equivalent of hoisting 27 fully loaded tractor-trailers." There have also been comparisons of things to the weight of a cat, the length of a number of football fields, and so on.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The three English language dubs (US, UK, and Canada) love this trope. This, for example, comes from the episode about kitchen knives (US dub):
    "Today's blades are truly a cut above the stone tools that cavemen used. Knifemaking is now a science, producing tools that really give you that edge in the kitchen".
    • One episode bumped it up to eleven when they did a grand slam and all four products being examined had a pun: "Today on How It's Made...Steel wool. When it comes to cleaning, it can be your best alloy. [Steel] Ranges... We have all the elements of this manufacturing process. Carved candles... Making them is a whole new ball of wax. Slot machines... We bet you'll love this story!"
  • Lemony Narrator: Downplayed with most narrators, who maintain professional prose as they describe the actual processes of how it's made. Still, they do tend to give small quips when they can, mostly in the form of puns. Tony Hirst of the UK edition is especially a fan of the occasional humorous aside.
    From the ending of "Doughnuts": [Bismark donuts] are just one of the many delicious varieties that make devouring a doughnut a hole-y wonderful experience. (beat) Sorry, I'm hungry now, gotta go.
    From the ending of "Bowling Balls": (as one is rolling straight towards the camera) Watch the lens, watch the lens! Move the camera, for goodness sake!
    From the ending of "Cake Sprinkles": Each [bottle] bursting with sprinkles of every color of the rainbow. (beat) And brown. I'm not sure they have chocolate in a rainbow. Nice idea, though.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: Certain details about products are intentionally omitted as "trade secrets". When this happens, it means that the companies being filmed asked the show to not include those details. For instance, in the episode on ketchup, the show detailed the ingredients in one company's ketchup, but intentionally left out how much of any one ingredient was used and how long the ketchup was cooked for.
  • Product Placement: Inverted, thanks to Canada's product placement laws. That said, they make no effort to censor any logos when filming the packaging department, often resulting in scenes where the narrator speaks of a "personal transporter" or "personal watercraft" while the Segway or Jet Ski logo is clearly on screen, for example. Many businesses in and around Montreal and Quebec City have been getting unexpected publicity from the series, along with businesses in Europe (European products are seen when an American or Canadian equivalent of a product cannot be found).
  • Science Show: As mentioned, more like "Technology Show", but it fits under "science" since it relates to industrial science.
  • Sequel: One episode showed the making of polyester yarn from recycled materials (like soda bottles and milk jugs, among other things) into polyester thread that is wound into large spools of polyester yarn. A later episode shows the making of polyester fleece, which begins with... large spools of polyester yarn.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In one "Video Games" segment, this one must have been a shout-out to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time... particularly because the guys borrowed some "behind-the-scenes" making of the game in video. And did we mention that the narrator talks about modern video games instead of old ones?
    • Likely unintentional, but in the segment about veggie burgers, the narrator mentions that the factory wrap and packed about over 9000 veggie burger patties each day.
  • Slow Motion: Typically industrial work machines are dazzlingly fast, and it's really hard to understand what exactly they're doing - all you see is a blur. The show goes to great pains to slow this down so the viewer can see every step: either the machine is slowed down or the video is overcranked. Occasionally the slowed-down machines have jerky movements hinting they're being moved by hand, as they probably can't go that slowly by themselves. When they're done explaining they usually show you how the machine looks when it's not slowed down.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In one "Chicken Hatchery" segment, some happy/creepy music plays while the baby chicks hatch and get tossed around in a conveyor belt and some machines.
  • Spin-Off: The show has amassed so many episodes that they can reconfigure segments to cover one theme such as "Chores", "Boats", "Roadwork" and "Baseball", and call it How It's Made: Remix.
  • Take Our Word for It: With certain products, usually food, steps had to be skipped because the company's wouldn't let them film those parts, or for obvious things such as the most graphic parts of meat processing, would not make for good viewing for the queasy.
  • Technology Porn: The episodes dealing with factory production (which is most of them) show exquisite details of all sorts of machinery, both computer-operated and not. They often slow down things in order to show you precisely how things work, either by overcranking the footage or slowing down the machine.