Ballinger’s Chad Hardy, owner of Nightmare Visual FX, has been working in special effects for over a decade. Hardy has worked professionally in haunted houses, movies and commercials. He has worked in many areas of the special effects world, including set design, set dressing and animatronics, “I’ve done Halloween stuff my entire life, from building my own yard decorations to makeup effects and prosthetics. I got my start professionally when I was hired by a company to do a small haunted house and then by a man for a private party in Orlando, Florida.”

Hardy was eventually contacted by a company that wanted him to make props for haunted houses, “The company knew what they wanted to do, but they didn’t know how to do it. I built the props, engineered them and did the animatronics.”

Hardy’s big break came when a company named “Dark Hour” hired him. Hardy was 1 of 4 managers hired by the company and he designed and decorated a 45,000 square foot haunted house, “Dark Hour was a new company so I started on the ground floor with them.”

Hardy was hired by a company to be a set dresser for the movie, “Jade Pendant,” in 2017. The movie is a western set in 1871 and required significant work, “We did everything from putting furniture into the building to making labels for the whiskey bottles. We painted the set, tinted the water to look like whiskey, distressed the paint and a lot more. The set was 4 city blocks big with external and internal work to be done.” The movie also provided Chad with his first acting gig, “It was crazy but it was a lot of fun. We’d work from 7 a.m. until midnight on the set dressing and then from midnight to 5 a.m. as extras and then at 7 a.m. we’d be dressing the set again. I was an extra and played a crazy man in mob scene. The scene made it into the film.”

The Jade Pendant work led to more work when the art director from the movie hired him for another project, “He hired me to work in the art department for the commercial Kidz Bop #31.” Kidz Bop began in 2001 and features children singing modern contemporary and pop songs. Eight of the albums have been certified gold in US sales and have sold over 17 million albums.

In 2014 Hardy was a production manager for 13th Floor Haunted House in San Antonio and this also led to more work for him, “Due to my work at their haunted house in San Antonio, they flew me to their other locations in Chicago, Phoenix and Austin. Their haunted house in Austin was called, House of Torment.” His work in animatronics is also considerable, “When I was in Chicago for 13th Floor, one of my projects was the Grim Reaper. It had more than 25 points of articulation for programming that had to be synched with an audio track.”

Hardy also worked on another project in 2014, the “Don’t be a monster,” anti-bullying campaign. “Don’t be a monster” is a 501(c)(3) organization that offers free anti-bullying assemblies to students around the nation. The campaign features, “Frank”, a character based on the Frankenstein monster. Hardy would prep and dress as Frank during appearances, “It was fun and I got to do a lot of anti-bullying presentations.”

In addition to his other work, Hardy worked for Scream-A-Geddon in 2017 and 2018, where he created and worked on props and painted the sets as well as doing the set design and setup. Scream-A-Geddon was a large project, “It included a build-out of 3 new buildings and a façade for one of the buildings We did all of the painting, distressing and included content for the buildings as well as scenic design. In one area we put up wallpaper and then distressed it.”

Hardy has learned much of his craft on his own by trial and error and reading books written by professionals in the special effects and set design industry, “I have a degree in computer science. That included a few electronics classes. There was programming needed but with my background I was able to pick it up and learn it. I also bought some books to learn from. Two of my books were written by Tom Savani.”

Hardy continues his work and continues to move forward, “Right now I’m working on transitioning to making unique items for trade shows and to sell online. Most props will have electronic lights and electric motors.”