Magazine article Variety

Vfx Experts: Masters of Illusion

Magazine article Variety

Vfx Experts: Masters of Illusion

Article excerpt

In this golden age of television, visual effects are so cleverly woven into the visual artistry they're often invisible. Vfx teams working in TV are doing exactly what's expected in features - extending sets, making practical effects look even bigger, or replicating historical backdrops behind the scenes. They're just doing it with a more frenzied schedule and less coin to spend. With all these pressures, they still deliver shots that stun viewers. Five of this year's Emmy-nominated artisans in the category of special visual effects in a supporting role walk us through some of the most challenging work from the past season. KAREN IDELSON

BETTER CALL SAUL (2)

William Powloski's work on AMC's "Better Call Saul" has been consistently subtle, even delicate at points, and the Emmy-nominated "Fifi" is no exception. One of the most complex vfx shots of the last season arrives without fanfare in this episode when the camera appears to make one continuous move following a truck transporting ice cream (along with some more illicit cargo) across the border from Mexico.

The shot is inspired by another border-crossing scene from the classic Orson Welles film "Touch of Evil." But Powloski had to pull off his sequence with a TV budget and schedule and he had to please producers who didn't want vfx that would become a spectacle. He relied on the talents of a committed team and extremely detailed planning to make sure everything would come together just as they wanted.

"The thing I'm happiest about is that they said yes to what we wanted to do because it would have been easy to say no to something this complex that would take so much time and effort. It gave us the opportunity to do something special," Powloski says. "And Guillermo del Toro even reacted to that shot on Twitter."

11.22.63 (3)

For the eight-part Hulu limited series "11.22.63," visual-effects supervisor Jay Worth found himself carefully tweaking the look of the show in the Emmy-nommed episode "The Rabbit Hole" to give the audience the feeling of being present in the early 1960s with JFK. Worth's careful research paid off as he gently recreated Dealey Plaza, the Dallas location of JFK's assassination, and even parts of the infamous Zapruder film by learning about the type of camera used on that day.

Adapted from a Stephen King book of the same name, the time-travel tale was shot in Dallas and Toronto, which presented their own sets of challenges for Worth and his team. Everything from the street lights to the heights of trees and the way crosswalks were painted had to be altered to their original 1963 appearance to visually sell the audience on the location and the decade.

"It's a time period and event most of us feel like we know, so viewers bring a lot to history to those moments," Worth says. "We shot our version of the Zapruder film on 16mm to get the same feeling as the original, which was shot on Bell & Howell 8mm."

HANNIBAL (4)

"We chose this episode for submission because it had the largest breadth of work," says visual-effects supervisor Robert Crowther of the "Primavera" installment from the NBC series "Hannibal." "We're moving into the psyche of [FBI agent] Will Graham and so we get glimpses into his imagination."

Graham's mind is populated with a veritable horror show of images that include a strange beast that appears to be part stag and part human. …

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