And the VFX Emmy Goes To…

The Primetime Emmy Awards recognize invisible digital craftsmanship as well as spectacular blockbuster moments on screen by recognizing outstanding visual special effects and outstanding visual special effects in a supporting role. At the upcoming 72nd edition of the prestigious annual event, two-time Emmy winner Erik Henry is a double nominee to appear in both categories for his work on HBO's limited series Watchmen and Tom Ryan of Tom Clancy of Amazon Studios. Genres represented include espionage, history, comics, and most dominant of all, science fiction. As for the CG effects themselves, we got everything from a giant monster on Stranger Things, a robotic battle in Lost in Space, autonomous flying vehicles in Westworld, oceanic environments in the Vikings, and the headquarters of a mysterious high-tech company in Devs . Here's a quick rundown of the shows competing for the right to deliver a virtual acceptance speech during the virtual ceremony that Jimmy Kimmel hosted at the Staples Center on September 20, 2020.

Excellent visual special effects

Lost in space, Netflix

While the 2,250 recordings of the second season were 500 fewer than the Emmy-nominated first season, Image Engine, Important Looking Pirates, Digital Domain and Mackevision had to deal with much more complex work. Over 400 recordings were devoted to the flight of the Resolute Repair Pod. And then it was about heavy water simulations for the Jupiter 2, which was converted into a boat and hit a huge waterfall … and a massive robotic fight that takes place on the Resolute, which is then blown up.

"What we refined from Seasons 1-2 was the paint pipeline, which made sure we were absolutely solid from production to delivery to DI," notes VFX supervisor Jabbar Raisani. “They definitely had to ramp up on the supplier side. In episode 202, the waterfall simulation created by ILP was a petabyte of data when it was fully completed. “A critical part of the process was the in-house Previs team led by Dirk Valk. “They worked on Previs, Techvis and Postvis from pre-production to two months before the final delivery,” he notes. "We had a good plan and a real understanding of what should be filmed instead of spurring it on that day."

Strange things, Netflix

Along with the youthful leads that grow up each season, there is also a growing desire to incorporate more digital effects to expand the scope of the series set in the 1980s. Despite the fact that Season 3 had eight episodes instead of nine, there were still 500 more visual effects than Season 2, making a total of 2,500. Rodeo FX handled all of the monsters, including the Godzilla-sized Mind Flayer, while Scanline VFX and Spin VFX took care of the Russian machine that fires a powerful laser beam. “The gaffers have equipped it with cool LED lights, as the machine is a light source that generates electrical charges and a large beam emerges from it,” notes VFX supervisor Paul Graff. "When the machine exploded and launched rays, we had this mirror rig with lights that could rotate." After Elf's psychic powers were beheaded, a creative solution was required to destroy the monster that attacks the Starcourt Mall, which is also where the secret Russian base is located. “We had planned the first eight hits for the catastrophic fireworks display in the mall,” adds Graff. “There are different colored lights: purple, green, red, yellow and blue. All of these lights appear simultaneously and create a massive pulse. "

The Mandalorian, Disney +

The hype surrounding The Mandalorian combines the best practical effects with revolutionary digital technology and cannot be overlooked. As much as the talk revolved around ILM's virtual production method – ILM StageCraft – which used Unreal Engine and LED walls to create high quality on-site photography in a studio setting, the real onscreen star was born from old-fashioned puppetry . The effects of both successes were felt across the industry. Virtual production is seen as the answer to travel restrictions and the management of COVID-19 logs. In a look behind the scenes, VFX Supervisor Richard Bluff explains: “The volume is 21 feet high and 75 feet in diameter and is operated by seven machines that pump their images onto the screen that was created in preproduction and is located on one Screen can reside within the screen 24 hours after completion. As for the newly minted pop icon Baby Yoda, the digital kid / future Jedi Master has led a merchandising offspring and a VFX supervisor to stand on a high profile streaming show that a request has been made a certain character has the same big eyes.


A blockbuster approach was chosen for the HBO Limited series. A total of 30 providers were responsible for the 2,600 visual effects that were shown in the nine episodes. Important contributions came from Raynault VFX, Important Looking Pirates, Framestore, Mackevision, Hybride and MARZ. “We had concept art in the earlier episodes, but we made it up in the later episodes,” explains VFX supervisor Erik Henry. "For example, the Millennium Clock centrifuge was designed after production was finished." The original graphic novel was referenced for the New York City giant squid attack. “We've been faithful except for the name of the building the squid sits on,” he notes. One problem was recording the reflections for the mask worn by Looking Glass without slowing down the tight production schedule. Henry: “We had a rig on the head of actor Tom Blake Nelson with two Rylo cameras because they have built-in gyro stabilization and allow us to project rock-hard images onto the reflective surface. We found some interesting solutions. "


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 1,500 of the 3,500 recordings for the eight third season episodes of DNEG, Pixomondo, Crafty Apes, COSA VFX, Major Pirates, RISE FX, Profile Studios, Deepwater FX and El Ranchito were completed remotely. Different environments were created using LED technology, most notably the personal aerial drones and Charlotte Hale's (Tessa Thompson) office. "We went to the City of Arts and Sciences, picked our exact angle, and we could build it in Unreal so we knew what to tune it for," notes Jay Worth, VFX supervisor. “It was still like shooting in a normal office. All perspectives and angles were correct. If the camera moved, the background was translated correctly. Since it was a real place, we didn't cheat the place of the sun that many times. There's running water and walking people, all those little things that make it feel real even though it's a completely made-up environment. "

Great visual special effects in a supporting role

developer, FX networks

Over a period of 11 months, 600 visual effects recordings were created for the eight episodes of the series by DNEG, Nviz, Outpost VFX and an in-house team. A technology developed by a computer genius that enables him to go back in time to prevent the accident that killed his wife and daughter. A visual conundrum was being able to visually represent the various possible decisions that can be made in an instance, also known as a multiverse, within the same framework. "If you have a whole bunch of ghostly or solid images doing the same thing, you have a similar problem (with the alignment of the eye)," notes Andrew Whitehurst, VFX supervisor. "There is no hero in most of the multiverse shots. The only one is when Katie (Alison Pill) leaves university when Forest (Nick Offerman) runs after her." The statue of Forest's daughter was all CG. " We shot Amaya Mizuno-André in the tape, Alex Garland picked the pose he liked the most, we processed the geo and had to figure out how to make a 100-foot statue out of it, "he explains." It gave some repositioning of the limbs because her hands weren't as symmetrical as he wanted. "

DEVS | Building Devs | FX on Hulu

The box contains us. The box contains everything. Get an INSIDE LOOK at “the cube” with the creators of Devs.

Posted by Devs on Monday, April 13, 2020

DEVS | Visualizing DEVS | FX on Hulu

Visual effects are essential to the story. See how with the creators of Devs in this INSIDE LOOK.

Posted by Devs on Friday, March 27, 2020

DEVS | Filmmaking Family | FX on Hulu

It’s a single vision. Get an INSIDE LOOK at creator Alex Garland and his team’s creative and production process.

Posted by Devs on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

DEVS | Sizzle Reel | DNEG

‘The sense that you are participating in life was only ever an illusion.’ #Devs premieres on #FXonHulu today! Dive into Alex Garland’s new tech thriller, including DNEG TV’s exceptional #VFX work! For more info visit

Posted by DNEG on Thursday, March 5, 2020

Stories from the loop, Prime Video

In creating imagery inspired by Simon Stålenhag's famous artwork, which reconciles nature with discarded high-tech machines, 1,300 visual effects recordings of Rodeo FX, MPC, BOT VFX and Legacy Effects were produced. Fortunately, the scripts for the eight episodes were largely preserved as the post-production schedule was reduced to a period of five months. The series' directors included Mark Romanek, Andrew Stanton and Jodie Foster. "Many of the challenging recordings with visual effects that we made in the pilot project," reveals VFX producer Andrea Knoll. “The snow is rising and there is the big shot in which the house dissolves. We used the typical effect simulations for this type of shot and had to treat the details surgically. Even if these are surreal moments and events that you are experiencing, we wanted them to look and feel real. "

The story of the maid, Hulu

The visual effects of the show have increased in scope and complexity. The number of shots produced by Take 5 Productions and Mavericks VFX increased from 390 in Season 1 to 465 in Season 2 to 565 in Season 3. "For the first season the visual effects were mostly invisible," notes VFX producer Stephen Lebed. “Season 2 saw an unused and shabby Fenway Park and a new Gilead Red Center being blown up. In season three we did everything from fire and smoke simulations to full crowd simulations. We made dull paintings of Gilead buildings and amputated Serena's finger and Commander Putnam's hand. Much of the job is removing background signage or touching up makeup and stray hair. "

The most challenging scene was the last shot of season three, in which a wounded June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) is carried away by her fellow girls. "It's a long shot that goes up and looks at the forest and leans down to see June being carried by her friends," explains Lebed. "The camera then falls down until we end up with a close-up of June's face while it is being carried. It was very exhausting to remove the trail of the dolly and restore the muddy, leafy ground. On the platform, on June there was equipment that needed to be painted and additional animation was required to make the maid look like they were having trouble supporting June's weight, it's the kind of shot that doesn't look like a visual effects shot looks or feels but it took over a month to finish. It was the last shot of the season and it had to look perfect. "

Jack Ryan from Tom Clancy, Prime Video

Approximately 1,500 recordings with visual effects were made for the eight episodes. Goodbye Kansas joined the series Stalwarts Rodeo FX and Hybride in the second season. The mandate was to create effects that supported the story and did not draw attention to itself. "We had set pieces like the helicopter that landed on the roof of the presidential palace to save James Greer (Wendell Pierce)," explains VFX supervisor Erik Henry. “A trestle with a malfunctioning helicopter was considered too heavy to be placed on the roof. You can't even fly helicopters in the capital. We shot plates there, landed a real helicopter on a meadow and combined the two. The art department built the door that the actors would go in and out through, a small strip of roofing material, and a round patch on which the actual Black Hawk helicopter could land. Blue vinyl was added to nine freight containers; That was all we needed to surround the helicopter. It meant there was a lot of roto. The rotors of the helicopter had to be removed and used as a center of gravity. Stills were used as a reference to add textures to the surrounding roofs and buildings around the presidential palace. "

Vikings, History

Each of the show's six seasons provided an opportunity to advance new technologies and create even more believable visual effects, be it expanding cities, creating Icelandic landscapes or depicting numerous battles. "Battles and fleets grew from a handful in Season 1 to the over 4,000 armies of Paris in Seasons 3 and 4," notes VFX Supervisor Dominic Remane. "That led us into the sixth season, in which the Rus battle had to feel like there are ships as far as the eye can see and a relentless army that couldn't and wouldn't give up."

While season 1 recorded a total of 500 visual effects, season 6 required 12,200, produced by Mr. X with Take 5 Productions to take care of cleanup and small DMP work. “In episode 601, it was crucial for us to design the city of Kiev in such a way that it looks believable and full of life for the sequence in which the hot air balloon flies over. We worked closely with the production designer to make sure it felt like a living and breathing city. In episode 610, we faced technical challenges related to the massive crowd simulations, particularly to ensure that the Rus soldiers disembarking their rafts were interacting appropriately with the water. They adjusted their speed and balance when they got to the beach, and their performance adjusted as they ran up the great dam. We're also back in battle with the ships in episode 610 – the last time the Battle of Paris was in season 4; This was a creative challenge to bring the mid and background ships to life without being distracted as only the foreground boats were practical. "

Trevor Hogg's picture

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer best known for creating in-depth filmmaking and film profiles for VFX Voice, Animation Magazine and the UK Cinematographer.


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